Visiting open houses can be fun. But if you’re serious about buying a house, looking at listings is Step 3 — not Step 1. Cranbrook real estate agent Jason Wheeldon says many people see a house they like and call the number on the sign to try and buy it, and that can cause big problems.
“Real estate legislation changed in BC in 2018, to better protect consumers. Gone are the days of calling the REALTOR on the sign — now buyers and sellers must have their own separate representation, or choose to be unrepresented,” says Wheeldon from Royal LePage East Kootenay Realty.
Some buyers call to get basic information, but if the conversation strays he tries to intervene.
“When we get a cold call I try to warn buyers as quickly as possible that they should have their own independent representation. Some buyers disclose information that can be used against them in the sale, and if I already represent the seller I have a fiduciary duty to disclose all relevant information to them,” Wheeldon says.
3 Things to do BEFORE you contact a home seller
- Choose a REALTOR. Meet with your real estate agent to discuss your needs and sign disclosure documentation. “The BC Financial Services Authority ensures that real estate professionals will provide you with a high standard of service. All real estate professionals must follow the rules that help protect consumers,” Wheeldon says. “At your first meeting your real estate agent will go over a disclosure document that explains their commitment, their duties and inform you if you are a Client or a Non-Client.”
- Secure your mortgage pre-approval. Gather employment records and credit paperwork and meet with a lender or broker to secure full pre-qualification of a mortgage. “I often ask my buyers to provide me with a letter from their lender confirming this, because it’s instrumental in negotiations,” Wheeldon says. “A pre-approval also locks in your interest rate for 90 to 120 days. If rates go up you’re protected, and if rates go down you get the lower rate. Even a half-percentage change in interest can save you $75 a month on a $350,000 mortgage.”
- View houses. Many people love to browse listings, but that only leads to heartbreak if you haven’t completed steps one and two! “Aside from smoothing the buying process, having your own independent representation instead of calling the name on the for-sale sign allows you to see a series of homes that fit your needs,” Wheeldon says. “You can build that trust and understanding with your first purchase, and keep coming back when your housing needs change. One of my proudest moments of 2021 was representing the third generation of a client family — I sold Grandma a house, the parents a house, and in 2021 their young son. It means a lot that they’ve continued to trust me over the years.”