So, you decided to buy a home. It’s a dog-eat-dog world: Be ready for a bunch of paperwork, battling against other buyers for the same home and disappointment before you step foot into your new home. There is no sugar coating it: The journey can be overwhelming – which is why having your own agent can make all the difference.
Some background for you: In Ontario, unless you have signed a Buyer Representation Agreement, all agents work for the seller. Already visited a few houses with an agent? Unless you have signed a B.R.A. (worst acronym ever…) with them, by law, that agent is working in the seller’s best interest and not yours.
Why You Should Use a Buyer Agent
Signing a Buyer Representation Agreement puts in writing that your agent is exclusively representing your interests and their legal duty is to get you the best terms in a deal. By best terms, they should be working toward advising what the best price is to offer on a property, protecting you with favourable conditions, not disclosing your motivation or financial position.
The commissions are paid to the Buyer Agent and the Seller Agent from the proceeds of the sale. You get all this protection and help without having to pay anything out of your own savings. Bonus!
Going directly to the listing agent and having them represent both you and the seller won’t necessarily save you money. If the listing broker represents both the buyer and seller they stand to make more money by ‘double-ending’ the deal. If they decide to cut any commission, that discount is likely passed onto the seller since the commission agreement is set out with the seller in the listing agreement. But, the actual worst part of it is you had no one looking out for your best interests in the deal.
Without signing a B.R.A, all agents represent the seller – the listing agent represents formally represents the seller through written agreement, and every other agent out there, even the one you have chosen to work with, is a sub-agent to the seller. This means they have a legal obligation to get the best offer for the sellers and, worse, if they know your motivations and what you’re willing to pay, they must give that information up.
Signing a B.R.A. is a commitment to a brokerage and not the sales person that you chose to work with. There are rights and responsibilities that come with signing a buyer representation agreement, so think carefully about your needs. Suppose you sign a one-year B.R.A. with a Toronto-based brokerage in order to purchase a condo, but you accept a job in Niagara-on-the-Lake soon afterwards. The BRA would remain in effect unless the Toronto brokerage allows you to terminate it.
The Ontario Real Estate Association has published a great guide called Working with a Realtor that you’ll be asked to sign before you commit to make sure you were explained all there is to know about agency and the different types of representations available to you.
You don’t have to sign a BRA. If you do, you’re under no obligation to actually purchase a home during the term of the agreement.