Selling a home is no minor matter. To the great financial stakes are added myriad technical and legal aspects that require knowledge and experience in order to conclude a transaction without a hitch.

Considering the complexity of the task, even if some people choose to do the selling themselves, most still prefer to entrust the job to a realtor. But which one do you choose? How can you determine the person who is most likely to earn your confidence? And based on which criteria? Let’s take a look.

Certified competence and protection of transactions
The practice of this profession in Quebec is governed by a law. All real estate brokers must hold a permit issued by the Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec (OACIQ), the organization responsible for the application and enforcement of the Real Estate Brokerage Act. This body has the mandate of protecting the public, in particular by assessing and recognizing a broker’s technical competence and overseeing performance.

The permit attests to the broker’s technical skills, for example in real estate law, real estate evaluation and the writing of contracts and documents related to real estate transactions. To obtain a permit, a broker must hold professional liability insurance protecting consumers in case of fault, error, negligence or omission. The broker is also required to subscribe to the Fonds d’indemnisation du courtage immobilier, designed to protect clients in case of fraud, dishonest transaction or misappropriation of funds by a broker or agency.

Before giving a broker a mandate issue a mandate, it is therefore very important to make sure he or she holds a valid permit issued by the OACIQ. You can check this by consulting the register of permit holders on the OACIQ website, by telephone (at 450 462-9800 or toll-free at 1 800 440-7170), or by e-mail (info@oaciq.com). You can also ask if the broker has received a disciplinary notice.

Access to MLS (SIA)
Something else to keep in mind: a broker belonging to any of Quebec’s 12 real estate boards can provide the broadest showcase for a property on the market through full and exclusive access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) system (SIA, or Service inter-agences in French). With this service, a client who is selling or buying can benefit from an array of information on any property listed by any authorized broker.
 
Quantity “versus” quality
Once the broker’s professional status is validated, various other matters may tilt the balance in favour of one broker over another. For example, a broker’s sales statistics or a strong presence of the broker’s signs in the particular neighbourhood may be seen as assets. The same is true of a more modest rate of commission. However, these factors don’t necessarily guarantee quality of service.

For some people, the protection program provided by the agency the broker is affiliated with may become the deciding factor in choosing a realtor. As for the importance you should give to the prominence of an agency, commonly called the “banner,” remember that brokers are self-employed people working on their own account.
                                                                                                            
Good service at the best possible cost
Beyond these considerations, a solid reference from someone you know well gives you a fuller insight into a broker’s real quality of service. Otherwise, you just have to do your homework. Here are a few important matters to raise with the two or three brokers you may have solicited as part of a selection process:

  • Get a detailed written description of how they operate (establishing the selling price, marketing, visits and follow-up, etc.) and their compensation (commission). On this last point, remember that there is no law, regulation or standard setting a benchmark for this amount, which is generally a percentage taken on the amount of the transaction. This rate generally falls between 4% and 7%, and it can be negotiated. Conditions on the real estate market and the chance of finding a buyer yourself are arguments that are often used. Bear in mind also that this commission is taxable! A broker who tells you this spontaneously is acting transparently, and this can help create a climate of confidence. It should be noted that the established rate of commission must take into account an eventual sharing of the payment with the broker representing the buyer.
  • Ask the broker about his or her most recent transactions and whether they were conducted in the same neighbourhood and for the same type of property as yours. 
  • Another aspect to consider is availability. A broker handling a large number of contracts has higher visibility as a result, but can he or she assure you of the time that has to be devoted to selling your building (marketing, visits, etc.)? 
  • Don’t forget to check on the terms and conditions of the brokerage contract. Do you want to provide an exclusive mandate or, instead, retain the possibility of selling on your own, and if so, under what conditions? How long does the mandate run? Six months, three months or just one? Will it be possible to cancel the contract beyond three days after receiving the official copy of the brokerage contract, the period during which you can do so without any explanation or fees? If the contract is revocable, what conditions apply? The broker may, for example, demand reimbursement of any expenses incurred.
  • Question the brokers you contact about their level of professional experience and their most recent training activities. As regards the latter, the OACIQ can confirm when “continuous training units” have been attributed to a broker.
  • Ask them if the quality of their customer service has been subject to a recognized assessment such as the one found in the Quality Service Certification (QSC) program supported by the Fédération des chambres immobilières du Québec. To get QSC certification, brokers must agree to have their performance assessed in a post-transaction consumer survey. To remain certified, a broker must maintain a minimum satisfaction level of 75% (3.75 out of 5). These ratings are available now to the general public at www.certificationQSC.ca.

For any information on real estate brokerage, assistance is available from the OACIQ.

Regarding anything else, bear in mind that establishing the rules of the game is just the first step in the operation. At this stage, the most important thing still remains to be done: selling the home! And the best way to make sure that everything goes the way you want it to is to plan on a follow-up with the broker. Keep in close touch by communicating with the broker on a regular basis so that you remain informed about how the process is advancing. After all, nobody can blame you for looking after your affairs.