Put the wind in your sales — choose your crew from 1,700 real estate professionals

Getting into the real estate market is like entering uncharted waters for many people. Location, price and size of home, type of mortgage, interest rates, monthly payments and many other things must be decided upon before you can make the right decision.

Buying a home involves personal and financial decisions that will affect you for years to come. That is why most people use the services of a licenced real estate salesperson when buying a home. Working with a professional can help you feel more confident about the decisions you make, and using a real estate salesperson is almost always faster and more convenient than a long search on your own.

As a buyer, you probably won’t have a contractual obligation to a real estate salesperson. You won’t have to pay a real estate commission unless you specifically hire someone to be your agent during your search for a home.

Even though you likely won’t be paying for an agent’s services, you should still make sure the person you choose to work with fits your requirements. After all, you wouldn’t use a lawyer or accountant who didn’t measure up to your standards — a real estate professional should, too.

Choosing your crew

There are more than 1,700 licenced real estate practitioners in Manitoba. With so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one for your needs? Start by talking to friends, relatives, neighbours, co-workers or acquaintances who have recently bought or sold a home. Ask for the name of the salesperson and company they used and what kind of service they received. Would they use them again? Why?

You might also want to drive through areas you are interested in to look at “for sale” signs, to see which companies and salespeople are active in those neighbourhoods. 

If possible, work with companies that specialize in marketing homes in your target area or neighbourhood. Their sales staff will be familiar with homes on the local market, with the prices of recently-sold homes that fit your needs and with market conditions in general. They will be better able to determine what you can expect to find in your price range. Local people will also know more about the area’s taxes, zoning, schools and services.

If you are moving some distance, ask several local real estate brokers if they can recommend companies providing quality service in your new location. Try to get a newspaper from that area such as the Winnipeg Real Estate News and check for companies and salespeople marketing the kind of homes you are interested in. You can also go to REALTOR.ca for information.

Selecting a ship

Small real estate companies may specialize in specific areas or in certain types of property. If you have specific needs, dealing with someone from a small company may be the best way to find what you want. In rural communities, sales representatives are often locals who know an area’s history and people as well as its real estate.

Large real estate firms or offices that are part of a national franchise may also specialize in certain areas. In addition, they often have extra resources and other support for staff.

Keep in mind, however, that any office or company is only as good as the people who work there — no matter what size it is or where it is located. If a company’s staff is hard working and talented, this will show up in their superior skills and customer service.

Also, both large and small companies use the co-operative marketing system known as the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®), if they are members of a local real estate board or association. Not all companies are. So  if you want to use the MLS®, make sure you ask for it.

Your first mate

After you have narrowed your choices to a few companies, call them. If you have specific salespeople in mind, ask for them by name. If not, speak to whomever is available. In any event, explain that you are attempting to pick one person from several possibilities and would like to ask them a few questions. Use a standard series of questions to establish experience and training.

Some buyers prefer to use a salesperson with many years of experience and a record of success. Others feel that someone relatively new to the business may be “hungrier” for a sale and might have more time to spend with a customer. 

In any case, be sure you feel comfortable with the person you choose — you will probably be spending a lot of time together in the near future. If you are impressed by someone on the phone, be sure to meet him or her in person before asking for help with your home search. The interviewing process shouldn’t be a one-way street. A good salesperson will also ask you a few questions. Be wary of anyone who says they can find you the right home without knowing what your needs are — self-confidence is no substitute for close attention to detail.

Ask real estate agents if they are members of a local real estate board, such as WinnipegREALTORS® or, in smaller communities, if they are an individual member of the Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA). If they are, they subscribe to a strict code of ethics and standards of business practice enforced by their association. This entitles them to call themselves REALTORS® and to display the symbol R — only members are legally entitled to use the term.

Only REALTORS® are part of the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS®, operated by local real estate boards. The MLS® allows member brokers to circulate, or “list,” information about homes they are marketing for clients so that all other members of the service have an opportunity to sell them. This gives buyers much wider access to properties for sale.

Chart your course

Once you have found someone you feel comfortable with, provide him or her with complete information about your needs. If you have a written profile of your ideal home, provide a copy of this as well. Answer all questions as completely as possible. The more a salesperson knows about you, the better chance he or she has to match a home to your family’s lifestyle. 

After getting to know your requirements, the salesperson will introduce you to the real estate market, highlighting neighbourhoods and homes that best fit your price range and other buying criteria. He or she can help make you aware of available financing and the costs involved in arranging a mortgage. The salesperson can also inform you of financing alternatives and other services associated with a purchase, such as those provided by lenders, lawyers or engineers. 

If you are working with a REALTOR®, he or she can use the MLS® to assist in your home search. The information distributed to MLS® members lets them suggest only properties offering your personal combination of features and price. It provides a wide choice of homes and reduces the number you have to walk through. 

When you finally begin visiting homes for sale, the salesperson will be there to answer your questions, point out details and provide other information. After you have found something you like, he or she can provide information to fill out an offer to purchase form. 

Early on in your discussions with any real estate professional, you should discuss the issue of agency relationship with them. They will advise you of the various agency options and, if they are members of our association, they will provide you with a brochure outlining information to make you more comfortable and knowledgeable about your ongoing dealings with the REALTOR®. 

No matter what the agency relationship, any salesperson can provide information to assist you with your decision as to what price you are comfortable offering. He or she knows the market. Salespeople can tell you how the asking price compares with similar homes nearby and if your offer is in the price range where comparable properties have been selling. 

The salesperson will present your offer to the sellers through the listing broker and will deliver any counter-offers to you. 

Drop anchor

Real estate professionals provide buyers with their real estate expertise, pay all of their own expenses during a home search and continue searching until a buyer either asks them to stop or purchases a home. To get the most from this commitment to the customer, always tell the salesperson you are working with if your plans or needs change, if you have questions or concerns, or if you would like to view an appealing home listed with another agent.

Remember that salespeople don’t get paid unless you buy through them, so it is only fair to work with one person exclusively until you find what you want or agree to end your relationship. If you do use the services of more than one person, make sure each is aware of this to avoid duplication of effort.

Sometimes locating the right home and finalizing a sale takes a long time. Your funds and your dream home could be farther apart than you realized, or your dreams simply might not be available at any price. Other times, finding what you want and buying it can seem remarkably simple.

No matter what happens, a real estate professional can save you valuable time and make the task easier on you and your family. Before shopping for a home, shop for a real estate professional. You may search for the right house once or twice in a lifetime — they do it everyday. 

— provided by the Manitoba Real Estate Association.