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For unbiased, consumer-focused information about real estate transactions, things to consider when selecting a licensed real estate professional, balancing the risks and benefits of quick sales, multiple offers, and more, check out our fact sheets below.
Looking for information not covered in one of these fact sheets? Try contacting one of BCFSA’s Practice Standards Advisors. You can email us at [email protected], or call us toll-free: (866) 206-3030.
BC Financial Services Authority protects British Columbians during the most important financial transactions in their lives. Our mandate is to protect the public interest by enforcing standards of conduct for licensed real estate professionals. We work to ensure that every consumer can have confidence that their real estate professional is skilled and competent, and working effectively for the interests of their clients.
- We make sure that everyone who applies for a real estate licence is suitable for licensing. All applicants must complete a criminal record check, and every application is reviewed to ensure that the individual meets BCFSA’s Good Reputation, Suitability and Fitness Guidelines.
- We make sure every new licensee is qualified to practice. BCFSA sets high standards for real estate licensing courses and exams, which are delivered by the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.
- We mandate and oversee the required Relicensing Education Program for real estate licensees. In order to renew their licence every two years, all real estate licensees must complete mandatory continuing education.
- We audit real estate brokerages to ensure that trust fund accounting procedures are followed, that books and records are properly maintained, and that all required business processes are in place to safeguard consumers.
- We provide practice advice to real estate licensees through our Practice Standards Advisors, Knowledge Base, and newsletter. Each month, BCFSA receives hundreds of calls and emails from licensees on practice issues.
- We advise members of the public about the services and standards of practice they should expect from a real estate licensee, through our consumer brochures, website, and by responding to enquiries from consumers.
- In response to complaints, we investigate and discipline real estate licensees who have violated the Real Estate Services Act. Discipline can take the form of suspensions, fines, reprimands, restrictions on licences, or remedial education – and in the most serious cases, cancellation of licences.
- When our audits or investigations find evidence that the public is at significant risk, we impose emergency suspensions against licensees or brokerages.
- If real estate consumers suffer a compensable loss as a result of the wrongful actions of a licensee, we ensure that they can recover their loss by making a claim to the Real Estate Special Compensation Fund.
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Selling a home is a complex process with many variables and things to consider. The process requires many important decisions that should not be rushed. Here are five tips to help make wise and informed decisions when looking to sell.
- Choose a licensed real estate professional. A licensed professional can assist you through the entire transaction process, so it is important to make sure it’s someone suitable for you.
- Understand what you are signing. Before you sign a listing agreement or a contract, make sure you know what it means. Don’t be afraid to ask your real estate professional any questions you may have. Get independent advice on legal matters that aren’t clear or that you don’t understand.
- Present the facts. To allow your real estate professional to fulfill their duties, it is your responsibility to provide them with all information and documents concerning your home, such as the current financing arrangements, the ownership details and the home’s assessed value, etc.
If you’re selling a condo, make sure your real estate professional has the minutes of all strata meetings in the last two years, a copy of the current strata bylaws, and other key information pieces that will need to be provided to the buyer.
- Disclose all material latent defects. Mold in the basement? Leaky roof? Talk to your real estate professional. If you fail to disclose all known material latent defects, you could find yourself facing future legal issues.
- Review your options. Make sure you give considerable time and attention to carefully review the offers you receive. Your real estate professional will be by your side to give you advice, but it’s your decision.
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Selling a Home in British Columbia
Purchasing a home will likely be one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever have to make. Here are five important tips every consumer can use when making one of life’s major decisions.
