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What to look for in a real estate agent, whether you’re buying or selling your home

Buying a home is one of the biggest — and potentially most expensive — decisions of your life. If you already had anxiety at the thought of buying (or selling), the real estate market in British Columbia may not be helping.

According to a recent report released by the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA), the average selling price for a residential home in the province was $1.109 million in February 2022, up 24.9 per cent from February 2021.

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, though, a real estate agent can help guide, advise and protect you in such a fast and fierce market.

“Especially in a market like this that is so competitive, I think it really helps to have an experienced realtor, just to provide advice,” says Brendon Ogmundson, the BCREA’s chief economist.

But how do you find the right real estate agent, right now? Together with the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB), we explore what to look for in a real estate agent, whether selling or buying a home.

Rising demand — and prices

The B.C. housing market saw a record year in 2021, according to a BCREA report. The trend has been strong since the summer of 2020. After the initial pandemic-induced pause in sales and listings lifted, the market had a remarkable recovery, according to Ogmundson — and the Fraser Valley area was no exception.

“We saw this real shift in migration, which created a ton of demand, especially for single-family homes,” he says. “In the valley, as a result, prices really, really rose rapidly and are still rising pretty rapidly.”

This surge in relocation demand along with fewer listings, Ogmundson says, has resulted in big price increases. The average selling price for a home in the Fraser Valley was $1,285,489 in February 2022, up 34.8 per cent from February 2021, according to another BCREA report.

Taking emotion out of the process

With such a competitive market, it can be challenging for buyers to compete, particularly those buying their first homes.

“If you have an experienced realtor that’s been through a lot of different cycles, then they can take a lot of the emotion out of what can be a pretty emotional process,” Ogmundson says.

Larry Anderson knows that one of the benefits of working with a realtor is having experience on your side. As a realtor of 27 years and president of the FVREB, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, he’s helped generations of residents find and sell homes.

The FVREB itself has more than 4,500 members, meaning that home buyers and sellers have plenty of options available to them when it comes to finding a realtor they can work with. Among other things, FVREB provides ongoing education and training for member realtors, as well as access to the MLS, which can be a critical tool for realtors in a frenzied market.

One of the first things Anderson advises realtors to do is set expectations with their clients. Buying a home can be one of the biggest decisions of their lives, so Anderson knows that emotions can run high, especially when there are multiple offers on properties.

That’s why he encourages buyers to reach out to a realtor as their first step. “I think the first thing is they should talk to a realtor before they really do anything,” Anderson says, adding that if clients aren’t pre-approved for a mortgage, realtors can recommend multiple options for brokers and banks.

Realtors can help buyers consider things beyond the number of bedrooms and bathrooms they need. Anderson asks about the area they want to live in, but also their down payment plan and whether they qualify for first-time home buyer incentives, and helps them determine how much they’ll need to spend to fit their needs.

“You want to educate them on all the costs that are involved,” Anderson says. That might include closing costs, whether appliances are included, sales taxes and more.

What buyers and sellers can expect from working with a realtor

Anderson says a realtor will explain the steps along the way, including rules and regulations. They can help demystify terms like strata and what a non-subject offer is, so clients can make the most informed decision they can. Realtors should also prepare clients well ahead of making an offer because in the current market, things can move quickly.

“Once the gates are down, it’s just a race to the end and you’ve got to be prepared,” Anderson says. “So when you’re ready to write that offer, you’re all in.”

Likewise, a realtor can help a seller prepare for the fast market. With fewer homes listed, properties are generally selling in under a week, according to Anderson. A realtor will ensure a proper home evaluation, he says, adding that there are realtors specializing in everything from condos to unique properties like equestrian farms.

Experience counts with a seller’s agent, too. “Most people only sell a home once or twice in their life. It’s good to have an advisor who’s done it dozens and dozens of times,” Ogmundson says.

Beyond experience, the right realtor is someone you can trust, Anderson says. Not only will a realtor get to know a client and educate them, they’ll ensure that a property is the right one for that particular client.

If you are not from the area, a realtor can educate you quickly on the community, says Anderson. A skilled realtor can even help check with the municipality to see if you are permitted to build your dream detached garage or swimming pool.

A selling agent, meanwhile, will know how to make your property shine. Anderson says some have value-adds like video shoots to showcase your property or offer 3-D floor plans.

Lastly, a realtor can help protect their clients and offer advice. Anderson says this could be on a property that has been misrepresented, or if a client submits a non-subject offer without guaranteed financing.

“Those are the critical things you need to be very well informed on,” he says.

“The biggest thing when you hire a realtor is you want someone that you can relate to, that is sincere and that you feel that you can trust,” Anderson adds. “It feels like you are on the journey together with them.”

To learn more about buying or selling a home in the Fraser Valley, or to find a realtor in your area, visit the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board website.