Use the services of a licensed real estate brokerage
To check whether a particular brokerage or individual is licensed to trade in real estate in Nova Scotia, use the Search for Licensee button on the front page of our website. View Choosing a Licensee for further tips to selecting a licensee that is the right fit for you.
Understand the structure of a brokerage
BROKER: Authorized to operate a brokerage and permitted to trade in real estate on behalf of the brokerage. Has a specific set of oversight responsibilities, including but not limited to advertising, reviewing transaction files.
MANAGING ASSOCIATE BROKER: authorized to be involved in the management of the brokerage and responsible to the broker in doing so.
ASSOCIATE BROKER: Has the same qualifications of a managing associate broker, without being involved in management in any way. This licence also salespeople to achieve a higher level of education and be acknowledged for it. It also allows either a broker or managing associate broker to return to a non-management status but not lose their broker qualifications status.
SALESPERSON: Authorized to trade in real estate in Nova Scotia. The entrance licence category of all real estate licensees in Nova Scotia. Licensees must hold a salesperson licence for three years before they may apply for a broker’s licence.
ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF: Unlicensed brokerage employees who are not authorized to trade in real estate.
Choose your representation wisely
By entering into a brokerage or service agreement with a licensee, you are signing a contract to work with a brokerage for a specific duration of time. If you decide partway through that you no longer wish to work with your representation, removing yourself from the contract is not always easy and typically requires mutual consent from both parties in order to terminate – you cannot simply tear up your agreement or fire your licensee on a whim. Do your research and ensure that you choose representation that you are comfortable working with for the long haul as, while the duration of contracts vary and are negotiable, they typically run from a few months to a year.
Get your agreement in writing
Brokerage agreements detail the terms and conditions of the contract to all parties. It is a benefit from a service aspect and a form of protection for consumers to have written brokerage and service agreements, regardless of whether you are a buyer or a seller.
A Seller Brokerage Agreement/Seller Designated Brokerage Agreement outlines the authority of the brokerage to list, market and sell the property. This agreement documents the responsibilities of the seller, the designated agent and the brokerage, the fees to be paid and the duration of the agreement, among other important items.
As of July 2017, Buyer Brokerage Agreements are mandatory for all new buyers agreeing to work with brokerages in Nova Scotia. This written agreement confirms the commitment between a buyer and the brokerage/designated agent to establish a working relationship and outlines the expectations, obligations and responsibilities of each party.
Service agreements typically help sellers market their property through limited services from a brokerage. Services may range from signage and advertising, posting to the MLS® System, to hosting open houses and contract negotiation. Ensure agreements are in writing to ensure both parties have clear expectations of the level of service.
Make notes of any verbal promises or representations made to you by your brokerage, such as the right to early termination for a specific reason. Whenever possible, ensure verbal promises are put in writing and signed by all parties.
Understand the concept of agency and representation choices when retaining the services of a brokerage and a licensee
Read more about agency relationships here.
Communicate honestly and clearly with your licensee—disclose all relevant information
As a client, a licensee represents you in dealings with third parties and has obligations to you. As your representative, they must act on your authorization based on the information you have provided to them. To avoid misunderstandings in the client relationship, it is important not to make any assumptions. Ask questions in situations where you do not fully understand what the issues or choices are and give your licensee clear instructions.
To provide you with effective service and protection from potential liability, your licensee needs to know everything that you know about defects of the property. Property defects are described as “patent” or “latent”.
A patent defect is a property fault that is easily spotted by a potential buyer, such as a broken pane of glass, old roof shingles or peeling paint. A latent defect is a fault in the property that would not be easily detectable by reasonable inspection of the property, such as a serious crack in the foundation that has been covered over with paneling or improper wiring covered by drywall. Material latent defects are latent defects, which may have a serious impact on the value of the property or involve health and/or safety issues. If you are unsure if an issue impacting your property is a material latent defect, contact your lawyer.
If you are a seller, you must disclose all material latent defects known about your property to a potential buyer; otherwise you may be liable to the buyer for the costs of repairing these defects. Ensure your licensee is fully aware of any latent defects effecting the property by putting it in writing by either completing it in a PDS or otherwise in writing. You and your licensee have an obligation to disclose any material latent defects when asked, and must always respond truthfully.
If you are a buyer, ensure your licensee is aware of all of your needs in a property, transaction requirements (i.e. possession date) and any financial constraints. Always have in writing these needs, transaction requirements.
Be up front and honest with your licensee and discuss any issues or concerns you have involving stigmas. Stigmas are not legally required to be disclosed unless specifically asked about, so be sure to ask if you have specific concerns.
Do not sign a document you have not read, cannot read, or do not understand
Do not sign any document unless you clearly understand its meaning and its effect on your transaction. Take the time necessary to read any document you have been asked to sign. This may mean reading over the document several times at your own pace.
Your licensee should not interfere in this process or pressure you to sign a document you have not read. If the document has become difficult to read due to changes, a counter-offer or fax transmissions, ask your licensee to prepare a new, clear contract.
If you do not understand the nature of any document, particular clause or term, ask your licensee for clarification. While a licensee cannot give you legal advice, they can explain what a clause or term means and any potential effect it would have on you and your transaction. Do not hesitate to seek legal assistance at any time.
Do not sign a document you do not agree with in all respects
Typically, a licensee will prepare a document and present it to the customer for signature. A real estate transaction is a contract and you will be legally bound by that contract and could be sued if you do not fulfill your obligations. Therefore, the contract should only reflect the terms you are in full agreement with. If you agree with most of it and disagree with certain provisions, do not sign the contract. Advise your licensee and seek changes to those provisions through further discussions or negotiations. All changes to real estate agreements must be done in writing.
Do not sign a document that may be false or misleading
Once you sign an agreement you are responsible for its contents. All signed documents must be truthful and factually accurate. When reviewing documents, point out any errors for the licensee to correct before signing it.
Do not sign a blank or incomplete document
By signing a document you are acknowledging in writing that you have read, understand and agree to its contents, which cannot be assured if you sign a blank document. Doing so may result in a written agreement to something you do not want. If a licensee asks you to sign an incomplete or blank form that they promise to complete later, refuse their request. While it may save time, it places you at risk.
Keep copies of all documents
Licensees are required to provide you with a true (identical) copy of any document you sign, at the time of signing. Keep these, and any other documents related to your transaction, together in a safe place.
Support your licensee in the performance of their duties
For a real estate licensee to successfully represent you, they need your support and cooperation in a number of ways, including:
- being available to communicate with your licensee at all reasonable times. If you will be away for a period of time, advise your licensee as soon as possible and indicate how you may be reached during your absence;
- if you plan to allow your licensee to negotiate on your behalf, that direction must be put in writing;
- cooperating with all reasonable requests from your licensee;
- carefully considering information or advice that your licensee gives you;
- providing prompt, informed and clear responses;
- referring any contact or inquiries from other brokerages or other parties to your licensee; and
- keeping records of everything related to your transaction or services provided by the licensee.
Provide feedback to your licensee and the broker
If you are satisfied with the services you have received and the quality of your representation, let your licensee and broker know. They appreciate knowing they have done a good job and met your expectations.
If you have concerns about the services you have received, communicate your concerns to your licensee in a timely fashion. If you have attempted to resolve an issue with your licensee to no avail, refer to Resolving Disputes With Your Licensee.
If you are have not been able to resolve concerns with your licensee or are deeply unsatisfied with their actions and believe that a licensee has violated the Real Estate Trading Act or the Commission Bylaw, contact the Compliance Team to discuss whether a formal complaint should be filed.