In recent years, the number of real estate agents in Canada has exploded. This is in part due to the prolonged increase in housing prices across much of the country, drawing thousands to an industry that many viewed as a way to get rich quick. That, along with the relative ease at which one can obtain a REALTOR®’s license, and it’s no wonder the Canadian Real Estate Association now counts more than 100,000 members.

Unfortunately, as with any other profession, not all REALTORS® are created equal. And with so many newcomers, it can be difficult to find an agent you can trust, let alone one who is equipped to help you buy or sell your home in a timely fashion, and at the right price. Below is a list of steps you can take to ensure you find the right agent. First, however, let’s take a look at the services offered by a real estate agent.

What Does A Real Estate Agent Do?

In short, real estate agents help people buy, sell, or rent homes. It sounds pretty simple, but what many people don’t realize is just how much work is involved. Not only does a successful REALTOR® require in-depth knowledge of their market, they need to perform a variety of tasks, including meeting prospective clients, researching MLS listings, arranging open houses, helping sellers stage their homes, assisting clients with preparing offers and negotiating, creating property photos and videos, marketing and promotion, and a whole lot more.

Visit Open Houses In Your Area

One of the best ways to find a real estate agent is by touring open houses in your area. This allows you to audition multiple agents without having the pressure of signing a contract. You get to observe how each of them interacts with potential home buyers. Do they take the time to walk through the home with visitors and point out the various selling features? Do they exhibit a friendly demeanour and a willingness to answer questions? While you don’t want someone to come across as aggressive, or pushy, if they are too passive in their approach, it may be a sign that they lack the drive required to close the sale.

Ask For Referrals From Your Network

With the advent of social media, it’s easier than ever to ask for referrals from people in your network. If you’re a member of your local Facebook Community Group, send out a request for REALTOR® referrals. People will be quick to make recommendations and share both positive and negative experiences. Chances are, you’ll be able to create a short list of top real estate agents in the area relatively quickly. In addition to social media, reach out to your other networks, such as work colleagues, or your friends and family. The people closest to you should have some recommendations and won’t want to steer you wrong.

Check Agent Listings Online

If you’re struggling to find the right real estate agent, you can narrow your search right in the comfort of your own home, by checking real estate agent listings online. By looking at your area, you’ll be able to see which brokers tend to have the most listings, and how those listings appear on the site. Which ones are you most drawn to, with the best pictures and property descriptions? How quickly do the homes listed tend to sell? You can tell a lot from checking agent listings online.

Speak With A Mortgage Broker

Mortgage brokers work very closely with real estate agents because each one acts as a strong source of referral business for the other. A person shopping for a house is going to need a mortgage, and vice versa. According to Canadian Mortgage Trends, almost 30% of Canadians arranged their mortgage through a mortgage broker in 2018. While the broker will obviously be interested in helping you with your mortgage, they’ll be willing to refer to you a real estate agent that they trust, as they know that it may help them earn reciprocal business.

Make Note Of Signs In Your Area

If you’re planning to sell your home, take a drive around your community, and make a list of the various real estate agent signs in your area. While it’s not always an accurate indicator, the most active agents should have the most yard signs posted, which will help you refine your search. Of course, keep track of the sold signs, too. That is, after all, your ultimate goal.

Interview Real Estate Agents

At the risk of being too obvious, perhaps the best way to get a real estate agent is to speak with one, or several for that matter. It doesn’t cost anything to arrange a meeting with an agent. This way, you can spend some time getting to know them, their personality, and hear them describe exactly how they plan to help you buy or sell your home. Make a list of questions to ask in advance so you can compare notes after you’ve sat down with a few agents. Find out if they have a solid plan to market your home, and their commitment to respond to you with updates, or when you have questions.

Choose An Agent Who Understands Social Media

These days, a successful real estate agent is one who takes advantage of all of the marketing tools at their disposal. This includes the effective use of social media. Facebook and Instagram are two of the more common platforms that a social media savvy agent will use to get your property in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Ask a potential agent about their social media strategy. Better yet, take a look at their social media channels, to see how often they publish and share content.

The Best Advice On Finding The Right Agent

There are many steps you can take when looking around for the right real estate agent for your home purchase or sale. But when it comes down to it, you’re probably going to have to rely on your gut. While there are plenty of duds out there, there will always be several strong agents in your area. The best advice is to use the above steps to narrow your list down to the top two or three, then make your final decision.

Tom Drake is an authority in Canadian personal finance. He is a financial analyst and has been writing about personal finance since 2009 at the award-winning MapleMoney. His work has appeared in MintLife, Canadian MoneySaver, and U.S. News & World Report, and has been quoted in The Globe and Mail, Yahoo Finance, and Financial Post.