The Real Estate Council of Alberta just fined a man $15,000 for pretending he's a real estate agent. It's illegal to deal in property without the proper licensing, but that doesn't stop some shady people from trying. This man pretended to be an agent, renting out properties that had been foreclosed by banks.
But this facade goes beyond the attempt to provide an unlicensed service to clients. Individuals falsely pretending to be real estate agents are generally attempting to make money through mortgage fraud, identity theft and other nefarious schemes, which means dealing with an unlicensed agent can be dangerous and costly.
Ways To Ensure Your Agent Is The Real Deal
The good news is there are fast and easy ways to ensure your real estate agent is licensed and qualified. A thirty second check is all it should take to verify your real estate agent's information:
1. Real Estate Council Of Alberta - Industry Professional Search: Here in Alberta, you can use the RECA website to look up any real estate agent in the province. This database will list the member's name, brokerage and authorization levels. A coloured dot also makes it quick and easy to check with your agent is currently authorized, and what type of real estate they are allowed to work with.
2. CREA - REALTOR® Search: Many real estate agents will also register themselves as REALTORS® with the Canadian Real Estate Association by joining the Calgary Real Estate Board® (CREB®), an industry group of committed real estate professionals. While most serious real estate agents will register as a REALTOR® because it gives them access to the Multiple Listing Service®, it is important to note that you can be licensed to buy and sell real estate without doing so.
3. RECA - Authorization Certificate: If you don't want to go the online route, you can also ask your agent to provide you with their RECA authorization certificate. Every authorized real estate agent will receive a printed or electronic version of this certificate.
...But You Don't Always Need A Licensed Agent
In Alberta, a license is required for "trades in real estate", but that doesn't mean every person on your agent's team needs to be a real estate agent. Many real estate teams will hire assistants to organize schedules and maintain efficient office flow, and these individuals aren't required to be licensed. If an unlicensed assistant gives you a call to set up an appointment with your agent, that's completely fine. If that assistant then tries to show you a home, you may be stepping into hot water.
Like all things in life, it's important to trust your instincts with real estate agent. Make sure you meet with your agent before your home search, and make sure you're comfortable working with the person before you sign any agreements. Put the brakes on any business transaction you don't feel comfortable with, even if the agent is licensed. If the "agent" isn't licensed, don't even pick up the phone.
Krista Kehoe, Calgary real estate agent & REALTOR®