‘We Had No Idea What We Were Doing’: First-Time Home Buyers on the Importance of Using a REALTOR®

As a REALTOR®, it’s important you’re equipped with the knowledge and resources to help your clients feel at ease throughout the home buying process.

First-time home buyers make up 47% of REALTOR.ca visitors, according to the 2019 REALTOR.ca Insights Report. This group is also 30% more likely to reach out to a REALTOR®, like you.

As a member of CREA, you have access to a number of resources to share with your clients, including the Home Buyers’ Road Map, which helps buyers assess affordability, determine what kind of home they need, and understand closing and legal costs. It also explains how REALTORS® can help navigate the entire process.

We’ve compiled a list of tips, checklists and other useful information on REALTOR.ca’s Tips for Buyers page. It’s the perfect resource to share with your clients. We’ve also created a COVID-19 information hub on REALTOR.ca to help buyers and sellers navigate the unique challenges that come with the home buying process during a pandemic.

Did you know: You can order printed copies of the Home Buyers’ Road Map and other CREA publications? Browse our library of publications produced for boards, associations, REALTORS® and your clients on REALTOR Link®.

REALTORS® also have exclusive access to the MLS® Home Price Index (HPI), the most advanced and accurate tool to gauge a neighborhood’s home price levels and trends.

Your expertise as a real estate professional, backed by the comprehensive data generated by the MLS® HPI, can help you make better informed pricing decisions and validate your pricing recommendations as part of your comparative market analysis. This helps your clients get the right price, regardless of whether they are buying or selling.

When Beverley Lunney and her boyfriend, Taylor, started “looking casually” for their first home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, they did so without first contacting a real estate professional because, as she put it, “We weren’t sure if we needed one.” 

Lunney said a few salespeople were recommended to her, but she never acted on the advice.

All of that changed at the beginning of 2019, when the couple found a house they were serious about. As it turned out, the REALTOR® and salesperson representing the sellers, Gerald Culleton, was also an old friend of Taylor’s family, and he agreed to work as representative for both the buyer and seller.

For a couple whose previous experience had amounted to casual open house viewings, the addition of Culleton provided them with a new sense of focus and greater awareness of how complicated the process can be. 

“We really had no idea what we were doing,” said Lunney, looking back on that period in February 2019, “so it was great to have someone with expertise to back us up.”

Tip: Your clients can determine how much they can actually afford using REALTOR.ca’s mortgage affordability calculator, payment calculator or land transfer tax calculator.

Even the basic aspects of home buying, from practical steps such as presenting an offer, to the strategies behind it, were a complete mystery.

“Once we were ready to make an offer,” said Lunney, “we were like, ‘How do we do that?’ We definitely learned a lesson about needing to have a real estate professional.” 

Culleton’s experience proved pivotal for such strategic concerns as how to avoid being outbid and how to present an offer that was both “reasonable but not refused point-blank,” said Lunney.

Read more first-time home buyer experiences:

For Lunney and her boyfriend, Culleton’s expertise and knowledge as a REALTOR® stood out during this crucial juncture of the process. Whether it was questions about real estate norms, the neighbourhood in question or the housing market in general, he had the answers they needed.

The process took longer than the couple expected, which Lunney admitted occasionally created doubts in her mind that everything would work out. It was Culleton’s calm assurances that quelled her fears about the sale.

“Any time we were panicking, he was the voice of reason,” said Lunney. “He had faith it would work out, [saying things such as] ‘No, this is normal, things take time.’”

The deal closed in April, just as Culleton had assured them it would. When asked about the specific ways she discovered the importance of a REALTOR®, Lunney said: “Having him know what was normal, being able to reassure us. The morale boost … he’s a really positive person. It was great to have him have our backs, because it’s easy to get discouraged when it’s your first time making a big purchase like this.”

Why is it important to use a REALTOR®? Samantha Fraser, salesperson and REALTOR®, Toronto, Ontario:

When you’re a first-time buyer, there are a lot of new things you have to wrap your head around. From learning about mortgages to understanding things like home inspection details or condo corporations. If you’re unfamiliar with the market, this process can be scary and quite overwhelming. Having a REALTOR® by your side is more than just working with a salesperson. You’ve got immediate access to someone who knows what warning signs to look for in home construction, knows the market, has access to lots of behind-the-scenes data to help you make an informed decision, and, if you’re lucky, can also act as a therapist when the emotions run high, which they will.

What advice to you give to first-time home buyers? Tell us in the Comments below.

The CREA Café team is responsible for the official blog of The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). The CREA Café is a cozy place for CREA to connect with our valued members and friends by sharing our thoughts and insights over a virtual cup of coffee.

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