How to Choose a Realtor

Check out our top tips for how to choose the right realtor for you.

By Emily Southey | 10 minute read

Jun 1

How to Choose a Realtor

You’re ready to sell your home. Now what? The first step after deciding to sell your property is to hire a realtor. While not mandatory, partnering with a realtor to sell your home is one of the wisest decisions you can make. Realtors are experts in all things real estate. They have extensive knowledge of the real estate market and can walk you through every step of the selling process. From setting the asking price and hosting showings to marketing the property and negotiating on your behalf, realtors can be invaluable assets to home sellers. But how do you know which realtor to choose? Keep reading for our top tips on how to choose the right realtor for you.

Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Realtor

It can be easy to fall into several traps when hiring a realtor. For example, choosing the realtor with the lowest commission rate or hiring the first one you meet without conducting any other interviews. Ensure the home-selling process goes off without a hitch by avoiding the common mistakes below. 

Choosing a realtor based solely on commission

We’re not saying commission doesn’t matter. After all, it’s the amount of money you’ll be paying a realtor for their services. However, commission shouldn’t be the sole factor used to determine who to hire. The main reason for this is that just because one realtor has a lower commission than another doesn’t mean you will make more money from the sale of your home. In fact, it can mean the exact opposite if the less expensive realtor isn’t able to bring you as high an offer as the more expensive realtor. The reality is that sellers will find realtors all across Ontario who lower their commission in an attempt to win a listing. While it might seem like a kind customer service gesture at first glance, it can actually be a sign of desperation, which could mean the realtor is inexperienced or has a poor reputation and the only way they’re able to nab clients is by slashing their rates. Additionally, realtors with low commission rates may not have access to the same marketing resources as those with higher commissions. Therefore, you may be spending less on commission, but it could take longer to sell your home because the realtor has limited resources at their disposal. Finally, consider the fact that one of the key tasks of a realtor is negotiating on your behalf. If they were willing to cut their own rates to win your business, how well do you think they’ll be able to represent you when going up against a buyer’s agent? 

“From setting the asking price and hosting showings to marketing the property and negotiating on your behalf, realtors can be invaluable assets to home sellers.”

Choosing a realtor you know personally

This rule applies to most industries. When you’re hiring someone to do a job for you, it’s best to choose someone you don’t have a personal relationship with. We know it can be tempting to hire your realtor nephew or your sister-in-law who just happened to get her real estate licence, but we advise you against doing so. The reason for this is that things can get messy when someone you know personally is negotiating on your behalf. If a negotiation goes south and you decide to pass on an offer from a potential buyer, is your realtor cousin going to be frustrated that they lost out on this commission? Ultimately, when you choose a realtor you know personally, it’s far more likely that they’ll act unprofessionally, which could sabotage a potential deal.

Choosing a realtor that locks you in

Whatever you do, never choose a realtor that locks you into a contract you cannot get out of. It’s completely normal (and reasonable) for realtors to require exclusivity. After all, this is their job and they deserve to be rewarded for the time and effort they’re putting into selling your home. That said, you should never sign an exclusivity agreement before confirming with the listing agent that you have the right to cancel the contract at any time. Most realtors will agree to this, which gives you an out for any reason (perhaps you change your mind and decide to sell your home privately or after working with them for a few weeks, you don’t think this realtor is the right fit). However, some might try to lock you in. This is a major red flag. Both sellers and buyers should always have the option of cancelling their contract and hiring a new realtor if they choose to do so. 

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Choosing a part-time realtor

Whatever you do, never choose a realtor that locks you into a contract you cannot get out of. It’s completely normal (and reasonable) for realtors to require exclusivity. After all, this is their job and they deserve to be rewarded for the time and effort they’re putting into selling your home. That said, you should never sign an exclusivity agreement before confirming with the listing agent that you have the right to cancel the contract at any time. Most realtors will agree to this, which gives you an out for any reason (perhaps you change your mind and decide to sell your home privately or after working with them for a few weeks, you don’t think this realtor is the right fit). However, some might try to lock you in. This is a major red flag. Both sellers and buyers should always have the option of cancelling their contract and hiring a new realtor if they choose to do so. 

