How To Find & Work With The Ideal Real Estate Agent

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-07-0118

Buying and selling a home can be a lot of work, but a knowledgeable real estate agent can save you effort, time, and money. Just walking into the nearest real estate office or hitting the top results on the search engines might not give you the best results, though. With that in mind, here are some ideas on how to find the ideal real estate agent.

Qualities of A Great Real Estate Agent

One effective way that many of us use to find the professionals we need is to ask for referrals from people we know. Your coworkers, friends, neighbors or family members may direct you to a real estate agent they’ve worked with recently. Personally, I’ve never had a problem finding an agent, thanks to the past real estate boom which encouraged the proliferation of real estate professionals. That said, here are some of the qualities I use to find a great real estate agent.

This person is someone who:

1. Comes highly recommended. As mentioned, it would be great if this person was referred to you by someone you already trust.

2. Has a great reputation. See if the agent represents a well known real estate brokerage brand or is personally known for their success in their field.

3. Knows how to communicate well. You need someone who can negotiate a deal in your behalf. They will become your representative in one of the biggest transactions of your life.

4. Charges a reasonable commission. Find out if the agent you hire is flexible about their fees. Make sure your arrangement does not leave you locked into a financial commitment if things aren’t working out for you as planned.

5. Knows their stuff and is experienced. Does your agent know the neighborhood well? Make sure that your broker has a track record for working in your area of interest.

6. Is honest about their recommendations. You want someone who doesn’t mince words about the properties they are showing you or the valuation of a home you are intending to sell.

7. Has a winning personality. Wouldn’t it be great if they are fun to be around too? This is a bonus.

Determine if your agent or realtor is getting repeat business. Once a referral lands you in an agent’s office, glance around. If the work areas seem to be in chaos or there’s a different office manager each time you check in, you might want to move along.

ideal real estate agent
Image by Maybe a celebrity can help you sell your house faster?

Check Realtors’ Resources

Another way to connect with a real estate agent is by conducting a search more systematically. Some of your referrals may mention that they worked with a Realtor. A Realtor is a real estate agent who’s a member of the National Association of Realtors. This organization has a code of ethics and its members are licensed brokers or agents. On their site, you can search for a solo Realtor or for companies (by name, by the area, or by their designations and certifications). You can contact the agents, look at their listings, and if you log in, you can save or bookmark searches.

Newspaper circulation numbers may have dropped over the years, but your favorite newspaper may still be a major resource for real estate listings and ads for real estate agents and companies. Going through the Sunday real estate inserts can point you towards agents who specialize in homes versus those who focus on commercial properties. Tracking the inserts over a few weeks or months can give you an approximation of how fast an agent can turn over a property, too.

In addition to newspapers, you can find agents through web sites that focus on real estate. has a section called Find a Pro that offers listings. You can search by location, keyword, or type of professional. Next, you’ll see a list that you can sort by top contributors, most active contributors, and other criteria. From there, you can email an agent or see their profile, which typically shows a resume, listings, and a Q & A section.

Another popular site is, which also offers to connect you with real estate agents. You can check their pages for ratings and reviews, listings and photos to help you find suitable candidates. Then there’s Yahoo Real Estate, which has resources like Home Gain to help both buyers and sellers locate agents.

Hit the Open Houses

One couple I know likes to stop at open houses on their days off. This gives them a chance to meet different real estate agents and to check the quality of the houses that catch their eye. After all, the pace at open houses can be less hectic than trying to catch a real estate agent during a busy day at the office. And if the agent seems too inexperienced or too pushy, you’ll be able to continue your search.

Besides the open houses, you should get a general idea of who works in the areas that interest you. Simply driving around the different neighborhoods to spot For Sale signs can be helpful. You may even want to make notes about the date of your visit, who offers the listings, and if the properties sell in a timely manner or not. How do the properties look? If the listings from a certain agent lack major curb appeal, that can be a sign for you to steer clear (or it may indicate the type of market this agent represents, which may or may not be according to your taste).

So has your real estate agent served you well? Let’s hear your stories!

Created February 8, 2007. Updated July 1, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Leung February 8, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Howdy, as usual, great post, SVB! The point about Realtors may need a little clarification. Any agent who subscribes has access to the MLS and the data cloistered away in its archives. Most MLS systems will allow non-members to search, but won’t present important information like the property’s pricing history.

(Arguing for a more open MLS policies and integration of the countless national and county systems is a completely different discussion.)

Also, you can be a member of the National Association of Realtors without being a Realtor.

When people choose friends and family, it’s hard not to have some of that personal relationship at stake during what is already a potentially stressful transaction. That risk is more than a lot of people want to face if things go south. From my experience, the agents who make it look easy are the most successful ones.


Silicon Valley Blogger February 8, 2007 at 5:56 pm

Hi Steve,
I appreciate your comments — you are the expert in this area :)! Thanks for the clarification — my understanding is that the distinction on being a realtor then is someone who subscribes to the Code of Ethics. I’ll have to qualify that! Thanks so much again for the input.

Steve Leung February 9, 2007 at 1:27 am

Thanks SVB, I’m happy to be a part of the community you’ve got here. The blog’s a great read.

Here are two links with some diffs between regular agents vs. Realtors…

In general, if you personally subscribe to The Golden Rule and promise to disclose anything that hints of conflict of interest, the two are indistinguishable. The rest, California law takes care of.

Brian Lee February 9, 2007 at 6:43 pm

I find that good realtors are hard to find, but worth their weight in commissions! I have cycled through a few and found one I am sticking with. Great post!

