If you’re serious about buying or selling a home, then you’re probably ready to meet with a realtor to help you with the process. But finding the right one can be intimidating. The National Association of REALTORS® estimates about 2 million active licensed realtors working in the U.S. With so many agents likely to vie for your business, you might feel like running for the hills. But buying or selling a home is something worth celebrating, not dreading. Here’s how to make finding a trustworthy, best-fit realtor surprisingly painless.

Get a referral from someone you know

Start with your close circle of friends and colleagues. Has anyone bought or sold a home recently? Talk to them about their experience, and get their input on the realtor they used. While someone else’s positive experience with a realtor won’t necessarily guarantee you the same result, it’s great to get insights from someone you know and trust. 

Talk to former clients

Even with a referral from someone you know, it’s still a good idea to get more than one opinion before you commit to a realtor. Agents will typically furnish a contact list of at least 3 former clients they’ve worked with within the year. Talk to all of them if possible. You should also go online and see if you can find any recent reviews of that agent.

Good questions to ask an agent’s references:

  • What did you think your agent did best/worst? 
  • Was the agent responsive (i.e. how long would it take you to hear back from them)?
  • How did the agent prefer to communicate (email, text, phone)? 
  • How long was your home on the market?
  • What did the agent do to market your property?
  • What did your home list at and what did it sell for?
  • Did the agent make it easy for you to view properties that interested you? 
  • Did the agent understand what you were looking for and show you appropriate listings?
  • Do you feel the agent did a good job negotiating on your behalf with the buyer or seller? 

Make sure they’re licensed

You want to be sure your agent is in good standing with the licensing board. You can quickly confirm their license online using the searchable database available at the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO).

Watch out for red flags

Beware of listing agents who want to  sell your home at a price that’s way over market. This might be a sign of  inexperience or just plain greed. You should also be wary of agents who offer very low commission — generally, anything less than 5%. Usually, this tactic is meant to ward off other agents from working with you since many won’t want to split such a low fee. Also steer clear of bad communicators. If an agent doesn’t return your calls or seems too busy to deal with you, consider looking elsewhere. Same goes for an agent who doesn’t ask good questions. Or one with whom you’ve had a few conversational misfires.

Meet with more than one agent before you select a partner

Don’t just sign on with the first realtor you meet. Like any relationship, chemistry matters. Take the time to create a short list of potential agents. Research each to whittle the list down and meet with a few of them. 

Below are some good questions to ask a potential agent.

  • How long have you been an agent?
  • How many active clients do you have? 
  • How well do you know the area I’m buying/selling a home in?
  • How often do you return text, phone calls, or emails? 
  • What’s the best way to reach you?
  • How often are you available to show homes (i.e. weekends vs. weekdays)? 
  • Do you work as an agent full-time?
  • Have you ever faced disciplinary actions or lost your license?
  • Have you received any professional endorsements, honors, or awards? 
  • What professional memberships, credentials, or certifications do you have?
  • What is your fee? 

Thinking about buying or selling a home? Find out what you should know about homeowner’s insurance and moving expenses. And before closing on a home, make sure you have homeowners insurance lined up if you’re taking out a mortgage.

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about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.