What Can a
Real Estate Agent
Do For Me?

If You're a Buyer

... a real estate agent will do a lot. Buying a home can be a confusing and frustrating experience without the assistance of a good agent, and potentially risky without their trustworthy, experienced and knowledgeable guidance.

If you're a seller, you can skip down to the page area that is written specifically for you. Or if both seller and buyer, which is often the case, just proceed through this section to learn more from both perspectives.

What is a Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a person, duly registered and governed by provincial or state statute and regulations, who on behalf of another, for a fee usually in the form of a percentage commission, offers or attempts to acquire or dispose of real property. A realty agent is licensed through one of many realty companies to represent buyers during a home search, and solicit and market properties for sale for homeowners.

To be a REALTOR®, a real estate agent must be a member and adhere to guidelines and code of ethics of a local real estate board such as TREB. Visit our provincial real estate association,  OREA, or the national associations CREA, or  NAR in the USA, to learn more about what a real estate agent can do for you.

When you've decided to get into buying real estate and have chosen a real estate agent, participated in the first buyer agency meeting during which the agent thoroughly clarified your wants and needs, the work for your agent really begins in earnest.

Before offering real estate advice, your agent will recommend that you seek a mortgage pre-approval from your credit union or bank, or through an expert mortgage broker with whom your agent has a trust relationship. Not only will this confirm how much you can afford as well as your credit worthiness, it'll also strengthen your negotiating position with a seller.

Unless you have all cash, any offer to purchase will include a condition on arranging satisfactory financing. If your agent can assure the seller and their agent that you're pre-approved for the mortgage, and that only the seller's property must be lender approved, you'll be negotiating from a much stronger position. To learn more about mortgage financing, visit the website of Mortgage Professionals Canada.

Return to Top

While Getting Your Ducks in a Row

...and financing organized, your real estate agent will begin the behind-the-scenes research, market analysis and leg work by searching and patiently sifting through numerous existing listings, creating a short list of possible homes that fit as closely as possible the parameters determined at your initial consultation. In some cases, if you're looking for particular features that are not available in the published listing data, or for rural or luxury real estate, due to the size of the house or property, your agent may initially preview it without you to ensure its suitability.

For example, due to allergies, you may not want to consider a home where pets or smokers reside. Or if you want to be close to a preferred school or a municipal bus stop, your real estate agent should ensure the home is in the correct school district and/or check out the bus route. They may also want to personally inspect the locale to determine if there are any high-tension hydro towers behind the house or giant cube van living next door.

Let The Show Begin

Your financing is all set, your real estate agent has a selection of prospective homes and you've said you're available Saturday. Prior to hitting the road, using proprietary software available through all member realty companies, your agent may email a final selection of listings for perusing on your personal computer, tablet or smartphone. Usually, it'll include several interior and exterior photos of each home and maybe a virtual tour. The address is also available in case you'd like to scope out the immediate neighbourhood before personally viewing the interiors.

Your agent will then get the short list in tour order, usually geographically, to minimize driving time between homes, once again to ...

Save You Time

They'll request appointments on-line or through the listing brokerages, and obtain confirmations and lock box codes if necessary. You'll meet at their office or another convenient location and away you'll go.

Typically, to minimize confusion, you'll view not more than half a dozen or so homes on each tour; squeeze in too many and they'll all begin to blur together. I advise choosing a favourite as you proceed through the list and comparing each subsequent home to that (sometimes changing) favourite. Note taking, in writing or with a digital recorder, also helps maintain clarity. Some industrious buyers actually bring along a digital camera. However, sellers might occasionally object to this as being too invasive of their privacy. So, ask your agent before snapping the shutter.

Return to Top

Aunt Ethyl and Uncle Harry

Your real estate agent will be a valuable resource for real estate advice during viewings since they (hopefully) have tons of experience. They've likely viewed countless properties over the years and bring along an extra set of senses, and may spot something you might miss.

