How to Find the Right Real Estate Agent for You

How do you get a real estate agent?

The best real estate agent is an experienced professional who listens to your concerns and knows their market. That person might not necessarily work at the largest brokerage, close the most transactions, or make the most money.

Real estate professionals have a saying that 20% of the agents do 80% of the business. Your goal is to find one among that that 20% to work for you, but it's not as challenging as you might think. 

The Difference Between Realtors® and Real Estate Agents

Paper house under a magnifying lens
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All Realtors are licensed to sell real estate as agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors. In fact, less than half of all real estate licensees are Realtors.

Realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and they pledge to follow the NAR Code of Ethics. This is a comprehensive list that includes 17 articles and underlying standards of practice. The code establishes levels of conduct that are higher than ordinary business practices or those required by law. Only Realtors can display the Realtor logo.

Search Online for Agent Listings

Plenty of websites can refer agents to you, but that's no assurance of quality. The agents they refer are often simply those who have paid the site owners a fee to be listed in their directories. 

A better bet is to research the top real estate companies in your area. Go to those websites and look up profiles of individual agents at offices near you. Look for details of their experience, but don't necessarily rule out newbies. They might have more time to spend with you. Just be sure to look for client reviews or comments.

Attend Open Houses

You can meet real estate agents in a nonthreatening working environment and interact with them simply by going to open houses. Collect business cards and make notes about the agents you meet.

Pay attention to how the agent is showing the home if you're thinking about selling. You're looking for someone who is polite, informative, and who appears knowledgeable. You want someone who hands out professional-looking promotional material about the home. The agent is ideally pointing out features and giving tours, not sitting in a corner, reading a book, and ignoring you.

Track Neighborhood Signs

Pay attention to the for-sale listing signs in and around your neighborhood. Make a note of the day they go up and when they disappear or a "sold" banner is slapped on it instead. The agent who sells listings the fastest might be better for you than the agent with the largest number of "for sale" signs. Results speak volumes.

Check Out Print Advertisements

Real estate agents run advertisements for two reasons: They want to sell specific real estate, and they want to promote themselves. Look in your local community newspaper for house ads in your targeted neighborhood, then check the websites of the agents who are advertising. These agents could be specialists in your neighborhood. 

Ask the Pros for Recommendations

Of course, you've thought of asking friends and family for agent referrals, but consider asking other real estate professionals, too. Agents are happy to refer buyers and sellers to associates, especially if the service you need is not a specialty of theirs. For example, some agents sell only commercial or investment property, while others work exclusively with new home builders.

Mortgage brokers and bank loan officers are also a resource—many have first-hand knowledge of exceptional agents. 

Put Together a List

Ideally, you'll have a list of at least three possible agents after you take these steps. It's OK to ask them for references, then check those references. You'll want to interview them as well to determine which of them you feel most comfortable working with. There's nothing wrong with trusting your instincts.