- Know your needs. Make a list of your ‘must haves,’ ‘should haves’ and ‘nice to haves,’ before you begin looking for your future home. Small town or big city? Detached home, condo or townhouse? Is there public transit nearby? It’s all up to you! See What Should You Look For
- Know your budget. Having a budget in mind will help you spend your time productively and focus your search. Keep in mind that not all the money will be used for the down-payment; there are many last minute costs that should be factored into your budget. They include taxes, legal fees, appraisal fees, moving expenses, and home insurance. See What Can You Afford
- Know the licensed real estate professional you’ve picked is right for you. A professional can assist you with the process of buying a home. Ask your friends and family for referrals, but most importantly, ask questions of any prospective agent to make sure they have the expertise and experience you are looking for. See Services You Can Expect From a Real Estate Licensee
- Know what you are signing. Before you sign a buyer’s agreement or a contract of purchase and sale, make sure you know what it means and what it commits you to doing. Don’t be afraid to ask your licensed agent any questions you may have. We also encourage you to seek independent advice on legal matters regarding your purchase.
- Know what each term and condition means. Once you have made a decision to move forward with your purchase, your licensed agent will prepare an offer with a number of standard clauses plus any conditions specific to you. Make sure the contract reflects all of your needs and concerns regarding your purchase. See What Should the Offer Contain
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Buying a Home in British Columbia
You can buy a home without the services of a licensed real estate professional, but they can help you navigate this complex and important transaction. Some homebuyers choose to sign a Buyers Agreement with a professional. Here’s what you can expect from a Buyers Agreement.
The professional will work in your best interests by:
- Discussing with you the type of home you need and can afford;
- Informing you about areas you are interested in, and types of properties;
- Ensuring you are qualified for a mortgage and referring you to financial institutions;
- Keeping you informed about available properties;
- Arranging appointments to view available properties;
- Answering your questions about homes you are considering;
- Checking all the information about a property that is important to you;
- Explaining the forms used in a real estate transaction;
- Helping you make a written offer to the seller;
- Presenting your written offer to the seller; and
- Familiarizing you with the steps to complete the purchase after the seller accepts your offer.
A Buyers’ Agreement confirms in writing that you are a client of the licensed professional, and outlines the duties and obligations they owe to you. Once you sign, it means your licensed professional has a responsibility to follow your instructions, protect your confidentiality, and put your interests first.
Before you sign a Buyers’ Agreement, make sure you understand the terms of the agreement. How long is the agreement for? What is the amount of commission payable to your agent? Ask questions about anything you don’t understand, to avoid misunderstanding later on.
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Services a Buyer Can Expect
Your home is for sale and now someone’s made an offer. What should you do?
If you receive an offer, or multiple offers, on your home it’s important to take the time to carefully consider and review your options. Your licensed real estate professional can answer your questions and help you understand the terms and conditions of the offer(s). But ultimately the decision is up to you.
Here are your options:
Accept an Offer Exactly As It Stands
If you decide to accept an offer, be sure you understand the meaning of each term within the written offer before you sign the document. Once you sign the offer agreeing to its terms, it becomes a legally binding contract.
If you are uncertain about any of the clauses contained in the offer, you may wish to consult a lawyer before signing. Be sure to keep the expiry date of the offer in mind if you decide to postpone acceptance.
Make a Counter-Offer
If you change anything in the original offer, you are considered to have rejected that offer and to be making a new offer from you to the buyer. This new offer is usually referred to as a “counter-offer.”
The risk in making a counter-offer is that if the buyer has changed his or her mind and rejects the counter-offer, you don’t have the option to return to the original offer and accept it. But, the buyer may decide to make another counter-offer back to you. The process of counter-offers can continue until an agreement is reached. Counter-offering is common in the buying/selling process.
Reject or Ignore the Offer
Don’t like the offer you’ve received? You are not obligated to accept or even acknowledge receipt of any offer. But keep in mind that if you reject or ignore an offer that meets all the terms you agreed to in a Listing Contract you signed with your licensed agent, you could be legally obligated to pay the commission, even though you haven’t sold the property.
It’s exciting to find your dream home after months of house hunting. But before you decide to ask your licensed real estate professional to write an offer with no subject clauses, think about the risks you may be taking.
