This site uses cookies.

The types of cookies we use, and the way we use them, are explained in our Privacy Policy. By clicking "Accept" or continuing to use our site, you agree to our use of Cookies. More information

Sheila Gallagher

print version


When you have decided to buy or sell a home, the services of a qualified real estate professional are very important.  The ideal sales agent will have a good working knowledge of local real estate conditions, be prepared to deliver a high standard of service to customers, and have the support of a large real estate company. Most importantly, a good agent will save you time and money. Here are the advantages of working with a sales agent:

When buying a home:

  • Agents are experienced negotiators who will manage your offers and counter-offers.
  • An agent is familiar with the neighbourhood and can give you information on local real estate values, taxes, utility costs, services and amenities.
  • An agent is familiar with the entire home purchasing process and can advise you of your legal and financial options as well as recommend home inspection and contracting services.
  • An agent can pinpoint homes that fit your needs and dismiss those that do not, saving you time.

When selling a home:

  • An agent knows real estate values in your neighbourhood and will help set a realistic and competitive price on your home.
  • An agent will establish a marketing strategy for your home ensuring that your property is exposed to many potential buyers.
  • An agent takes care of the many tasks involved in selling a house (from placing your listing to putting up the for sale sign). This ensures that you enjoy a smooth and professional transaction.
  • An agent is an expert in the home selling process and as such will advise you of your rights, options and obligations.
  • An agent is an experienced negotiator and will work for you to get  the best price possible.


Many of the same questions, hesitations and strategies connected with seeking out professional assistance in any field - whether you're looking for a doctor, dentist, lawyer or accountant - come into play when you're selecting a real estate agent. Some people find an agent through a family member or friend. This is often a reliable approach. But you might not always find the most compatible assistance this way. And in a transaction as important and intensive as buying and selling a home, that can be critical.

Regardless of how you get an agent's name, it might be worth interviewing at least a couple before you make a final decision - or at least arming yourself with some criteria to go over with any agent who has been recommended to you.

A few things to look for:

  • If you're looking for an agent to list your home, be wary of anyone who suggests they can get an unreasonably high sales price. An agent might use a high listing price to secure a contract, only to seek a lower price later, after little traffic is generated at the initial price level. Meanwhile, you've lost what can be the most critical time period in selling a home - the first weeks immediately after it's listed.
  • Check on experience, education. As with most professions, experience pays in real estate. Experienced agents know the market and the marketing process. They'll have the best chance of quickly and smoothly helping you to buy or sell your home. Experienced agents also know exactly what the current group of buyers are looking for in relation to particular styles and price ranges of properties. A skilled agent can recommend changes that will enhance the salability of your home, thus increasing the price -and /or decreasing the time before a sale.
  • If you're a buyer - does the agent discuss and/or offer buyer agency? More and more buyers are deciding they want full contractual representation on the same level as the seller. Be sure to discuss buyer agency with any agent you're thinking about working with.
  • Does the agent know the market? Is the agent knowledgeable about the community. Do they have a feel for that history of the area, and the approx. price that people will be willing to pay. Also, real estate agents should know the competition is and how much it will effect your sale.
  • Is the agent part of a national network? This can be especially important if you're selling in one city in preparation of moving to another. Your selling agent can refer you to a professional, compatible agent in your destination city - and keep in close contact with that agent so both your selling and buying efforts are closely coordinated.
  • And a final point: Does the agent seem primarily interested in sharing expertise and market knowledge in an honest and straightforward manner? Or does the agent seem more interested in telling you what you want to hear - or spend a lot of effort trying to market additional products and services? The worst time to secure the services of a "yes-man" or an agent who seems to have a bit too many irons in the fire is when you're entering a transaction involving something as expensive as your home. You need straightforward, reliable information - even if it's not necessarily flattering regarding the home you're selling - or very encouraging regarding a home you think you might want to buy.


When planning to purchase a home, you are faced with many decisions. What comes first-buying the next home or selling your present home? What is your price range? What will be the location, size, and style of your next home?

Before getting the answers to these questions there is one major decision to be made: which realtor will you choose to help you get through the maze of forms and give you the direction needed to successfully complete your real estate transactions?

Buying a home is too important to leave up to a committee. Some buyers like to leave their name with three or four salespeople. Although it may seem to be to the buyer's advantage to have a number of people to work with, it is usually a very ineffective approach. The basic assumption is that a committee of agents can produce more results then working exclusively with one agent. Like most committee assignments-everybody's responsibility is nobody's responsibility.


You need the total commitment of one Realtor whom you feel comfortable with and who will get to know and understand you and your particular situation and needs. Buying or selling is a journey that must be carefully plotted and mapped from the start to completion. Tell the Realtor that you will work with them exclusively as long as you see the effort and work needed to get the job done. In fact, if you are a Buyer you should sign a Buyer Agency agreement with this agent to show your commitment. The agent should put in an escape clause for you the buyer (part of written service guarantee) if they do not perform or work actively for you. In this way you will have a dedicated Realtor who will make it her personal responsibility to handle all details of buying/selling to get you to a successful completion .


A good agent will listen to your needs and search through properties that are available both through their own office/company and the MLS , then sort out the inappropriate ones. They will likely show you a number of homes and get your feedback and then continue the process until you have found the right home. Be very upfront and direct with your feedback, point out your likes and dislikes of the properties. Your Realtor should have a copy of each of the listings you will be viewing with a space on each of the pages for your written notes. You may not remember the likes and dislikes you have of each homes unless you make your notes immediately after viewing each home. Also remember it is in you best interest to view a max. of 4 to 5 homes on any one homes tour. It is easy to become confused when viewing too many homes at one time.

