Whether you’ve just begun entertaining the thought or you’ve been peeking at listings for a while now, the journey to buying your own home usually begins with seeking professional help from a real estate agent. You’ve likely seen bench ads, commercials and billboards for all kinds of different real estate agents, but how do you know who to work with and what to look for, beyond a familiar face? Understanding what a real estate agent does and how they can help you is a great first step.

What Is A Real Estate Agent?

Real estate agents represent both buyers and sellers in real estate transactions. They have a duty to look out for their clients’ best interest while still treating all parties fairly and honestly. They work with a brokerage in real estate in order to practice their profession, so all deals must go through the brokerage they work for.

Being a real estate agent is about more than just an interest in the housing market. In order to become a real estate agent, an individual must take certain courses and pass the associated exams to get their license to practice real estate in Ontario. In this province, The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) is the entity that oversees the training and licensure of agents.

What A Real Estate Agent Does

Now that you have a better idea of what a real estate agent is, how exactly do they help buyers and sellers during a real estate transaction?

What Real Estate Agents Do For Buyers

If you’re on the hunt for a home, a real estate agent can help you find exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to style, neighbourhood, price, size, etc. Beyond that, they’ll also help you prepare your offer to purchase, and present that offer to the sellers on your behalf. In most cases the buyer won’t pay for a real estate agent’s services as their commission most often comes out of the listing agent’s commission.

Unlike a seller, a buyer doesn’t typically sign an agreement with a real estate agent but the agent is obligated to provide a written agreement (known as a Buyer Representation Agreement – BRA) that outlines the agent’s fees and what services will be provided. Both parties will have to sign this agreement as it’s a legally binding contract that ensures the buyers only work exclusively with one real estate brokerage for a specific amount of time.

It’s important to note that as a buyer, you are not legally obligated to sign a BRA. Should you choose to do so, understand that you don’t have to purchase a home within the time frame outlined in the BRA so there’s no pressure it you don’t find anything you love.

What Real Estate Agents Do For Sellers

If you’re planning to sell your home, a real estate agent can help you determine a fair sale price based on market value, help with marketing your home, setting up viewings with potential buyers and guide you through the entire legal process of creating an agreement.

Should you choose to work with a real estate agent to sell your home, you’ll likely sign a listing agreement, which is a written contract between both parties that sets out the rules and obligations of the working relationship. It will outline things like how the property will be marketed and how much the real estate agent will be paid. Most agents are paid a commission based on the selling price of the home, which can vary from 3% – 8%, but in Ontario, will likely fall in the 5% – 6% range. The key to this agreement is that if your home doesn’t sell, you won’t have to pay any money to the real estate agent.

How Real Estate Agents Help You Close On Your Home

Real estate agents play a pivotal role in the closing process. While they actively communicate with the client and the other party throughout the process, they remain active in their role throughout the closing of the home as well. They look over every document to ensure all terms and conditions have been met and everything is accurate. We’re all human and mistakes happen, but it’s a real estate agent’s job to catch those mistakes before you sign anything. Your agent may also request a final walkthrough of the home to ensure that no damage or issues have occurred since the initial viewing.

Benefits Of Using A Real Estate Agent

While you don’t legally have to use a real estate agent, most people prefer to seek out professional help to manage what will likely be the biggest transaction in a lifetime. Whether you’re buying or selling, a real estate agent will always have your best interests in mind. They have the experience and insight to help you navigate your real estate transaction with confidence, from start to finish.

They can provide insight into specific neighbourhoods, share their knowledge about how the market is behaving, provide guidance to navigate all the legal documents and give you peace of mind that you’re investing in a property that’s not only safe, but the perfect fit for you.