Question of the week:

Should I buy my first home using a team or an individual Realtor?

First time (confused) home buyer here. I see that some real estate agents have formed teams. In the same team some are relatively new while others have several years of experience. Some teams are under famous brokerages like Exit, KW etc while some are independent. I was recommended some Team names by people around me and it felt like the team works together as one (am I correct?). Does it matter which RE agent you pick from the team to represent me? Or is it better to have the Team leader represent me? Or should I interview 1-2 from same team to see which one is a better person to work with?

Is it better to work with a RE agent from a team or a stand-alone RE agent?

Also how do independent teams get MLS info when they are not with any brokerage?

Nick Answers Reddit

Every week, Nick answers a Redditor’s question about buying, selling, renting, investing or living in Ottawa. Send Nick your own questions on the website, on Reddit or on a YouTube comment!

Nick's Response

Hey u/nowHome-2635, that’s a good question and as u/LadyDegenhardt mentioned, there’s some meat to the answer. I’ll try to add on what she’s already said.


  • Generally speaking, all Realtors should be able to access the MLS for their local board. This might not be a requirement in every province (I can only speak for Ontario), but if in doubt ask them. If an agent does not have access to the MLS, don’t hire them. It’s a crucial tool to help a homebuyer.

  • The agent is probably with a brokerage, whether they’re on a team or an individual. In Ontario, it’s a requirement, even if the whole brokerage only consists of that agent. 90+% of Realtors in any given province will likely be with one of the big brokerages brands (Royal LePage, Re/Max, Keller Williams). As a Realtor (and team leader) who works under one of the big brands, I’ll say that it’s not crucial for your Realtor to be with a big brand or on a team. It’s more important that they’re professional, knowledgeable, experienced (to an extent), communicative and available to you.

Advantages and Disadvantage of Individual Agents for Buyers

  • You’ll always know who you’re working with (+), meaning that your Realtor will be with you for every showing and will get to know what you need and like in a home.

  • Individual agents’ attention is often getting pulled in many directions at once (-). An individual Realtor is their own sales, marketing, customer service and accounting departments. You may find that the less organized ones can be slow to communicate and do things by the seat of their pants.

  • If your Realtor is on vacation, you might miss seeing a home you’re interested in, or have to work with a colleague who’s not familiar with your file (-).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Teams for Buyers

  • You might feel like a cog in a machine (-) working with some teams. A busy team may be dependent upon the volume of transactions that they do to keep expenses paid and focus on getting you to buy a home, not necessarily the right home. A good team will be focused on your needs and your experience as a client.

  • You’ll probably get to work with a buyer specialist (+). Many teams (including ours) split the roles so that some Realtors focus on listings and some with Buyers. It’s a different skill set to serve each effectively, and if your Realtor’s focus is serving Buyers then it can be a big advantage, as these specialists tend to know exactly how to negotiate effectively in the current market and are available when you are to see homes.

  • As a Buyer, you’ll have 7 days a week access to the team (+) and administrative support. One of the big advantages of teams is that there’s always someone working who’s familiar with your needs and wants. Your assigned Realtor is on vacation? No problem, there’s a team member who’s been scheduled to cover and show you the home you want or write an offer. On the back end of our team, we’re communicating all the time about our existing clients and making sure that we don’t drop the ball when one of us has a day off. Our team admin makes sure that your lawyer, inspector, mortgage broker all get scheduled appropriately and have the applicable paperwork.

Which Realtor Should I Pick?

First of all, you’re wise to contact a few agents. Reject those ones that haven’t responded to you right off the bat; they’re either too busy or don’t care enough to respond, which are both red flags. Start with referrals from friends, family or colleagues who’ve been through the first-time homebuyer process recently, ideally, and vet their online reviews and testimonials before reaching out to a few.

Ask your candidates to walk you through the purchase process and potentially take you on 2-3 showings before committing (let the Realtors know you’re doing this so that they can opt out if they’re too busy). Things to look for include:

  • Communication – Are they responsive? Do they answer questions clearly, quickly and on the medium that works best for you (text, email, etc.)?

  • Experience – A newish agent can be great as another poster said, but it’s a bit risky to be someone’s “first time.” Your Realtor should be experienced enough to explain neighbourhoods, home features (particularly flaws) to you, and explain paperwork and negotiation strategies.

  • Full Time – I strongly believe that Realtors should work full-time and not moonlight along with another job. Is it possible for a Realtor to make a living while working part time at another job? Maybe. Is it fair to you as a client? Definitely not. You deserve to be their focus.

  • Rapport – You’re going to be spending a fair bit of time with this person and having them beside you in potentially stressful negotiations. This should be someone that you can see trusting to look out for your best interests. This is why going through a few showings before signing Buyer paperwork can be a wise idea.

Good luck on the search!

Source: I’m a Realtor in Ottawa, Ontario.

3 “Red Flags” When Interviewing a Realtor


“It’s always a great time to buy!” If a Realtor tells you some variation of this without backing the statement up with facts, they’re just trying to sell you, not help you.


They don’t call you back. Communication is a key skill for one of your life’s most important transactions. There are enough great Realtors out there not to waste your time with someone who can’t be bothered.


They work part time. A Realtor cannot give you the focus and care that you need if they’re working another job to pay their bills.

You might also like …

Buying • Weekly Features — 2024/02/23

The Hidden Plumbing Risk in Canadian Homes: The Perils of Poly-B Pipes


Buying • Selling • Weekly Features — 2024/02/21

Can I close on my sale and purchase on the same day?


Property Presentation — 2024/02/21

Our Values: How do we choose the causes that we support?

On a personal note: What does it mean for our team to be “people-first?” and how do we choose the local…

Get one-on-one advice