Trish Bongard Godfrey

What Does It Really Mean to Be Represented by a REALTOR®?

24 November 2015
Trish Bongard Godfrey

Choosing a REALTOR® is choosing a relationship. It's choosing a business and personal relationship with someone you need to trust to look after your interests.

Choosing a REALTOR® should not be about choosing the person who gushes the most about your house, or choosing a friend of a friend, or a relative who just got into the business, or the REALTOR® who has the best fridge magnets.

At the end of the day, REALTORs® do not control the real estate market. Our job is primarily to represent your interests. We present your property in the best possible way to attract the most number of qualified buyers, and we effectively and ethically negotiate a sale at the best possible price, with the most favourable terms.

So, first of all, REALTORs® are governed in the province by the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act of Ontario (REBBA, 2002), which includes a code of ethics for our conduct with the public and other REALTORs®.

A REALTOR® is a registered member of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Most REALTORs® operating in Toronto are also members of a real estate board – such as the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) – and the provincial oversight organization called the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), which listens to consumer complaints and manages professional discipline.

The next thing consumers should know is that all REALTORs® are governed by laws, including REBBA, 2002, but also federal privacy laws, advertising laws and local city by-laws. These include, for example, a 30-day limit on the time a REALTOR® can leave their “For Sale–Sold” signs up at a property after it has sold. (And yes, if you are sick of seeing a REALTOR®'s sign up, by all means, ask your neighbour to remove it, or call the city at 311 to complain).

As part of our professional requirements, REALTORs® must make sure that the public is aware of their rights and our obligations with respect to representation.

The first thing a REALTOR® should explain to you is who is working for whom, and what are their obligations. For example, at your first meeting, they must explain that any representation agreements you have are with the company they represent, rather than with the individual REALTOR®.

They must also explain that we have other clients – both Buyers and Sellers – and we must treat them all fairly and equally. So when two clients of the same firm are involved in a transaction for the same property – either as buyers or sellers – the REALTOR® has a duty to keep their clients’ motivation, best price and other personal information confidential.

It seems rather obvious, at least to me, that REALTORs® who brand themselves as "having all the Buyers" may not be doing the sellers a favour. Most often, the best selling price is realized when as many Buyers as possible are exposed to a property. No one REALTOR® has all the answers, or all the clients.

Another important thing a REALTOR® must tell you about is the services you will get for the commissions you will pay. When you're interviewing, take the time to figure out if they have what you need. Every client is different, and every situation is unique. Ask questions, and learn what particular experience they have, before choosing. Real estate experience isn’t the only kind of experience that matters: having other professional skills really helps, especially skills in negotiation and communication, and work experience in other regulated professional settings.

At the end of the day, you need to follow your head, and your gut. You need to trust your REALTOR® and the advice they'll give you about everything from staging to pricing, so make sure you know they're on your side, and are going to work for you. This is a service, and you will pay for a high level of service from a competent REALTOR® – but it’s definitely worth it.