Hiring the first realtor you meet

Shopping around is key when hiring a realtor. Therefore, you should never hire the first realtor you meet without interviewing other candidates. Think of yourself as an employer hiring an employee. Would you hire the first person who walks through your door? No, you would do your due diligence by interviewing multiple candidates and choosing the best one. That’s exactly how you should approach hiring a realtor. Book meetings with a minimum of three realtors in your area, come prepared with questions, and after completing all scheduled interviews, make your decision. If the first realtor you interviewed ends up being the winner, then feel free to hire them. At that point, you will have weighed your options, seen what else is out there, and made the best decision for you and your home.

Tips for Choosing a Realtor

Now that you know what not to do when hiring a realtor, we’ve put together a list of tips to make choosing a realtor that much easier. 

Interview multiple candidates

The first step in choosing a realtor is interviewing multiple candidates. To find realtors in your area, do some research online. There are brokerages all over Ontario, which means your search should quickly yield multiple results. From there, read reviews and contact a few potential candidates. If they get back to you and have availability, schedule a phone or in-person interview. Be sure to have a list of questions you plan to ask before each interview. To fairly evaluate the candidates, ask the same questions in each interview. Your interview questions should be strategic and informative. The goal is not only to get a feel for the realtor as a person but to determine key pieces of information, such as their commission rate, the services they offer, their knowledge of the local market, their years of experience and accreditations, and their track record. 

Ask questions like: 

Ask for references and check them

References are a great way to gauge whether a realtor is worth hiring. At the end of each interview, ask the realtor to provide you with a minimum of three references (preferably sellers like yourselves and people who live in the same city as you). Once they’ve provided you with references, check them. Call or email past clients and ask them about their experience with the realtor. It is a good sign if the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. However, if the feedback is negative or multiple references list the same complaints, it might be worth continuing your hunt until you find a realtor with a better reputation. 

Evaluate their negotiation skills

You’re hiring a realtor to help you with selling your home, and that includes negotiating on your behalf when a buyer puts in an offer to purchase your property. The better your realtor is at negotiating, the more advantageous the final offer could be. Whether they convince the buyer to up their price or drop a condition or two, having a master negotiator on your side is never a bad thing. Therefore, before choosing a realtor, we recommend evaluating their negotiation skills by asking them an interview question like “Would you be willing to lower your commission?” Assess how they respond to this question. If they immediately give in, telling you they’ll lower their commission to win your listing, think of how easily they might be steamrolled in a negotiation with a buyer’s agent. In contrast, if they stand their ground and explain why they think they’re worth a certain commission rate, this could be a sign that they are capable of negotiating effectively on your behalf.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you shop around for a realtor?

Yes, home sellers (and homebuyers) should always shop around to find a realtor who suits their needs. Just like if you were hiring a nanny, gardener, or housekeeper, you should take the time to interview multiple candidates before hiring a realtor. At the end of the day, a realtor, like a housekeeper, is providing you with a service, which means you need to feel taken care of. If you don’t think the first realtor you meet with is a good fit, schedule interviews with others until you find one you can trust.  

What do people look for most in a realtor?

Many people look for a realtor who is trustworthy, responsive, friendly, knowledgeable, and has a strong work ethic. Home sellers in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada should strive to find a realtor with extensive knowledge of the local housing market and a proven track record of selling houses similar to yours in that neighbourhood. 

How do I find a realtor in Toronto?

There are many ways to find realtors in Toronto. Word of mouth, online searches, or even cold-calling real estate brokerages in your area are all effective methods of finding a realtor in Ontario. The key is to interview multiple candidates before choosing one to help you sell your home.

What percentage do most realtors get for selling a house?

Realtors receive a commission when your house is sold. This commission is a percentage of the purchase price. Commission rates in Canada vary by province and brokerage. Some provinces, like Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, have a flat commission percentage of 5%, while others do not have flat rates. For those without set commission rates, the average percentage typically falls between 3% and 7% of the final purchase price. Before choosing a realtor, make sure you know their commission rate and are prepared to pay it.

Emily Southey

Wahi Writer