Whether it is for buying or selling a home, you want the best service and the best deal. So, how do you find and choose a trustworthy realtor to help you? What questions do you ask and what red flags do you watch out for?
More than 7500 realtors are licensed in real estate who are part of the Calgary Real Estate Board. The number of realtors has increased substantially in recent years. Before Covid, there were about 5500 licensed realtors in the city of Calgary. After Covid, that number hovered around 7500. So, finding a realtor shouldn’t be difficult and shouldn’t take too long. However, selecting the right realtor may be the challenge here. How do you find a reliable realtor who works in your best interests.
Ask friends, family and colleagues for references
The Yellow Pages and magazine ads are long gone! Most people find their realtor through the recommendation of friends, family and colleagues. In Alberta, referrals and recommendations are often the foundation for the better and more reliable business. Therefore, the better realtor will stay in touch with his or her clients, and only good realtors are recommended to family and friends. Essentially, this principle goes for many services and trades.
Visit open houses
Most people find their realtor through the recommendation of friends, family and colleagues.
Just be aware that often it is not the listing realtor sitting at the open house. Usually, open houses are held by an agent who is seeking new clients. And what better way to meet new people in a home that is open for potential buyers. To learn a few more things you should know before visiting open houses, read this article about visiting open houses.
The neighbourhood specialist
Since the arrival of the internet, the ‘neighborhood specialist’ is long gone. However, some people still like to find a realtor by looking for an agent who sold in a particular area or community. This suggests that a realtor who sold homes in a specific area or community has a better understanding of that area.
But realtors promote themselves as such, simply because it is a better strategy for spending marketing dollars. Focusing marketing dollars on one area increases visibility but doesn’t guarantee a better realtor.
Additionally, behind that one name on the bus bench often hides an entire team of realtors. Conflicts of interest are usually more prevalent when too many realtors from one team (or office) serve one community.
‘Google’ for realtors in Calgary
Besides ‘word of mouth’ the internet is the place to do research about a realtor. In the first place, to be considered credible, a realtor must have a website. Testimonials and reviews can help with choosing an agent. Nevertheless, one won’t fare well on reviews alone, as they are easy to fabricate.
While searching for a good realtor, it is important to be able to look past the marketing tactics on the internet
Besides social media, there are also many websites that suggest they will find you the best realtor and that they can connect you with the ‘perfect’ agent. Those ‘matchmaker’ websites are obviously not independent and are paid for by the realtors who advertise on these websites. Those websites are easy to recognize because you have to fill out a lot of contact information. As well, those sites are often sponsored by Google ads so that they rank first on every search.
In short, while searching for a good realtor, it is important to be able to look past the marketing tactics on the internet. And realize you can always just ask for a reference to check on a realtor.
Realtor.ca is the website where all licensed agents in Canada are registered. On realtor.ca, one can search for agents by location, by office name, by language and designations. RECA is the Real Estate Council of Alberta and the actual organization that issues the licenses. Visit RECA to verify if a realtor is licensed.
Always interview a few realtors and ask the right questions
A realtor who always agrees sounds wonderful, but might not always be to your advantage
Be conscious that the realtor may be only telling you what you want to hear. A realtor who always agrees sounds wonderful, but constant agreeable responses might not always be to your advantage. This is especially true for a list price of a home. Sometimes realtors just agree on a selling price to get the listing and will ‘talk you down’ later. Keep in mind that the truth may be onerous, but it is always important. It helps to rate the integrity and knowledge of a realtor by carefully listening to what you don’t want to hear.
Following are some questions and pointers to find a realtor whom you like and whom is capable of helping reaching your goals.
Following are some questions and pointers to find a realtor whom you like and whom is capable of helping reaching your goals.
Are you a full time or part time realtor?
Nearly half of all 7500 realtors in Calgary only handle 1 or 2 transactions per year
How are your negotiations skills?
In real estate, experience in negotiations is extremely important and takes knowledge and involvement. After all, whether you are a seller or a buyer, you want the best deal. In fact, negotiations are, in essence, the most important and the highest valued reason to hire a realtor. Besides, real estate is always about big numbers and every $1,000 is important. So, a realtor who actually cares about all your $1,000 wins. Getting a sense of the realtor’s capacity of negotiation is important.
How many transactions do you undertake per year?
The second question is how many transactions does the realtor execute per year? A realtor might have been in business for 10 years but if the realtor was only working part time, his or her experience might still not be enough for you to trust with the sale or purchase of a home. Not enough or too many transactions; it all depends on the full background of the realtor. You won’t fare well on just the number of transactions, either. It is not possible to verify if an agent is being truthful because sale numbers are not publicly available.
Do you work with both sellers and buyers?
Most realtors work with both buyers and sellers, but some agents work with only one of the two. In our opinion, this is important. Does the realtor understand both markets, and can the realtor advise a seller from a buyer’s point of view and vice versa? Having a feel for the current real estate market is essential for negotiations, and working with both buyers and sellers give that all around knowledge and feel for the market.
