Looking at MLS was fun. Deciding whether or not it made sense to buy was less fun, but involved a lot of math and spreadsheets (which is fun). Once we decided that buying made financial sense, we decided to get a realtor. This was the moment when shit got real.
I think this is a big decision. I mean, buying a house is a huge decision and your agent is essentially going to do that for you. So it’s really important that you choose someone competent and trustworthy.
Our agent came highly recommended from two colleagues who had recently purchased homes in the west end of Toronto. Because the housing market is so insane here, I wanted someone who knew my specific market (west of Bathurst, south of College) and had successfully helped people purchase homes.
I nervously called our agent to set up an appointment to meet. I really had no idea how any of this worked – I didn’t know if we had to go to his office, could only go during business hours, or if there were any costs associated with these visits. He immediately took the lead and offered to come to our house the upcoming weekend to meet us and go through some basics.
We were pretty nervous for this meeting. Alex even went to get croissants in the morning because we weren’t sure if we were supposed to feed him. It seems silly to write now, but it was a legitimate fear at the time.
Our agent showed up with a small package of brochures and guides (tips from CMHC, the bank, etc.) and lots of charisma (but not in a salesman-y kind of way). I also think he thoroughly enjoyed the croissants. So did I.
Here are a few things I learned that I didn’t know before I had a realtor:
- Realtors bring you to see houses outside of public open house times. I always thought that an open house was the only opportunity to see a house. But no. You show up at the house and get it all to yourself!
- Realtors pick you up and drop you off! As a car-less couple, we really enjoyed this luxury. Especially because we did our search in winter.
- If you’re buying a house (and not selling), then realtors are free! Like, actually free! They get a commission when you purchase a house, but this comes out of the overall commission for the sale, which is borne by the seller.
- Realtors have a lot of local knowledge. There were several houses that we were interested in visiting, but our realtor (rightly so) knew exactly why we shouldn’t see them. He often knew which areas had termites, which houses sagged from underground creeks, and which had had trouble selling in the past.
- Our realtor was also very knowledgeable about the cost and time involved in various renovations. He knew exactly how much work would be needed and the approximate cost. This was particularly handy because we often saw these diamonds in rough as potential homes until hearing what the cost of a new garage or kitchen would cost. He also acted as a mini home inspector and kept us away from the many termite-infested west-end homes.
- Our realtor was also a great resource for all of the other services you require when purchasing a home: lawyers, mortgage lenders, insurance companies, and more!
- A good realtor also acts as the sometimes necessary councillor that is needed during the intense stress of making an offer. Buying a home can be extremely emotional but it’s really a business transaction and decisions should be made accordingly. Having a buffer between you and the selling agent ensures that you never make irrational, spontaneous moments.