Athol Kay February 13, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Realtor vs agent is occasionally a moot point. If the local realtor association owns the local MLS, you tend to have to join the realtor association to get the MLS access. No MLS access means you’re worthless as an agent, so…. :-/

David A. Dean March 21, 2007 at 6:38 pm

We professional agents in the US have something we must adhere to…it’s called Fair Housing and all the wonderful guidelines that, if violated would land you in court, fined to death and loss of license. You can be honest without being pithy, vulgar and bitter. Something bitter Brits have never learned. Hmmmmmmm.

Chris Michaud March 30, 2007 at 11:22 am

Great story and some good points. Now let’s apply those same principles to the tech world and Silicon Valley shall we?

No more suits for “intellectual property rights” after 6 months; and developers and users should be able to “transfer their knowledge” freely among new employers and competitors. Hmmmm! Makes sense to me. They SHOULD have the same value as a “listing contract.”

Mary Pope-Handy March 31, 2007 at 6:26 pm

This was a GREAT post. I hate to disagree with Steve Leung, but… you absolutely CANNOT be a Realtor without belonging to the National Assocation of Realtors. That is, in fact, the definition of what a Realtor is – you had that right the first time. At the same time, someone could be an “Affiliate Member” of the National, State, or Local associations of Realtors and not be a real estate agent. The affiliates may be lenders, movers, title and escrow people, etc. But they are not called Realtors, but simply affiliates.

But if you are discussing real estate salespeople, there are primarily two categories: Licensees and Realtors. All Realtors (not affiliates) are licensees but not all licensees are Realtors.

Regarding the MLS: Any real estate licensee (the license is given by the state, and a real estate agent or licensee is not necessarily a Realtor, to reiterate) may pay dues to belong to the MLS. You do not have to be a Realtor to belong to the MLS, but you must have a real estate license.

OK since I took a long time to clarify a mis-clarification, I’ll try to be brief as I heap on the praise for your litany of requirements and call just one point into question.

(1) I love your list. I wish all my relatives (who are far away and cannot hire me) would hire using a list like this!

(2) The only point I’d have to caution you about is the discounters. I know it’s effete to say “you get what you pay for”, but often that IS true. The best agents don’t HAVE to work for 1%, they have marketing costs that make even working for 2% impossible as a sustainable choice, in fact. Some brokerages have deeply discounted models. I cannot say that I have ever had a good transaction with any of them. I have not found the agents to be full service, but a pared-down deal in which the client is not aided or served nearly as well as in a traditional brokerage.

Reputation is extremely important in this industry. There are agents (and brokerages) with both good and bad repuations, and that reputation can help or hinder you when you try to buy or sell a home.

Within traditional brokerages, many agents will be a little flexible on fees for certain cirucumstances: repeat clients, high-end deals, tough luck scenarios (illness, looming foreclosure, job loss) being among them. But by and large, agents with a professional style business and budget (to cover support services, marketing etc.) don’t offer deep discounts because doing that kind of business won’t pay the bills and make it sustainable.

Last year in Silicon Valley, I was told that 39% of the agents sold NO homes. In desperation, those agents will cut commissions to the bare. But if they sold no homes last year, will they be able to sell yours, or help you get into one, this year?

So, great post – just watch the discounting issue as most of the time, it is a red flag in my experience (of doing real estate full time since 1993).

Steve Leung May 5, 2007 at 11:14 pm

Just a point of clarification, I said you can be a member of the NAR without being a Realtor, but not vice versa.

Real Estate Raj April 8, 2008 at 3:08 pm

(Full Disclosure: I work for

I stop by here often and find your blog informative and relevant. This posting is no different. You made some great points, and I think if someone were to follow the road map you’ve laid out, the end result would be more than satisfactory. However, if you happen to be one of the many people looking to relocate from another city or country, finding a trusted agent can be a little trickier. This is where we come in. Our site provides perspective homeowners with the resources necessary to make the right agent choice, weather this is your first, second or third home, the agent match algorithm, in combination with our real estate specialists, will find an agent that matches the specific needs of a any type of buyer.


Pat August 13, 2008 at 10:44 pm

A friend of mine hired a Boston real estate agent for apartments, which is very popular in Boston —- which is very unique to Boston… as many agents across the country are hired for condos instead.

Pamela Lee March 12, 2009 at 11:27 pm

It seems like finding a needle inside a haystack. But definitely there are agents who possess that requirement list. Can you please stand up?

real estate sequim November 15, 2010 at 9:04 am

I think that is great information! I have been wanting to find a great real estate agent to help me find a place to live. It really would take a lot of work i think just reading reviews and everything to find the right agent, but it might be worth it in the end. I will just have to get to work on it.

Lilia March 2, 2011 at 9:28 am

Oh my goodness, is that Rob Stewart as a real estate broker? Thank you so much for the post. I love the real estate business, but we could use more humor in our listings.

Kris July 3, 2011 at 11:03 am

When looking for a realtor take your time before hiring one. We didn’t and got burned as the house buying process took longer than expected. Our realtors took a working vacation towards the end and while we ended up buying the house we wanted, I did more work (actually I did all the work) in finding the house, coddling the selling realtor, finding comps, and ultimately filing a complaint against the inspector (who they recommended). The point – take the process of finding a realtor very seriously.

Juan July 7, 2011 at 3:16 am

When making a list, choose different agents from different companies with different backgrounds, and then make appointments to speak with them. It will probably facilitate the process if you start by telephone and just call around and make mini interviews.

Leave a Comment