Are you part of a team?
Some realtors work solo, while some realtors are part of a team. Either way, any buyer or seller should learn more about the background of the agent. One thing to understand is that every realtor is part of a brokerage, where the license is ‘parked’. However, many realtors form a ‘real estate team’ within this brokerage. Why is this important to know? In most cases, larger teams, usually 3 or more agents, have to give a large percentage of their commission to their team leader. In return, the team leader provides the agent with leads or clients, in this case, you. Those clients are acquired via marketing. Realtors within a team often work with targets, and scoring is important. It is not difficult to understand that this may become a disadvantage in negotiations on your behalf.
Especially when buying a home, it is important to know the availability of the realtor. New homes are listed every hour of every day. It is key to be able to see a property quickly, especially in a busier market.
What is your availability?
For realtors with a job on the side or those who serve a lot of buyers at the same time, it is usually difficult to accommodate viewings quickly. Some agents indicate they don’t work on Sundays or evening hours. Knowing the availability of the agent upfront gives clarity.
How do you do a CMA? And what does it look like?
A CMA, a Comparative Market Evaluation, is usually created for selling a home. This CMA can give a seller a good picture of the knowledge and integrity of the realtor. How do the sold homes compare to the property to sell? Do the adjustments in price make sense?
A CMA is just as important for buying a home as it is for selling. It is important to know what a fair purchase price is for a home before starting negotiations. Hence, also as a buyer it is fair to ask how a realtor creates a CMA.
Can you give me an overview of the steps of the buying and/or selling process?
For most buyers and sellers, the process is overwhelming. Getting the process laid out in steps can help give a general overview and some clarity. A good realtor will sit down with you to lay out and explain the entire process. Questions can be asked while going over the steps of the process. This conversation will help you to get a sense of the capabilities, experience and commitment of the real estate agent.
What questions for a realtor are not all that relevant?
The more questions, the more knowledge. However, some questions may not be as helpful as you think. Here are a few examples of irrelevant questions:
What do you do for marketing when selling my home?
Marketing is a big buzz word in real estate. The truth is a home sells for 99.99% via that one advertisement on the MLS, where 99,99% of the sellers and buyers find their home via parameters.
The marketing budget doesn’t sell your home but sells the realtor
The marketing budget of a realtor is almost 100% focused on self-promotion and not on a particular home to sell. In fact, your home is used to market the realtor’s persona. Thousands of dollars per month are spent on billboards, bus benches, flyers in the mail, ads in magazines, google ads, social media, radio and TV commercials, and so forth. A flyer presenting your home? Our experience is that 9 out of 10 brochures are left behind and meet the garbage bin once the property sold. As they say, marketing in real estate is all show and no substance.
Contrarily, professional photography of your home to sell is a must. Asking a simple question regarding marketing your home can indicate the integrity of the realtor.
How often do you sell a home at list price or over list price?
The answer to this question is dependent on the market and sometimes factors that are not exactly in control of the agent. A fair list price will be determined via a CMA. However, the actual list price is most often the decision of the seller. If the asking price is too high, the home will be longer on the market. If the asking price is right, but the owners are smoking in the house, the home will be, most likely, longer on the market. Sometimes sellers won’t present the home at it’s best or tenants refuse showings. Or the home may have certain issues that buyers cannot dismiss. Many factors can influence how well a home will sell.
How many homes, on average, do you show a buyer before a buyer buys?
The answer to this question should not matter. What does matter is how patient the agent is in showing properties. Some buyers find their dream home after seeing a few homes, while other buyers need to see 50 homes before they can make a decision. The point is that everyone is different, and all buyers should be able to find their home at their pace. A realtor who claims to find the perfect home within the first 5 showings may not be working in your best interest.
In short, finding a reliable realtor to help you sell or buy a property is a task not to be taken lightly. Hopefully, the above will help point you in the right direction. And as a final note, we like to mention that we are always open, and we love to be interviewed by you!
To get a clear sense of who we are, read our Google Reviews. As well, in 2018, the Calgary Real Estate Board created 18 questions you can ask a realtor. We have answered all questions in this article.
We are Tanja van de Kamp and Ariette van Pelt, working as a team, both buying and selling homes in Calgary. Calgary has been our home since 2004, and real estate our full-time profession since 2009. Tanja was a lawyer in The Netherlands for 12 years, and learned how to negotiate strategically, and to work in the best interests of her clients. Thanks to our honest and transparent approach to real estate and towards our clients, we have built our business. It’s been a privilege to work with our clients. Over the years, many clients, through their many referrals, have shown their appreciation of us.
As first time home buyers, all of the knowledge, patience and candid advice we received from Tanja & Ariette was instrumental to us getting the home we really loved. It feels impossible to buy a place you love in this market, but Tanja & Ariette made it possible for us.
Thank you Tanja and Ariette for all of your help, we couldn't have been happier with our choice, even if it came without all of the stroopwafels! 🙂