Real Estate Fees, Services Are Negotiable

The following article was written by Joseph Richer, registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), and was published, originally, in the "Toronto Star" on April 3, 2014. Joseph Richer oversees and enforces all rules governing real estate professionals in Ontario.

"I'm going to be listing my home soon. What kind of services do real estate salespeople typically offer?

When it comes to real estate services, there's no such thing as "typical."

There are more than 63,000 real estate brokers and salespeople across Ontario, and each one of them will have their own approach and style.

Listing agreements you sign with a brokerage can outline a wide range of services, depending on your particular needs. A "full service" arrangement may include:

  • staging your home, or providing tips to prepare
  • marketing plans/strategies
  • scheduling showings and open houses
  • receiving and negotiating offers from prospective buyers
  • providing detailed property information/features to prospective buyers or their representatives
  • handling transaction paperwork, and
  • referring you to a lawyer, mortgage broker, home inspector or other specialists you may need.

That contrasts with a minimal service arrangement, where the brokerage might simply post the property on the MLS® system, but not provide any of the services listed above.

As you can imagine, there's a lot of room for a middle-ground between full service and minimal service.

Remember that fees and commissions for services by real estate salespeople are not only negotiable to the services being performed, but can be a mixture of a set fee or a percentage of the sold price. As can be expected, the level of service should relate to the amount being charged.

With so many possibilities, it's important to consider your options and ensure the person you choose to represent you will provide the services you want, and at a fair price.

Do your homework. Start by asking friends and relatives who have recently bought or sold a home for referrals. Find out what they liked or didn't like about the experience.

Then interview a few different real estate professionals, and get their references, before deciding on one. Keep in mind that, as with most things, the cheapest deal is not necessarily the best deal.

Never assume that a service will be included. Communicate with your chosen real estate agent clearly and ahead of time, and get everything in writing.

Always read what you are signing and consider seeking legal advice if there are things you do not understand.

Also, if you choose to go with a minimal service option, understand that real estate professionals have ethical obligations and can't simply take your word regarding key details about the property. They are required to conduct due diligence to ensure the MLS® posting is accurate, which can include measuring rooms, confirming municipal taxes, zoning, operating costs, rental/lease items, and so forth.

It might seem daunting, but just take it one step at a time: think about what service level you need, identify representatives that can meet your needs at a price you consider fair, and make sure that there's a mutual written understanding about what services will be provided.

Starting with clear expectations can go a long way to ensuring a positive selling experience."