If they're representing your interests as a buyer agent, it's their job to point out the positive features and benefits of the home - and potential deficiencies - as well as patent (clearly visible) defects. Latent defects can't normally be seen by the naked eye, but a home inspector may be able to shed some light on these.

Plus, your real estate agent may have experience in home renovation or construction or has learned a lot from attending countless home inspections.

And a no less important benefit is that your real estate agent brings to the buying process much needed ...


This can be far more valuable than, say, the opinion of a friend or relative who has tagged along on the tour. Where your agent is objective, the relative often brings to the situation their own personal bias . And in my experience, their real estate advice is usually negative. It's usually easier to discourage with negative, destructive remarks than encourage with positive, constructive comments. Plus they often just want to be a hero.

So, buying real estate? Either leave your aunt or uncle out of the picture or be prepared to discount their negative opinions, unless of course, they're valid points.

See the Forest and Not Just the Trees

There's a natural tendency to see the furnishings and decor, rather than the actual details of the structure. In addition to the architectural style, size and general features of the house and property, the condition of the flooring, windows, cabinetry, furnace, plumbing and various other technical elements should be high on your practical priority list. Your real estate agent will guide you to actually see more, hence assist you in making a more informed decision.

Hopefully, the seller will be absent during the viewing, thereby allowing you and your agent to converse freely and avoid the possibility of offending the homeowner.

Return to Top

If your real estate agent has done their selection and pre-screening job well, and your needs are not extremely specific, you may actually find your new home on the first outing. If not, another appointment will be necessary and the search will continue. Sometimes ...

Search Parameters May Change

... as you're exposed to listing inventory. A very common change for a buyer is to increase the maximum list price. Why? Because buyers often start low, but are disappointed with the calibre of homes or neighbourhoods. However, the process continues until you find a new home. A good real estate agent will be professionally persistent and patient.

Let Your Feelings Be Your Guide

Since all of the homes you view will have many of the features on your wants/needs list, your decision will be based almost entirely on how you feel about the home. Are you comfortable in the house? Rather than ask my buyers what they think of the home, your agent should ask how you feel about it.

If you remain in your old financial comfort zone, you'll not likely buy a home - period. Why move if there's no change? So, get excited. Stretch yourself a little and you're more likely to enjoy the result.

Return to Top

The Biggest Risk in Life is Not Taking One!!

Can you imagine living there and raising your family? Will your existing furniture fit? How much work will be required to personalize it, to make it your home? Does it excite you and your spouse? Since they're going to live there too, how do your kids feel about it? Yes, they'll have an opinion.

Given the opportunity, it's a great idea to actually sit down in the home to get a feeling for it. Spend some time in the garden and open your eyes, ears and nose to casually investigate the surroundings. Any noisy trains or trucks close by? Smell any fumes? Are you under a flight path for the local airport? Any high tension lines close by? Industrial wind turbine farms? Quarries? Any obnoxious neighbours?

Before making the final decision to submit an offer, take a walk around the neighbourhood. Check out the parks, schools or recreation. Sit in your car to watch traffic patterns. Meet the neighbours. Check out the pulse of the street.

A huge advantage for a buyer to work with an agent - it usually free!

Now, move on to the next phase - decision time. You'll be glad you did.

If You're a Seller

... what can a real estate agent do for you? Well, let's see. How about great real estate advice, starting with an informed and qualified ...

Home Evaluation

Very important. You'll not want to be on the market for months or even years. Not a great experience keeping your home and property in pristine condition for showings week after week after month. An over-priced property is unlikely to sell - period.

News flash: The vast majority of expired listings are over-priced.

Return to Top

Buyers Are Informed

They do their research. Nowadays, more than 3 out of 4 buyers begin their home search on the Internet. Plus there's a wealth of information available to them offered by countless realty companies. And unlike days of old, they now have direct access to professional real estate advice from their own real estate agent, to council them on market values.

A listing agent can bring you another valuable asset ...


It's practically impossible for a homeowner to be totally objective about their own property. After all, it's their castle, furnished and decorated to their exacting standards (if they have any) and tastes (good or bad). Perfect, but not necessarily to an average buyer. Your opinion is purely subjective.

