Congrats! You have been to the bank or your Mortgage Broker and you have qualified! Now it's time to pick up the phone and contact a REALTOR...but which one?!? There are dozens of them! How do you choose! The same way you do most things in life, ask around, talk to your friends. Who did they use? Were they happy with the work their REALTOR did on their behalf? Were their phone calls returned promptly, did the REALTOR explain everything clearly and find the answers to their questions? But most of all: did they feel comfortable with their REALTOR?
This is likely the most expensive purchase you will make in your lifetime. You need to know that your REALTOR is there for YOU and is ready, willing and capable of answering all of your questions and sometimes answering the questions that you didn't even know to ask. Sit down in the REALTOR's office and have a discussion with them about the process, what you are looking for in a home, what your timeline is, get a feel for them. Do they share your twisted sense of humor? Is this someone you could spend a few hours with in a car going from house to house? But most importantly: did they listen to you?
Once you have chosen your REALTOR they should then go over and have you sign two forms. One is the Consumer Relationship Guide which spells out the basics of working with a REALTOR. The second is a Buyer's Contract and will be either an Exclusive Buyer's Representation Agreement or a Non-Exclusive Buyer's Representation Agreement.
What are those you ask? I am so glad you did! Both agreements spell out what you are looking to buy, where you want to buy and can also outline what kind of information that you expect your REALTOR to find out for you on any house you decide has made your short list. You know, the basic stuff like: Has anyone run a meth lab recently? Did Al Capone host a Valentine's Day Party in the basement? That sort of thing. They also outline what happens in any conflicts of interest between you as a buyer and any sellers that your REALTOR or their Brokerage represents. The 2 agreements set a timeline on the relationship but most importantly, and this is where the two agreements diverge, they set out compensation.
Compensation? you say, isn't the satisfaction of finding you a home enough? Uhm...while you are awesome, I still like to eat. Generally speaking a REALTOR representing a buyer does not get paid by the buyer. They are paid by sharing the commission that is paid by the seller to the seller's agent. That is one of the core principles behind the Multiple Listing Service that is now Realtor.ca. However, sometimes buyers may want to view homes that are listed as For Sale By Owner and in that case you may have discussions with your REALTOR about compensating them for handling the contracts. Fine and dandy you say, but what is the difference?
Okay, so let's say you meet with a REALTOR, you begin working with them but it's kind of like speed dating, you thought it was a good fit but after a time or two you just don't feel that magic and you want to use a different REALTOR. Depending on which of the two agreements you signed you may not have that option. If you signed an EXCLUSIVE Buyer's Representation Agreement your hands may be tied and losing your freedom of choice is a horrible feeling. Most REALTORs prefer to use the NON-exclusive because frankly, we want our clients to want to use us not be forced to use us. So make sure that you ask the tough questions right from the beginning, yes, I know we are Canadian and we are all very polite but trust me, this is the time when you want to start asking as many questions as you want. A good REALTOR will happily answer them all.