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The REAL questions to ask before hiring a real estate agent

The REAL questions to ask before hiring a real estate agent

So, you want to move. You’ve scoped out the city, started thinking about new neighbourhoods, and you’ve made some mental “must have” lists for your new home.

There’s just one small hitch.

You don’t have an agent. So, you ask your friends and family who their agents are. Everyone in this city knows at least one Realtor. Maybe you turn to good ol’ Google next and search “best real estate agent Toronto”. It’s a good start, but with 50,000+ agents in the city, finding one you actually want to work with is no small task.

Now that you’ve compiled your list of potential candidates it’s time for the interviews. But what questions do you ask? Another quick “best questions to ask a real estate agent” Google search yields a bunch of blog entries and articles full of soft-ball questions that are far too general to weed out the amateurs from the experts. Take this list of ten questions from RateHub for example. It’s one of the better lists out there, and we’d recommend starting here– they’re good questions to ask. But to be honest, they’re pretty basic and don’t truly put the agent to the test. So, if you need to find a great agent, keep reading. Our questions will help you find a true real estate expert.


If you’re buying a home

Buying is competitive. Especially in Toronto, where demand is incredibly high in prime neighbourhoods and multiple offer situations are common. This is likely the largest financial transaction you will make in your lifetime, and although the process can seem very straightforward when handled correctly, catastrophic outcomes are possible when mistakes are made.

A good agent will have the experience, knowledge and foresight to make the process seem easy. They know how to deal with minor issues (and I promise you, issues will come up!) before they become big problems.

These are the questions you need to ask your buyer agent:

  1. We found our dream home, but there’s another offer on the table. What can we do to strengthen our offer, other than increasing the price?
  2. We found our dream home – a 1960s mid-century modern house on a huge lot, but there’s old wiring. What should we do? What potential problems could we face?
  3. We found our dream condo – a penthouse unit in a boutique building overlooking a park, but there’s a special assessment being levied to pay for underground garage repairs. What should we do? What potential problems could we face?


If you’re selling a home

Selling a property in Toronto is easy, right? Houses here practically sell themselves, so anyone with a real estate license should do just fine.

It’s tempting to fall into that mindset, but the reality is that that simply isn’t true, and there are plenty of great properties that sit on the market longer than they need to for a variety of reasons. Finding a great agent to sell your home will ensure, not only that you get the best price possible, but also, that you will be able to negotiate the best terms for the sale.

These are the questions you need to ask your seller agent:

  1. How will you market my home – can you show me samples of past campaigns and tell me how those campaigns performed?
  2. What is your pricing and offer strategy?
  3. For house owners: do you recommend pre-listing inspections – why or why not?
  4. For condo owners: The condo we own has a special assessment being contemplated to replace windows, but we NEED to sell now. How do you handle this?


Now, the fun part…

These are a couple of scenario questions that should be pretty simple for any experienced agent. If the person you’re hiring is not experienced, these will help you find that out very quickly. I’d recommend printing this out, and handing over a copy.


Here’s the scenario:

Our property has been on the market for 2 weeks. Lots of showings and interest but no offers yet. It’s Friday night at 7pm and we receive a FIRM offer for the full asking price. We’re ecstatic, but there’s a clause in the offer that reads:

“The Seller warrants that all appliances, heating and cooling systems, electrical and plumbing services will be in good working order on closing. This warranty shall survive and not merge on the completion of this transaction.”

The offer also contains a clause that states:

“The Buyer shall have the right at any time prior to closing, to assign the within Offer to any person, persons or corporation, either existing or to be incorporated, it being understood that the Buyer herein before named shall remain liable.”

Our dishwasher isn’t working, but we’re prepared to replace it because the offer is that good. Everything else is working okay. And the buyer says he might need to add his dad on title for financing reasons. Here are the questions:

  1. Would you edit the clauses above in any way?
  2. How would you handle the offer? The offer is irrevocable until 10pm. Remember, it’s a firm offer.

Postponing this until tomorrow is NOT an option. The buyer needs an answer tonight or they’re moving on to another property.

This may seem like an unlikely scenario, but if you’re an agent who’s been around for a while, you know that situations like this happen ALL THE TIME. In fact, sometimes offers ONLY happen at the most inopportune times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been late for a flight or wedding because an offer HAD to be dealt with at that specific moment.


Our hope for you

There are plenty of experienced, professional agents in this city. Our hope is that this list arms you with the right questions to ask so that you can be 100% sure that you’ve got solid representation backing you up. We’re not going to make it too easy and give away all the answers here, but we’re happy to share. Feel free to email us at [email protected] and we can go through the questions together.


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