A homeowner simply can't escape their own personal bias and properly evaluate their own home. During my 4-decade career, out of thousands of homeowners, I can honestly say that there were only two whom I had to convince that their properties were worth more than they believed. All the others felt theirs were worth more than the market would provide them. It's quite normal.

Their dream values were based on what they'd heard in the neighbourhood about other list prices, and erroneously concluded that their 'magnificent' home was worth a lot more than those. Or from newspaper ads of similar homes for sale, without considering that the high tension power line behind their home or the old leaky concrete swimming pool in their yard or that their corner lot had no back yard or the odoriferous residue of years of cigarette smoke or the dump-site in the adjacent home's back yard would adversely affect the value of their property. Surprise!

A real estate agent can objectively assess how your home shows, how a buyer will see it, and offer solid real estate advice on how to stage it effectively before showings commence. If your agent lacks staging talent, they may recommend a professional home stager. Or they may suggest simple things like de-cluttering, a fresh coat of paint, carpet or window cleaning, garden manicure or maybe just furniture reorganization or elimination.

Return to Top

Spruce It Up

Your real estate agent may recommend something a little more extensive such as a bath tub or sink re-finish, a new toilet or garage door or a hardwood floor re-finish. Sometimes, little things can make a huge difference in the ultimate sale price or length of time on the market. Plus buyers often need all their available cash for a down payment, leaving them with insufficient funds to do renovations immediately after closing. Thus, a prudent seller may wish to seriously consider investing in at least minor work on their property. Aside from the obvious ...

Sales, Marketing and Negotiating Skills

... that a good real estate agent will offer, an agent is always there to answer questions, provide feedback from showings and to add a sense of security in knowing that you'll not be home alone with strangers. A good real estate agent is there to share in your celebration or commiserate when, after great effort, you accepted a lower price than what you had hoped for. Hey - it happens.

Consider that your real estate agent is working on your behalf, investing their time, effort, experience and dollars, completely with the hope that your place will sell. Of course, if it doesn't, they don't get paid. And you've lost nothing except maybe hope and patience. If your home fails to sell, it's for one single reason. Just one.

Your Asking Price Was Too High

Everything is purely a function of price. You could have holes in the roof, a flooded basement, a railway track through the back yard or orange shag carpet worn to the plywood sub-floor. It doesn't really matter. At the right price, there is a buyer for every property. It all boils down to price. Period.

If your property hasn't sold, reduce the list price. Trust your real estate agent. And if you don't, when your listing expires, you have the right to get a new one. Seek a recommendation from someone you trust. Or if you're in my neck of the woods, you may contact me.

Return to Top

Buying or Selling

Whether you're buying, selling or both, a real estate agent is your trusted guide through the ever increasing technical (and emotional) process of trading in real estate. An agent can help reduce your stress - and risk - in our ever-growing litigious society.

If you're considering selling (or buying) a home, with or without an agent, check out my book The Happy Agent. It contains the sum total of the real estate knowledge, philosophies and techniques that I've accumulated, practiced and polished during a highly successful 42+ year realty career.

Learn how to effectively evaluate your home and prepare it for market to maximize the ultimate sale price, how to market and advertise effectively, how to handle showings and open houses like a pro, how to successfully negotiate an offer and more. If you're trying to sell privately, you'll learn how to recognize the signs of when it's time to throw in the towel and hire a professional and what to expect from them.

When you consider the huge possible savings in real estate commission with a private sale attempt and the fact that you're dealing with your largest single financial asset, a small investment of your time and a pittance of your money could save you thousands of dollars and a ton of heartache. At the very least, you'll be encouraged to try it alone, at least for awhile. Remember - knowledge is power.

Available virtually everywhere print and e-books are sold.

Return to Buyer Questions

Return to Home Page

Return to Seller Questions

Return to Top

If you wish to share this page, please do so. Here's how.

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Click here to review our privacy policy and disclaimer