A couple weeks back I came across a situation that happens far too often. I was working an open house when a gentleman walked in.. there was that awkward pause and stare when you both know you've seen each other but just can't figure out how or from where.

After a little chat, it clicked. A little over a year ago I was working another open house literally two doors down and he walked in. Same man, same purpose, similar dialogue. To be clear, he was not a neighbour or lived anywhere in the immediate area. He was an 'active' (I use this term loosely) buyer seeking a potential home for him and his fiance. Given his price range and flexible location, there is no reason he would not have found a home with the right realtor.

It didnt take long during our convo before his negativity kicked in.. "there's nothing available", "market just keeps going up", "I have lost out on bidding wars" ...and the list goes on... So I asked the dreaded question that all buyers fear...: "Have you been working with a realtor?" If there was ever a rhetorical question, this was it. Of course he wasn't!

I get why a lot of people fear the whole buyer representation thing and the idea of being pressured into buying a home, or being constantly 'harassed' by that annoying realtor because nobody likes a pushy salesman. All valid points, but here is the caveat.. having a realtor work for you when buying a home is FREE... let me repeat, having a realtor work for you when buying a home is FREE. Nada, zero, ziltch. Doesn't cost the buyer a penny.

This perk has also its downfall. You have the flipside where, 'John' the buyer, is looking for a home and because it is a free service, decides to walk into 10 open houses, calls 4 numbers on lawn signs and sends a few emails off of realtor.ca... so now 'John' has about a dozen realtors 'working' for him and he feels like he's ahead of the game and outsmarting the competition. Newsflash for 'John'... nobody is working for you! Let me rephrase: no professional realtor is working for you, unless you sign what is called a buyer representation agreement.

Sign a contract? what for? Aside from the legal responsibilities the contract covers, ie. full disclosure, confidentiality, etc... your real estate agent is now fully committed to you. Commitment is a beautiful thing isnt it? You wouldnt put time, effort and all that good stuff into a relationship if you knew at any given moment the other person may leave you. Well, neither would a good realtor (I emphasize 'good realtor')

I am not suggesting to get into a contract with simply any realtor, but interview a bunch, ask friends and colleagues about their experiences with their realtors. Once you find the right fit for you, it's ok to sign on the dotted line.. do not fear it, embrace it and understand that the realtor now has a full obligation to you and will bend over backwards to find you a home.

So what happened to the prospective buyer that came to the open house? Well he left slightly more educated, but still shaking his head over his 'bad luck' during the course of the year. He did ask if there were other homes for him to view. Oddly enough, his other 8 realtors never got back to him . Off he went in his search...

Commitment is a scary thing...