My friends and family know I’m in real estate, and I am often asked for advice. One of the most common questions I get is, “Do I really need an agent if I am buying a home? Won’t I save money by taking a DIY approach?”
While it is possible to do well on your own, most people would be surprised to learn that they’re probably not saving any money if they decide to go without a realtor.
Here’s what I tell anyone who asks, and what you should know if you’re interested in buying a new home.
With your own realtor, you’ll get:
1. Years of Market Expertise
It’s one thing to know that average home selling prices in Ottawa are rising. But that’s a very general case. What about the value of individual homes, and how that changes from neighbourhood to neighbourhood?
As a real estate agent, I have data going back several years that the public doesn’t get access to. With tools like the housing price index, I can check on details about home prices in different areas of the city in the past years.
I also put in a serious amount of time learning neighbourhood histories and keeping up to date with changes. I make sure I keep track of community news, new developments and their effects, and even crime statistics.
Constant and repeated number crunching can reveal hidden realities in the market. For example, many people don’t know that in 2015, houses sold at an average of 97% of their asking price. According to the numbers I researched in MLS, in 2015:
- 11,870 listings were sold.
- The average listing price was $389,000.
- The average final price was $378,000.
That works out to 97%. This means that houses don’t sell well unless they’re priced correctly.
Similarly, properties have sold for less in January than July on average for the past couple of years. In 2015, the average sale price was $24,000 less, and in 2014 there was a $15,000 difference. Based on this, I would advise my clients to avoid selling in winter unless you have to or you have a great home at a great location. Some desirable neighbourhoods, like Westboro, don’t sell at all in winter, however. (I believe it’s because these homes are in the luxury bracket, and people aren’t in the mood for luxury homes in winter.)
That all adds up to knowledge that most people can’t get in their spare time after work.
2. A Negotiator
Not only will an experienced buying agent know the market value of the home, just as importantly, they will be a practiced negotiator. They are not emotionally tied to the home and the selling process. They know what to say and when, based on what they know about the home, the situation, the personalities involved, bully offers, and numerous other factors.
Very few people will be able to get the price an experienced agent can get, unless they are very knowledgeable and also an experienced negotiator already.
3. Inside Information on Great Properties that Never Hit the Market
If you’re seeing a property on MLS, it’s been on the market for at least 48 hours already. That’s because there’s a two-day “real estate agents only” grace period for all listings. In that time, any real estate agent in Ottawa has had a chance to show the home to their clients and even make an offer. In fact, 10% of home sales occur within that first day, before the property ever hits the market.
Then there are the properties that never even make MLS. Many people who are ready to sell their home hire an agent ahead of the time they actually list the property. For example, many people are waiting for spring so they can get a better price. As a buying agent, I have access to information about available properties that our real estate partners have in their pockets.
Once a property is on the market, you’ll have way more competition. If multiple people are interested in the same property, you’re more likely to end up in a bidding war and paying more for the home you want.
4. Someone to do the Homework for You
Looking through listings takes time that most people don’t have in their busy lives.
There are a lot of great tools online, but they don’t let you filter for everything you may be looking for in a home. While you can narrow your search by parameters like location, home style, and number of bedrooms etc., there’s plenty more factors that can be important. Some people may want an open concept main floor, high ceilings, or a small yard. These things are mentioned in the notes, but you have to read through the listing to find it.
A lot of my clients want to know how long properties have been on the market. But just because a property has been listed for a while it doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s surprising how many properties are listed inappropriately by inexperienced sellers.
For example, I got a great deal on a home I just bought because the seller’s agent forgot to mention some wonderful advantages it had in the listing. Other buyers missed out because they didn’t ask the right questions at the right moment.
Finding the gems, hidden or not, takes time.
5. An Entire Team
In real estate, there is truly strength in numbers. At Paul Rushforth, we have over 30 people on the team. Because I have a lot of help with many tasks, it means I get to spend more time doing the things that count most. As a result I have more experience in actual selling, buying, negotiating, and researching market conditions.
The truth is that in real estate, experience is relative. A realtor may have 20 years of experience, but how many properties have they bought and sold in that time? An average agent maybe sells one property a month, partly because they have to do everything themselves. I sell more than one a week. I’m not bragging: I know I could never reach that number without the support of the Paul Rushforth team.
Being a part of a large team also means I know more. Every day I talk to other high-level experts in my field. We share information constantly, which means we all know more. That’s more information I can put to work for you. I can’t speak for other companies, but I know that Paul Rushforth Real Estate has a collaborative environment. That’s an incredible advantage in real estate, because the market is always changing.
What does our team do? They help with a lot of details that can save you money and headaches:
- We know what seller disclosures to ask about.
- We know what closure costs you don’t need to pay.
- We know reliable property inspectors who have the experience to spot problems that could cause problems if not fixed. If you don’t want to fix foundation cracks or flooded basements in your new home, this is key.
- We can even help you get better rates on your mortgage.
If anything on the list sounds like new territory to you, you’re definitely better off with a team like ours.
6. The Paul Rushforth Team Process
Part of the reason the Paul Rushforth team is so successful is that we do personality matching for our customers. We have a lot of agents, and we choose the right one for each buyer. Our agent will have a deeper, more personal understanding of what you need faster.
Sometimes we know what you’re really looking for better than you do! I can get a feel for clients who may think they want certain things in a new home, but actually need something very different.
If I get the feeling a client may be unaware of their real needs during our initial in-depth interview, I try a test. I include some “outside the box” properties I think my clients will love in the initial round of showings. They may be different styles of homes, or similar types of homes in different neighbourhoods, or at a different price point. In these situations, our next round of showings almost always focuses on homes that meet their real needs.
For example, one couple I helped thought they wanted a larger country home, but they were busy with careers and numerous other commitments. Based on our discussions, I knew they wouldn’t like the longer commuting time every morning and night. I found them a smaller home in the city that had a much shorter drive time, and they were much happier.
That’s just one example, as our process is very flexible. We tailor the process to our client’s personality, letting them become as hands-on or uninvolved as they wish.
How to Tell When You’ve Got the Right Buyer’s Agent
No matter what company you go with, any real estate agent that represents you as a buyer should:
- Show you as many houses as you need to see until you find homes you like.
- Tell you the pros AND cons of every home you’re interested in. They’ll also do the same for the neighbourhood as a whole. If they’re not mentioning any disadvantages, they’re not earning enough money to represent your interests impartially.
- Allow you to take the time you need to make a decision that feels right.
- Let you know the best time to buy for the area and home you’re interested in.
If you’re not fully confident that you’re getting all of these, then find someone else.
Time and Dedication
At Paul Rushforth we give you a lot of value added benefits like a free moving truck and our buy back guarantee. But those are extras – our real worth is in providing a bona fide expert to take your side.
If you’re fair, you’ll agree that my years of knowledge and expertise aren’t something you can get in a weekend or two on Google.
Selling Partner/Sales Representative
Passionate about investment and with a strong grasp of the market, Kevin has been a long-time investor himself. While he earned his license in 2011, he has over 22 years of sales experience as well. He combines his love of market knowledge with his love of helping families find their perfect homes. Kevin is married with 3 children.