Buyer’s Guide – Your Agent

Licensing Requirement

It is important to understand that in British Columbia, the person you hire to assist you to purchase your home must be licensed under the provincial Real Estate Services Act.

Responsibilities of seller’s and buyer’s licensees
In every real estate transaction there is a seller and a buyer. A real estate licensee may be employed as an agent for the seller, as an agent for the buyer, or both. Early in the first meeting with a real estate licensee, the licensee should provide you with full disclosure about the nature of his or her relationship with you, as a buyer, and any relationship he or she may have with the seller. The licensee is required by law to provide this information and explain its implications to you.

How an agent can help
The quickest and easiest way to find a home is to work with a Real Estate Agent. Nearly 90% of all homes offered for sale at any given time are listed with agents. A Real Estate Agent is the person who is best prepared to help you find the type of home your are looking for. Their knowledge of the area, local laws, fees, customs, market conditions, etc. will give you a leg up when finding the right home to suit your wants and needs. Further, the agent can be of help through the entire real estate transaction. If you are attempting to search for a home on your own, when it comes to negotiating, you will be going up against that seller’s agent. Why not have a professional in your corner as well?

Your relationship with a real estate licensee
Real estate licensees work within a legal relationship called agency*. The agency relationship exists between you, the principal, and the brokerage, the company under which the individual licensee who is representing you, is licensed. The essence of the agency relationship is that the brokerage has the authority to represent the principal in dealings with others.

Professional Standards and FAQs

Agency

There are three possible models you can use to buy, sell or lease property though a REALTOR®

Designated Agency

When a brokerage designates a REALTOR® or REALTORS® to work solely on your behalf in real estate transactions, the REALTOR® and brokerage are bound by ethics and the law to be honest and thorough in representing you. The brokerage must account for all money and property placed in its hands while acting for you. The REALTOR® must:

  • Provide undivided loyalty to you (Client) by protecting your negotiating position at all times, and disclose to you all known facts which may affect or influence your decisions;
  • Obey all lawful instructions which you give the REALTOR® to act on your behalf;
  • Maintain the confidentiality of your information (financial, legal, personal, etc.) (See following PRIVACY section);
  • Use reasonable care and skill in performing all assigned duties in the role as agent.

Limited Dual Agency

Limited Dual Agency occurs when the Designated Agent represents both the buyer/tenant and seller/landlord in the same transaction or two buyers competing for the same property. In this arrangement, the REALTOR® cannot be concerned exclusively with your interests in the transaction, since they are acting on behalf of the other party as well. Both the seller and the buyer or the competing buyers should fully consent to a limited dual agency arrangement in writing.

A REALTOR® who has consent to work as a limited dual agent must adhere to the following restrictions:

  1. Deal with both parties impartially;
  2. Have a duty of disclosure to both clients, except that:

I. REALTOR® must not disclose that the buyer/tenant is willing to pay a price or agree to terms other than those contained in the offer, nor disclose that the seller/landlord is willing to accept a price or terms other than those contained in the listing;

II. In the case of competing buyers, the REALTOR® must not disclose the amount or terms of any offer to purchase or lease made or contemplated by either buyer/tenant;

III. REALTOR® must not disclose the motivation of one Client to the other Client, unless one of the Clients has authorized such disclosure themselves;

IV. REALTOR® must not disclose buyer/tenant’s or seller/landlord’s personal information to the other Client, unless authorized in writing. (This refers to information not otherwise disclosed in the transaction documents.

3. Must disclose to the buyer/tenant any defects about the physical condition of the property that are known to the REALTOR®. 

Customer Relationship:

Working With a REALTOR® Who is Not Your Agent

You may also choose to use the services of a REALTOR® without having any kind of agency relationship. This might occur, for example, when you contact or are being shown a property by the seller/landlord’s Designated Agent who will treat you as their customer rather than their client.

In this situation, the REALTOR® is not permitted to recommend or suggest a price, negotiate on your behalf, inform you of their client’s bottom line price point or disclose any confidential information about

their client unless otherwise authorized by the client (or if in special circumstances, the law required it). However, the REALTOR® can provide you with other services, such as:

  • Explaining real estate terms, practices and forms
  • Assist in screening or viewing properties
  • Prepare and present all offers and counter offers at your direction
  • Inform you of lenders and their policies
  • Identify and estimate costs involved in a transaction

You should not provide a licensee who is not your agent with any information that you would not provide directly to his or her principal. Remember, it is possible to enjoy the benefits of a licensee’s knowledge and experience, regardless of whom that licensee is representing.

Services a buyer can expect from a real estate licensee

Determine the neighbourhood where you would like to live
There are two things you will want to know. First, will the property provide the environment I want for a home or investment? Second, will the property have resale value when I am ready to sell? Your agent will be able to answer these questions based on the access to information at their fingertips.

Provide information on schools, shopping and other nearby amenities
Agents have access to a variety of informational resources. They can provide local community information on utilities, zoning, schools, public transportation and a variety of other subjects. They can even have inside info on new construction such as shopping centers, road improvements, parks and more.

Show you the type of houses you are looking for
A real estate professional has many resources to assist you in your search. Sometimes the property your are seeking is available but not actively advertised in the market. Your agent will investigate and provide you information that the general public will not have access to giving you valuable lead time to see and act on hot new listings. Your agent can assist you in the selection process by providing objective information about each property.

Direct you to a lender
If you give a real estate agent some basic information about your available savings, income and current debt, he or she can refer you to lenders best qualified to help you. Most lenders – banks and mortgage companies – offer limited choices.

Guide you through a written offer-to-purchase
There are many negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession and often the inclusion or exclusion of repairs and furnishings or equipment. This may seem a bit overwhelming. Use your agent’s experience and knowhow to guide you. The purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

Oversee the transaction from offer through closing
The agent will oversee the real estate transaction to completion at which time the parties involved agree that all legal and financial obligations have been met and the title to the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer.

Discover and solve problems that might arise
Once you have a negotiated agreement in hand, it is time to complete the evaluation of the property. Depending on area and property, this could include inspections for termites, dry rot, asbestos, faulty structure, roof condition, septic tank and well tests, just to name a few. Your agent can assist you in finding qualified responsible professionals to do most of these investigations and provide you with written reports. You will also want to see a preliminary report on the title of the property. Title indicates ownership of the property. The title to most properties will have some limitation; for example, easements (access rights) for utilities. Your agent, title company or attorney can help you resolve issues that might cause problems at a later date.

Help with moving preparations
Since agents deal with this sort of thing on a daily basis, they have access to many resources when it’s time to start packing. Some agents even work out deals with local companies for discounted rates for referrals. If your agent offers, take them up on it.

Chosing the right Agent

What you really want is an agent who will do a good job for you. It’s important to understand that personality plays a big role in this because you will be working closely together. Your ability to communicate effectively with each other is key. What to look for in an agent:

Honesty and Candor
You want an agent who will not only agree with you when you are right, but let you know when you are misinformed. You will want an agent who will steer you straight and not get you involved in legal entanglements.

Experience
An agent’s knowledge of the market is one of the main advantages in contracting for their services. They should be familiar with their homes for sale in your area and be able to lead you to those most suited to your needs.

Professionalism
The agent should be a constantly taking advantage of additional courses and training that the Real Estate Board and other organizations offer. One thing to be aware of is an agent that runs down others in the field. This indicates lack of professionalism.

Assertiveness
You want the right mixture here. You want an agent who is assertive enough to get your deal accepted by the seller. On the other hand, you don’t want an agent that is so pushy that you feel intimidated and pressured to buy something you don’t like or want.

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