06/12/2012 07:56 EDT | Updated 08/12/2012 05:12 EDT

How To Pick the Perfect Realtor

With the nice weather finally upon us, a lot of first time and experienced buyers are looking to make a move along the property ladder. A great realtor has access to the widest database of homes available via the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and will even have knowledge of homes or condos for sale but not listed on the open market. Best of all, using a realtor in Canada to buy property is usually a free service since the buyer typically doesn't pay the commission.

Here are five questions to ask before hiring your next agent:

1. Are they a full time agent?

Believe it or not, most agents only work part time. Buying a home is a full time challenge so your agent should be there for you 24/7 and be able to work around your schedule.

2. Are they an expert in the area?

School boundaries, proximity to public transit, local economics, and more all play a part in the decision to purchase. Make sure your agent is familiar with where you're buying and don't be afraid to ask questions, that's what they are there for. They may not have all the answers right away, but the great agents will find them for you.

3. Can they provide recent references?

Find an agent that will give you two or three written references with contact information so you can verify their credibility. Look at the situation from the perspective of a company hiring an employee. You would definitely verify and check to make sure they have a good track record, wouldn't you?

4. Do they have a team of professionals available?

A great agent will have access to multiple mortgage brokers, lawyers, home inspectors, contractors, etc. It is common for agents to get a percentage or referral fee of business that is sent to these professionals so do your research and make sure you are paying a fair price for any quotes they provide.

5. What sets them apart from other realtors?

Potential realtors should be ready for this question. Let them describe to you why they should be chosen to help with your next purchase. There isn't a right or wrong answer to this question, but you as a buyer should be satisfied with the answer they provide. Great negotiator, honesty, and great communication are just some of many possible answers.

Don't be afraid to include any other questions you may feel are important as well. Once you feel comfortable, commit to working exclusively with that agent as long as they keep doing a great job. You should feel comfortable working with who you choose, so take your gut feeling into account as well.

Buying a house can be a stressful process, but the right realtor with will work hard to ensure you make a well-informed decision that you will be happy with for many years. Happy house hunting!