Looking For A House
Finding homes which meet your criteria is on the agent. However, that shouldn't prevent you from getting involved in the process. After all, you may discover a unique opportunity which could be otherwise missed.
Inform your agent that you'll be conducting your own search. If you find a house you like, refer it to the agent. Think of yourself as someone complementing agent's servives. Don't try to replace them, so that your relationship remains friendly and productive.
How To Find Your Home
Printed media aren't very useful. Many homes may have been already sold by the time when you look at the listings, and such ads are often intended to create buyer leads.
You'll find a lot of current listings on free classifieds sites like kijiji and craigslist, which are heavily used by listing agents. Other places to go to are the sites of real estate brokers and agents.
An overwhelming majority of homes is traded through the Multiple Listing Service maintained by the Canadian Real Estate Association where agents list and search for properties.
A simplified consumer version of MLS listings is available online for everyone, so you can browse them without being entirely dependent on your agent.
There are also many unaffiliated web listing services agents use to sell homes because they attract a lot of traffic. Keep in mind though that the results of your search should be taken with a grain of salt.
Good homes sell really fast and the integrity of data available in public domains isn't guaranted. If some listing looks too good to be true this might be the case.
That gives you another reason to team up closely with your agent who can help you sort it all out.
You may have some luck with FSBO sites - for sale by owner. Most independent sellers are willing to pay the buyer's agent commission if they can sell. When you find anything, delegate your agent to learn more and do the talking.
Don't bypass your agent for a FSBO transaction to save money on a commission. Once you hired someone honor your commitment. Your agent has been already working for you, and would get nothing in return.
If you don't find anything on your own you don't have to consider it a failure and a waste of time. You'll get a much better idea about the market and you still have your agent to work with.
Buying Without An Agent
Some homebuyers decide to not to hire an agent. Should you follow this route you will have to cope with a variety of issues yourself. Looking for a property on your own is one of them. Another important thing is that you won't have an agent to tell you how much exactly you should offer.
But, why would you not use an agent to buy a house and give up on essential services provided to you at no charge? If the commisssion is 5% and there is no buying agent to spit it with, you can request price reduction by as much as 2.5%. This can be achieved if the selling agent agrees to lower the commission by the same amount.
Although there is a strong logic in such thinking don't expect that a price discount will be readily given to you. It doesn't make any difference to a seller but selling agents are not willing to reduce their commissions.
Inform the seller and the selling agent that a price discount through the reduction of the agent's fee is a deal maker and gets the house sold. This opportunity despite being limited does exist, but only persistent buyers take advantage of it.
If you are seriously interested in the property ask the lender who pre-approved your mortgage if they have a list of preferred appraisers. They may not accept an appraisal from somebody else to finalize your mortgage, and you'd have to pay later again for the same service.
So, should you buy a house without an agent? Not if the money you could save means less to you than agent's services, or you are in the seller's market, or you are not a good negotiator.
If any of these factors predefines your purchasing prospects the benefit of buying a house alone becomes questionable, and you may actually do better by shifting your focus on finding a good agent.
Viewing And Evaluating Homes
Make a home walkthrough checklist. Rate each item on the a scale from 1 to 3 (1 - poor, 2 - good, 3 - excellent) and than calculate a total score.
That way you won't miss the most important details when touring homes and can make a rational comparison. This is an example how your checklist may look like devided into major categories:
Ignore unimportant things. Worn-out painting, carpets, or apliances are easy to replace and they shouldn't influence your opinion.
When you find the house you really like, have a close look at the neighbourhood which isn't much less important than the house itsself.
Visit the place at different times to see how it looks like. Meet the neighbours and ask them to tell you how they feel about living in the area.
Compare scores after you see several properties. Top numbers will show you which homes are worthy your consideration and deserve a second look.