By Barry Lebow
When it’s time to sell your house, you wouldn’t hand the job to a doctor or an accountant or an engineer. Chances are you’d pick a Realtor: someone, perhaps, who comes highly recommended by your friends or relatives; someone who knows his subject and your neighbourhood; someone with strong negotiating skills; someone trustworthy. In other words, a real estate professional.
“Real estate agent” and “professional” in the same sentence. Who are we kidding? But the truth of the matter is that Realtors are committed to their profession and their clients just like doctors, accountants and engineers. And not unlike these other professionals, Realtors have to complete a comprehensive program of study, plus two years of articling to become licensed. He or she must achieve 75 percent or more in an 18-month education program through the Real Estate College, operated by the Ontario Real Estate Association. To stay licensed, Realtors are required to upgrade their skills through more than 65 continuing education courses. These focus on areas such as environment and legal issues, taxation, communications and professional standards and ethics.
Experienced agents can further specialize, taking additional courses to qualify them as specialists in commercial real estate, for example, or, as in the case of Accredited Senior Agents (ASAs), older adults. The Accredited Senior Agent program, obtained through the Toronto-based Real Estate Academy, prepares Realtors with more than three years experience to become experts in responding to the housing-related needs of older adults. The designation is not only timely – One in seven Canadians was over 65 in 2006, compared to one in 14 in the 1950s, and 23 percent of Canadians will be 65 or older by 2016 – but much needed, as more and more housing options are developed in response to downsizing baby boomers. It can be confusing and the ASA’s job is to help seniors navigate the environment, whatever is involved. That means everything from house-hunting to obtaining valuations and dealing with auction houses to staging the home for sale and handling the move.
In Ontario, all real estate salespeople — experienced Realtors or newbies — are subject to the Real Estate Council of Ontario’s (RECO) Code of Ethics. RECO is the licensing body that governs the profession on behalf of the Ontario government. It is charged with protecting the interests of the public in dealing with real estate brokerages, brokers and sales representative, and investigates complaints against the profession. As with other professional governing bodies, RECO is your assurance that you will be dealt with fairly as well as your recourse when you feel you aren’t.
As with other professions, technology is changing the way real estate salespeople conduct their business. To the public’s benefit. Everything from Blackberrys, integrated databases, GPSs and virtual house tours make it easier for a Realtor to price, promote and sell your house. Still, nothing compensates for the depth of understanding, the network of contacts and the negotiating skills of an experienced professional.
And, like other professionals, Realtors are subject to severe pressures, including tight deadlines, long working hours, difficult clients and difficult market conditions. It’s not a job many take lightly and few real estate professionals would describe it as an easy job. Nevertheless, it can be personally rewarding just as other professions can be.
So whether you’re looking to buy or sell or obtain a consult when you’re facing a myriad of housing options, consider the professionals. And call a Realtor.
This information is brought to you by your Accredited Senior Agent, a specialist in the housing needs of older adults. Your ASA is an experienced real estate professional who has graduated from a special education program focusing on the needs of seniors. For information, please visit