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There is no such thing as a stupid question...

Happy Ask a Stupid Question Day!

Have you ever stood in the shower thinking, "I wonder what my dog has named me?" or "Does my stomach think all potatoes are mashed?" If you answered "yes" to these or similar questions, then you have asked yourself a "stupid" question -- as we all do. Today is Ask A Stupid Question Day.

This event was organized to remind people that there really is no such thing as a stupid question.

As licensed real estate professionals, we are firm believers in the value of education and we always try to stay up-to-date with all the new stuff happening in the real estate industry. That's why I think it would be relevant to bring up a Top-5 best questions that you can ask your real estate professional.

What licence do you currently hold?

The first question to ask real estate professional that you may be considering employing should be about their qualifications. This is a golden rule for getting any contractor for any job. ALL real estate professionals in Alberta must at least have the basic licence class of "Associate" that is earned through the government created agency for the real estate and mortgage industries. Associates may have earned their licence during the time that it was a two-week course, a three-week course, a three month program or the current online learning experience. There are some minimal courses required for ongoing professional development each year.

There are no requirements to earn the more senior broker's designation which is the ultimate real estate license class in Alberta. At last estimate, there are less than about 5% or all real estate professionals in the province that have upgraded their license to this licence class. It does take over two years to qualify for this licence class and it involve many more areas of study. There is only one Designated Broker permitted in each brokerage agency (often the owner but that actually isn't a requirement), so the balance of professionals that have earned their broker licence are designated as Associate Brokers on their licence certificate, but they are fully-authorized to step in to fill the designated broker's shoes should they become incapacitated, be on holidays or just temporarily be outside of the province. Typically, there are maybe only four or five with the broker designation in each brokerage agency.

It should be noted that almost none of the new home builders in Alberta engage the services of a licensed real estate professional and opt for their own unlicensed salespeople to assist prospective home purchasers and their real estate professionals. As a buyer, the prices remain the same, but your ability to get a great deal through having an advocate working with you (and not against you) will probably make a significant difference in your purchase.

What certifications do you currently hold?

The second question you will want answered is, "what certifications have you taken, or are you being a "Jack of all trades?" Believe it or not, in Alberta, there is no special licence for a condominium broker. You will find that several hundred real estate professionals in each of Calgary and Edmonton have taken extra certification to become Certified Condomium Specialists. Do they only do condo sales? No, not at all, but with about a third of all residential real estate sales being condominium properties (and it is poised to continue to grow), you should expect a Certified Condo Specialist to be able to handle your transaction more expeditiously than someone that may have learned through "the school of hard knocks" alone. Then, there are Accredited Buyer Agents, Seller Representation Specialists, Senior Real Estate Representatives and Accredited Consultants in Real Estate. Most of these certifications require accreditation requiring practical experience in additon to pretty extensive training courses.

Not surprisingly, newer agents gravitate to luxury home sales. While these homes deserve extra experience and training, few real estate professsionals hold any designation nor training in these high stakes properties. Also, not surprisingly, they don't last long trying to "fake it before they make it."

How much will the job cost and can I get a breakdown of your fees?

Absolutely. Those are some of the first obligations that a licensed real estate professional has to you, as either a buyer or seller. They must clearly identify how they are getting paid and how much. As market values or homes include the brokerage commissions, they will most often break it down based on a small percentage of the selling price of each home. Occasionally we see a combination of flat fee plus a percentage -- but whatever the case it MUST be a defined formula and isn't permitted to be open ended and something like, "a minimum of x% of the selling price." Likewise, there are several instances of not having real estate sales and marketing fees included in the selling prices and then the home prices are adjusted accordingly.

Will you assist me in pricing my home, or the amount of offer when I am buying?

Yes, after agreeing on the marketing program and the agent's fees, your agent will then recommend prices and outline pricing strategies. Some people prefer pricing below market value to get a quick sale and others prefer to price above market value. The amount above market value with determine whether or not a home is shown to prospective buyers and/or attract offers, let alone getting sold. The more overpriced a home is, typically the longer the home stays unsold. While "days on the market" is an extremely poor indication of whether or not a home is over-priced, a knowledgeable real estate professional can use this information against the interests of sellers. Educated buyers' agents are just as adept at pricing homes as sellers' agents are (some even more so). The ultimate goal for both buyers and sellers is for a home sale/purchase AT market value. It should be noted that from experience, a home that sells in less than two weeks is often sold for less than market value or dumb luck played into it that a buyer was specifically waiting to buy that particular home or one similar to it.

Do you earn your living from helping buyers and sellers with their real estate needs?

Currently there is no requirement for licensed real estate professionals to not earn other employment income. I have seen licensees that are also: mortgage brokers, police officers, firemen, engineers, teachers, bus drivers, grocery store cashiers, home stagers, condo document reviewers, restaurant consultants, car salespersons, home renovators, multi-home landlords and even home flippers. And those folks that say they "volunteer" as a real estate board member, they actually earn more through their annual honouraria than most real estate agents earn through daily hard work. Because of the non-tradtional hours required for real estate marketing and brokering, they can claim they are available "full-time" for real estate.

While I sincerely believe that people should be allowed to persue other interests, I really wonder if they have another full-time job if they are truly going to be available for you when you're either buying, selling probably your family's largest asset? It's your decision to make, so ask the question.

Always remember that you are permitted to ask as many questions of your prospective real estate professional, or the real estate professional that you have already hired, as you want! The professionals won't deflect or dodge any of your inquiries. Even after you cease being their client (i.e. a transaction has concluded), you are free to continue to ask question of them as they hope to earn your future business and the business of anyone you will refer to them.

Do you have real estate questions? Contact me and I'll try to get you an answer within short amount of time*. (I may not be able to answer your queries should you concurrently be represented under a written, exclusive agreement for your property needs with another licensed real estate professional. But, it doesn't hurt to ask.)

Data is supplied by Pillar 9™ MLS® System. Pillar 9™ is the owner of the copyright in its MLS®System. Data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by Pillar 9™.
The trademarks MLS®, Multiple Listing Service® and the associated logos are owned by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify the quality of services provided by real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.