A subject clause in an offer to purchase sets out specific conditions that must be fulfilled before the sale can go through. Subject clauses can give buyers time to have the property inspected, review a title search or strata documents, confirm financing or insurance approvals. They can prevent unwelcome surprises for buyers — the discovery of an oil tank in the backyard, financing problems that mean you cannot complete on the deal, problems with the title.
Some possible subject clauses you may want your real estate professional to include on your offer:
- A satisfactory professional building inspection;
- The arrangement of the financing you require;
- The lender’s approval of your application to assume the seller’s existing mortgage;
- The sale of your present home; and
- If the home is a strata lot, satisfactory review of all relevant strata documentation, including engineer’s reports and/or building inspection reports, if any.
Making an offer with no subject clauses, without having performed any investigations to the property, could potentially expose you to many risks. You should always seek advice from your real estate professional before you decide to move forward.
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More About “Subject” Clauses
Sold in day! Sound terrific? Think again. Exposing your property to the market for a reasonable amount of time helps ensure that you get what your property is worth. In a hot market, sellers can afford to take their time.
When property prices are rising fast, it can be tricky to know exactly what your property is worth. Start by doing some research: if other homes in your neighbourhood have sold recently, take note of the selling prices. Consider having your property appraised by a licensed home appraiser. Before listing your home with a licensed real estate professional, interview several and ask each of them to compare your home to similar listings and recent sales on the market and to advise you on a selling price.
Once you’ve decided on a listing price for your home, and the listing has been published on MLS®, make sure you give prospective buyers adequate time to view the property and make offers. You don’t want to make a hasty decision you may later regret.
Before deciding on a listing price, or accepting an offer, talk with your licensed agent about:
- The impact of the current market conditions, such as the season, types of financing, average length of time for properties on the market.
- The strategies you would like to take for marketing the property, such as the listing information, open houses, and advertising options.
- Your reasons for selling. This information will remain confidential between you and your agent.
A real estate lockbox can be a convenient tool when you are selling or renting out a property. Usually found hanging from the doorknob, the lockbox holds the keys to the home so that real estate professionals can show the property to potential buyers without the sellers or the seller’s real estate professional present.
Most lockboxes are opened by entering a security code or by using a smartphone app. Some lockboxes can be programmed to send an alert to the listing brokerage each time they are used, to allow usage only at certain times of day, or to accept security codes that expire after being issued.
Lockboxes offer sellers convenience and flexibility – but before deciding to allow your real estate professional to use a lockbox, consider the risks. Discuss the pros and cons of lockboxes with your real estate professional, and make sure that you understand and are prepared to accept the risks before agreeing. It is important that you have enough information to make a decision you’re comfortable with.
Here are some of the risks of using a lockbox:
- The lockbox may be broken into to gain access to the property, which could result in theft or damage to the property;
- An unauthorized person could use the lockbox to enter the property by gaining access to the code or breaking into the lockbox; and
- Keys may be lost or the lockbox may be improperly closed, allowing unauthorized access to the property.
Minimize the Risks
- Your real estate professional can only give the lockbox code to another licensed real estate professional, who must accompany any potential buyers viewing the property.
- Advanced technology allows for the identification of the parties who access the property, the time and duration of the visit, and automatic code changes.
- Ask for details about how frequently the code to the lockbox will be changed, and where it will be placed. Is there a safe, well-lit, secure location for the location?
- Make sure lockbox codes expire on a timely basis.
- Contact your property insurer before the lockbox is installed, to be sure that your property insurance coverage is not affected.
- If you live in a strata building, inquire with your strata council for specific rules about the use of lockboxes. Make sure that you and your real estate professional are aware of any policies or bylaws that may affect your use of a lockbox.
- If the lockbox is on a tenanted property, your real estate professional must ensure that they have the permission of the tenant to use the lockbox.
If you are not comfortable with allowing access to your property through a lockbox, let your real estate professional know that you require their presence on the property for any showings when you are not there.
Have questions about buying and selling property in BC? You can contact BCFSA’s Practice Standards Advisors to learn more about the services to expect from a licensed real estate professional.