What are your options when selling your home – Part 1
If you thought buying a home was nerve-wracking, wait until you sell it….
Ask anyone who has sold a house and you are likely to hear a horror story or two. From strange visitors to delusional buyers to frustrating negotiations. It can often be a serious pain to live through – and you haven’t even moved yet!
But, now that you have decided to sell, how you are going to go about it? Are you going to use a broker? How does one go about choosing a real estate broker? From which agency? Does it matter? What about doing it yourself?
In this two-part series we will answer some of these questions. In today’s Part 1, we look at the option of using a broker to sell your home.
The most common way to sell a home in Quebec is to use a broker. A broker is a licensed professional authorized by the OACIQ to guide and accompany you through the steps of a real estate transaction. The OACIQ (Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec) is the province’s self-regulating body of the real estate profession.
The OACIQ exists to protect the public’s and the industry’s interests. They oversee the brokers’ activities and ensure they are performing them properly and in accordance with their Professional Code of Ethics as well as the Real Estate Brokerage Act, which together contain the laws and rules governing real estate transactions carried-out by licensed real estate brokers. Having a license is the OACIQ’s way of saying that this person is trained and competent to carry out a compliant real estate transaction.
While brokers aren’t qualified or allowed to give legal advice like lawyers and notaries, they are certainly responsible for the advice they give, the information they relay to anyone involved (or looking to get involved) in a real estate transaction for which they are legally responsible. They are not only trained to do this, but they also carry professional liability insurance to protect you (and themselves) in case things go horribly wrong. They have the expertise to do this because, well, it’s their job! That’s all they do – real estate transactions.
In the course of their career, they have seen many unusual exceptions and circumstances and when you work with a broker, you benefit from this experience and protection.
Should I use a broker?
There are several good reasons to use a broker:
- They are the only professionals allowed to list your property on Centris/MLS.
- They are professionals who are trained and licensed to help you conduct a smooth, compliant transaction.
- They bring expertise and experience to the entire process of selling your property.
- They help you price your property correctly, prepare your property for sale, showcase it in the best way possible, handle all inquiries, negotiations and documents.
How is a broker paid for his or her services?
Traditionally a broker will charge a percentage of the final sale price to list your property and conclude the transaction. In Quebec this is usually between 4% and 5% (plus taxes). Some brokers offer their services for less, but typically only under conditions that are all but impossible to satisfy, making your odds of actually paying less a long shot at best (read more about that below). If the buyer brings a broker to the transaction to represent them, then the brokerage fee is split between the brokers as indicated on the brokerage contract (collaborating broker presence with images) made between the seller and the broker.
Which real estate agencies charge percentage?
Pretty much all of them.
Most brokers are affiliated with large brands (called “banners”) like RE/MAX, Sutton, Royal Lepage, Century 21, Via Capitale, Keller Williams, Engel & Völkers. Due to their sky-high affiliation costs, brokers working under these banners will rarely charge you less than 4% or 5% (plus taxes). There are hundreds of smaller, lesser known agencies out there, but you should know that regardless of their agency affiliation, brokers essentially provide the exact same service, at the exact same price, and they are all regulated by the OACIQ, and have to play by the same rules.
Discount (Maybe) Real Estate Agencies
To name a few, Vendirect and Proprio Direct (not to be confused with the FSBO platform DuProprio, which we will discuss in Part 2) are real estate agencies like any other but that market “discount” or “reduced” brokerage fees. Usually brandishing slogans like “Starting from 1%”, and “For sale by owner, and their broker”, these agencies claim that under certain conditions, you might pay a reduced brokerage fee. Might. Not will.
The conditions typically associated with these reduced fee offers are that you must find your own buyer and that buyer cannot bring a broker of their own to the table, otherwise you pay full price.
One more thing. If you somehow happen to find your own buyer, and that buyer isn’t bringing their own broker to the deal, that buyer’s offer, your counter-offer and the final promise to purchase agreement must be signed, sealed and delivered BEFORE your broker, or any other broker, has a chance to put in a competing offer.
Because by law, your broker is not allowed to reduce their commission if any other offers come in, while you are considering or negotiating the offer from the buyer you found!
From the Real Estate Brokerage Act of Quebec, Chapter I, Division VII, s. 39: A licence holder (real estate broker) may, as a means of promoting services, offer reductions in remuneration, or benefits or gifts. A licence holder may waive all or any part of the remuneration to which the holder is entitled so long as doing so does not disadvantage the other parties to the transaction or another licence holder. A licence holder may not, however, waive all or any part of the remuneration to which the holder is entitled if one or more transaction proposals (offers) are presented by other licence holders at the same time as a transaction proposal presented by the holder or received directly by the seller. O.C. 299-2010, s. 39
So, as you can see, these kind of “starting at” discount offers might sound appealing at first glance, but because of the brokerage law, you will likely pay full price regardless of what you might have been promised in their ads.
Fixed-rate brokerage is a relatively newer concept that is gaining popularity across North America and worldwide.
Instead of paying a broker a percentage of the sale price of the property, you pay a fixed dollar amount regardless of the final sale price.
The fixed-rate might depend on the value of the property being sold, but once set, it’s done. You know exactly what the brokerage fee will be,
What is unique about the FIXE.IMMO model is that regardless of how many other brokers are involved, or what the final sale price might be, your fixed-rate cost is guaranteed. No conditions. No compromise.
Is there a difference between a FIXE.IMMO broker and a “regular” broker?
From a professional services perspective, no. Every broker licensed in Quebec is required to list your property according to the same standards, follow the same professional code of ethics, and adhere to the provisions of the Real Estate brokerage act. All brokers use the same official paperwork (contracts, offers, declarations etc.), they all respond to inquiries from potential buyers and brokers, they all show the properties they list to prospective buyers, and they are all supposed to accompany their client throughout the transaction process.
What if I don’t want to use a broker?
That’s a topic we’ll tackle in Part 2. We’ll take a close look at what’s out there if you’re thinking of selling your property on your own, its pros and cons and how For-Sale-By-Owner platforms work.