Finding a Real Estate Agent

The best real estate agent or broker for you is an experienced professional who listens, conducts herself ethically, and knows your market. That person doesn't necessarily work at the largest brokerage, close the most transactions, or make the most money. Real estate professionals have a saying: "Twenty percent of the agents do 80 percent of the business." So, how can you go about finding one of that 20 percent to work for you?

Distinguish Realtors® from Real Estate Agents

Realtor giving house key to buyer
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All Realtors are licensed to sell real estate as an agent, but not all real estate agents are Realtors. Less than half of all real estate licensees are Realtors. Realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors and pledge to follow the Code of Ethics, a comprehensive list containing 17 articles and underlying standards of practice. This 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

Female realtor pointing while standing with young couple at home
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Plenty of websites can refer agents to you, but that is no assurance of quality. Often, the agents they refer are simply those who have paid the site owners a fee to be listed in their directory. 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, who might have more time to spend with you. Be sure to look for client reviews or comments.

Attend Open Houses

African couple shaking hands with Hispanic real estate agent
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By going to open houses, you can meet real estate agents in a nonthreatening working environment and interact with them. Collect business cards and make notes about the agents you meet. If you're thinking about selling your home, pay attention to how the agent on premises is showing the home. Is he polite and informative. Does he appear knowledgeable? Does he hand out professional-looking promotional material about the home? Is he pointing out features and giving tours? Or is he sitting in a corner reading a book, ignoring you?

Track Neighborhood Signs

Real estate concept - businessman signs contract behind home architectural model
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Pay attention to the listing signs in your neighborhood. Make a note of the day they go up and when they disappear (or a "sold" banner is slapped on it). 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.

Peruse Print Advertising

Couple looking into estate agents window
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Real estate agents run real estate ads for two purposes. The first is to sell specific real estate. The second is to promote the real estate agent. Look in your local community newspaper for house ads in your targeted neighborhood. Then look up the websites of the agents who are advertising. These agents could be specialists in your neighborhood. 

Ask the Pros for Recommendations

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Of course, you've thought of finding an agent by asking friends and family. But think about asking other real estate agents for referrals, too. Agents are happy to refer buyers and sellers to associates, especially if the service you need is not a specialty of theirs or within their purview: Some agents sell only commercial or investment property, for example, 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. 

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, BRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.