A Realtor is paid on a straight commission basis. They do not receive a salary or have an expense account. They are paid only after they have sold something and it successfully closes. This is why working with more than one Realtor is not a good idea. None of the Realtors will know if it will be to their financial benefit to spend any of their time or effort trying to find a property, when you could possibly buy through another Realtor. Believe it or not, you will be best served by dealing with one committed Realtor, as opposed to shopping the market with a variety of agents and Brokerages. By giving your commitment to one realtor, the realtor will work with enthusiasm and the diligent efforts required to successfully complete your transaction.

Working with a RealtorŪ - The Agency Relationship

REALTORSŪ are governed by the legal concept of agency. An agent is legally obligated to look after the best interests of the person he or she represents. The agent must be loyal to that person.

A real estate brokerage may be your agent - if you have clearly established an agency relationship with that REALTORŪ with a representation agreement. But often, you may assume such an obligation exists when it does not.

REALTORSŪ believe it is important that the people they work with understand when an agency relationship exists and when it does not - and understand what it means.

In real estate, there are different possible forms of agency relationship:

1. Seller representation

When a real estate brokerage represents a seller, it must do what is best for the seller of a property.

A written contract, called a listing agreement, creates an agency relationship between the seller and the brokerage and establishes seller representation. It also explains services the brokerage will provide, establishes a fee arrangement for the REALTORŪ's services and specifies what obligations a seller may have.

A seller's agent must tell the seller anything known about a buyer. For instance, if a seller's agent knows a buyer is willing to offer more for a property, that information must be shared with the seller. Confidences a seller shares with a seller's agent must be kept confidential from potential buyers and others.

Although confidential information about the seller cannot be discussed, a buyer working with a seller's agent can expect fair and honest service from the seller's agent and disclosure of pertinent information about the property.

2. Buyer representation

A real estate brokerage representing a buyer must do what is best for the buyer.

A written contract, called a buyer representation agreement, creates an agency relationship between the buyer and the brokerage, and establishes buyer representation. It also explains services the brokerage will provide, establishes a fee arrangement for the REALTORŪ's services and specifies what obligations a buyer may have.

Typically, buyers will be obliged to work exclusively with that brokerage for a period of time.

Confidences a buyer shares with the buyer's agent must be kept confidential.

Although confidential information about the buyer cannot be disclosed, a seller working with a buyer's agent can expect to be treated fairly and honestly.

3. Multiple representation

Occasionally a real estate brokerage will represent both the buyer and the seller. The buyer and seller must consent to this arrangement in writing. Under this multiple representation arrangement, the brokerage must do what is best for both the buyer and the seller.

Since the brokerage's loyalty is divided between the buyer and the seller who have conflicting interests, it is absolutely essential that a multiple representation relationship be properly documented. Representation agreements specifically describe the rights and duties of everyone involved and any limitations to those rights and duties.

4. Customer service

A real estate brokerage may provide services to buyers and sellers without creating buyer or seller representation. This is called "customer service."

Under this arrangement, the brokerage can provide many valuable services in a fair and honest manner. This relationship can be set out in a buyer or seller customer service agreement.

Real estate negotiations are often complex and a brokerage may be providing representation and/or customer service to more than one seller or buyer. The brokerage will disclose these relationships to each buyer and seller.

When working with a REALTORŪ, it is important to understand who the REALTORŪ works for. To whom is the REALTORŪ legally obligated?

Who's working for you?

It is important that you understand who the REALTORŪ is working for. For example, both the seller and the buyer may have their own agent which means they each have a REALTORŪ who is representing them.

Or, some buyers choose to contact the seller's agent directly. Under this arrangement the REALTORŪ is representing the seller, and must do what is best for the seller, but may provide many valuable customer services to the buyer.

A REALTORŪ working with a buyer may even be a "sub-agent" of the seller. Under sub-agency, both the listing brokerage and the co-operating brokerage must do what is best for the seller even though the subagent may provide many valuable customer services to the buyer.

If the brokerage represents both the seller and the buyer, this is multiple representation.

Code of Ethics

REALTORSŪ believe it is important that the people they work with understand their agency relationship. That's why requirements and obligations for representation and customer service are included in a Code of Ethics which is administered by the Real Estate Council of Ontario.

The Code requires REALTORSŪ to disclose in writing the nature of the services they are providing, and encourages REALTORSŪ to obtain written acknowledgement of that disclosure. The Code also requires REALTORSŪ to submit written representation and customer service agreements to buyers and sellers.

Honesty and Integrity

Most real estate professionals in our province are members of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) and only members of OREA can call themselves REALTORSŪ.

When you work with a REALTORŪ, you can expect strict adherence to provincial laws, which includes a Code of Ethics. That code assures you will receive the highest level of service, honesty and integrity.

Highest Professional Standards

Before receiving a real estate registration, candidates must successfully complete an extensive course of study developed by OREA on behalf of the Real Estate Council of Ontario. That is only the beginning: in the first two years of practice, registrants are required to successfully complete three additional courses as part of their articling with an experienced broker. In addition, all registrants must continue to attend courses throughout their careers in order to maintain their registration.

This document is for information only and is not a contract. For the purposes of this information, the term "seller" can be interpreted as "landlord" and "buyer" can mean "tenant."

View more services  
adminlistingsprivacy policycontactsite map