I’m a realtor in Toronto. I understand the cheerleader mentality of many agents: “It’s the best time ever to buy a house. Prices are falling, you can’t lose.”
Not true. If the agents you’re calling are the listing agents, and they’re willing to quote prices 15% lower over the phone, then you have to ask yourself what’s going on. I suspect these are properties where the owners are chasing the market as it falls, never getting the price low enough to actually sell.
Do yourself a favour - find a reputable realtor to work for you as your buyer broker. Don’t buy from the listing agent - they work for the seller and their loyalty is to the seller.
Ask someone you trust who has recently bought a house to recommend a good buyer agent in your area. Find someone who does real estate full time, and has been doing it for a few years. They have to do a good job, or they don’t eat.
Your buyer broker would normally be paid by splitting the commission 50/50 with the listing agent, so there will be no cost to you. The commission is usually paid entirely by the seller.
Make your agent work for their money. He/she should prepare a comparative market analysis (CMA) for any house(s) that you are seriously considering buying. The CMA will compare the target property with other similar, recently sold and for sale properties. You need to objectively compare apples to apples.
A good realtor who deals with investment property should also be willing and able to prepare a cashflow analysis for the property. You need concrete, realistic numbers. This is a business investment decision, so treat it that way.
Also, get pre-approved for a mortgage. You need to know what lenders will actually give you, and what it will cost. You will also show sellers that you are serious and capable of completing a deal. This will strengthen your position in negotiations.