How to Choose a Realtor in Canada Using 10 Key Questions

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 06 Oct 2022

It can feel overwhelming to buy or sell a home. But never fear, we are here to help you understand what you should look for when choosing a realtor in Canada.

Working with the right real estate agent from the start is incredibly important. You should have confidence that your agent will do right by you. There are great realtors out there who truly care about their clients and aren’t just out for themselves. Follow these steps to learn which questions to ask them and how to decide which one is best for you.

Begin by researching local realtors

To find the right realtor in Canada, the first step is due diligence. Look into local realtors and be sure to hire an agent who is from the area where you’re buying or selling. Realtors study their local markets intensely. They understand which homes are selling, which are not, and why.

They study local market trends month over month and year over year, and may be aware of homes that haven’t come to market yet. This specialized knowledge of an area comes in handy whether you’re buying or selling.

Start by asking friends and family for personal recommendations of agents with whom they’ve worked. It seems like just about everyone has an uncle or aunt who’s a realtor, so don’t forget to ask your contacts if they’ve actually worked with this person in the past.

How should you choose a realtor in Canada?

Hiring the right realtor in Canada comes down to some very important questions. Asking the right ones can help you align with the real estate agent that most closely meets your specific needs.

1. How long have you been a realtor?

Experience is important when interviewing realtors, but a new agent hoping to build their reputation could be inclined to hustle even harder for you than a seasoned agent. If they have fewer clients, they might have more time available to help you find what you’re looking for than would an established realtor with a long list of clients.

2. Are you a part-time or a full-time agent?

Both part-time and full-time agents could be great, or terrible, to work with. Every realtor in Canada is different, but you want to ensure you’re working with a realtor who takes real estate more seriously than an occasional hobby.

If the realtor you’re speaking with is part-time, ask how much time per year they work in real estate. You want to work with someone who stays on top of local market trends.

3. How many houses have you sold in the past year?

It’s important to ask for the agent’s hard numbers to assess whether or not they have been successful in your area. Do the numbers make sense for how much time this person dedicates to real estate?

4. Do you have a network of reliable professionals that you can recommend to me in case I need to hire painters, inspectors, real estate lawyers, etc.?

Whether buying or selling a house, you rely on the services of many different people. For example, if you’re selling your home, you might need to hire vendors, such as a cleaning company or a storage facility, to help prepare your home for sale. If you’re buying a home, you should ask the realtor who the best mortgage agents are to help you get the best interest rate.

5. Other than a multiple listing service, how will you market my property?

Every realtor in Canada markets homes in their own way. Some spend no money and some spend a lot of money. Some agents always do 3D tours, some never do them. Remember, the agent is paying out of pocket for all the marketing they do for your property.

Ask to see samples of previous marketing materials created by the agent. Look at photo and video examples of previous listings to ensure they are using a professional photographer and not taking the photos on a cell phone.

6. What closing costs can I expect?

Closing costs can shock you if you’re not prepared for them. They typically include moving expenses, property taxes, land transfer taxes, utilities, and more. Consider using a spreadsheet to keep track of upcoming closing expenses, and plan your finances accordingly.

7. What makes you different from other agents?

It’s easy to lump all realtors together, but each one is unique. This is a great way to discover if the agent you’re interviewing has any achievements, awards or any other special skills they’d like to share with you. Ask them how they stand out in a world in which every other person these days seems to be a realtor.

8. How much is your commission?

Not everyone realizes that a commission is negotiable. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should negotiate down an agent’s commission, but you do need to know what they do justify to what they charge. How much of the commission goes to the listing brokerage, and how much will be offered to the cooperating brokerage on the buyer’s side?

9. Do you double-end your deals? How do you stay objective when working for both sides?

It’s imperative to know what double-ending a deal means. If your agent, John, is listing your house for sale and also brings the successful buyer, then John receives the full commission vs. having to split it with another agent. This is called double-ending the deal.

Some people think realtors in Canada should be able to double-end deals, while others think that the practice should be outlawed because it’s a conflict of interest for the agent. The issue can be complex, so it’s best to address any questions you have directly with your realtor during the initial interview process.

10. If you double-end the deal, will you reduce your commission?

Many agents offer an incentive if they double-end your deal, such as a reduced commission. For example, if the usual commission is 5%, but the listing agent brings the buyer as well, the commission might then reduce to 4%.

How to negotiate realtor commission

First, you need to understand how much a realtor charges in commission, and why. To begin, here’s how commission typically works in a residential real estate deal:

The average commission in Canada is 5-6%, split between the listing and cooperating buyer brokerages. For example, the seller pays a 5% commission. Half, i.e. 2.5%, goes to the listing agent, and the remaining 2.5% goes to the buyer’s agent. 

Some of the listing agent’s commission pays for the agent’s time. The rest goes toward paying the listing brokerage for administrative tasks, marketing materials such as photo and video equipment, and to vendors for staging, painting, cleaning and even making some repairs.

Agents often remove items from the above list to be able to discount their services. For example, an agent charging lower commission fees usually spends less money on marketing the home than an agent who charges a higher commission. This isn’t always true, however, so be sure to ask what the commission covers before making a decision to cut recommended marketing services.

Trust your gut

You’ve talked to friends and family. You’ve read online reviews for hours. You’ve interviewed several agents from different brokerages. At the end of the day, all you can do is take notes, think about it, and make an educated decision regarding which realtor is right for you. When in doubt, always be sure to listen to your gut. It’s usually right.

Learn more about The 10 Best Real Estate Apps For Canadians Looking for a House.

Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications