A new survey conducted by Leger for Re/Max says that while 41 per cent of Canadians say they aren’t knowledgeable when it comes to buying or selling real estate, half of those surveyed expressed interest in buying or selling a home using a DIY buying and selling platform for their perceived efficiency, ease and convenience. Yet, 86 per cent of consumers who have retained a Realtor in the past say they’ll use a Realtor again.

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Elton Ash
Elton Ash

“The DIY society is ever-growing and of course technology aids in the ability for people to do things on their own,” says Elton Ash, regional EVP, Re/Max of Western Canada. “There is greater interest on Canadians’ part to do this complex transaction on their own but what we’ve experienced is that they quickly run into concerns and issues and then start to look for a professional, typically a lawyer. If they’re doing it on their own, costs can start to increase dramatically.”

Real estate transactions are “not something that everybody does every day. It’s not like buying takeout at a restaurant or a pizza place. It’s a large investment that on average Canadians do once every seven years…so hence the uncertainty about the whole process,” says Ash.

Re/Max’s home buyer and seller survey found that 56 per cent of respondents said they are confident in buying/selling residential real estate; almost half of those who state they’re confident are millennial homebuyers.

Ash said the biggest thing people want from a Realtor is transparency and honesty.

“One year ago it was a full stop, the economy had come to a screeching halt, but on the real estate side of things as we got into July and August, things started to pick up dramatically and there were huge inventory shortages . . . So we get to multiple offer situations and the blind bidding process. From a buyer’s perspective, you don’t know what’s going on,” says Ash.

“It really creates uncertainty. It creates a bit of distrust. It creates this stress and you start to question, as a consumer or a home buyer, what’s your Realtor doing for you? How’s the industry set up? There’s this natural uncertainty that starts to creep in and so you start to question how it all works.”

Christopher Alexander
Christopher Alexander

Christopher Alexander, EVP, Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada, says, “It’s incumbent on the real estate industry to help consumers differentiate between full-time, regionally knowledgeable, professional Realtors who genuinely have the required expertise to advise clients through these challenges, versus agents who treat their license as a means to ‘make a quick buck’.

“Through this survey, we found that negative sentiments of the profession drastically decline once Canadians have been exposed to the professional Realtor experience, as noted by the 86 per cent of Canadians who are likely to use one in the future, having used one previously. But like many advisory and professional services, some advance their interests before those of their clients. We must do a better job of helping Canadians find the best advisor for their needs.”

Here are what home buyers and sellers say they are looking for in a real estate professional:

  • Honest/transparent (52 per cent)
  • Trustworthy (39 per cent)
  • Effective communication skills (31 per cent)
  • Neighbourhood knowledge and expertise (27 per cent)
  • Effective negotiating skills (24 per cent)
  • Ethical (24 per cent)
  • Dedicated (17 per cent)
  • Personable (11 per cent)
  • Punctual (9 per cent)
  • Good use of technology and online tools (9 per cent)
  • Good email/phone etiquette (8 per cent)
  • Empathetic (7 per cent)
  • Poised/can maintain composure (5 per cent)

“We’ve certainly seen that consumers have come to trust the real estate industry more so than in the past,” says Ash. “We’ve seen a decrease in the do-it-yourself, for sale by owner buyer. I’ve been in this business for 40 years. Consistently, it was always about 10 per cent of the market. As of last year it was seven per cent. And it’s because of the ever-increasing complexity of doing the transaction.”

Ash says that consumer reviews are becoming increasingly important and the real estate industry has been a late adopter in this area. It has not kept pace with the growth in reviews in other areas such as for restaurants, for example.

“Reviews are important. Although you may have been referred to an agent to use, you’re still going to go online and look for reviews on that particular agent,” says Ash. “I think it’s critical for all Realtors to have reviews in place. We have a partnership with a company that specializes in Realtor reviews because we believe strongly in it.”

Ash says, “When 86 per cent of consumers who have retained a Realtor in the past say that they’ll retain once again, it suggests that we’re doing a lot of things right. But given the tragic and disruptive effects that the last year of living in the pandemic has shown, we cannot take anything for granted and we must advocate for the interests of our clients by helping them source the best, most ethical, most proven Realtors in their communities. We can start by advocating for more transactional transparency, helping consumers know the questions to ask when vetting agents and assessing their quality of professionalism, and educate them on the credentials and referrals to expect from their Realtor.”

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