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How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

How to Find a Real Estate Agent in 5 Easy Steps

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, learning how to find a real estate agent should be one of your first steps. A good agent can help you navigate a process rife with pitfalls and scams, all while making sure you get the best deal.

We’ll cover some tips to help you find a good real estate agent who will keep your interests top of mind.

A real estate agent is a licensed professional that can help you either buy or sell a home. A good real estate agent is a “local expert” with a wealth of knowledge about the neighborhoods, home prices and issues in your specific area. They should also have enough negotiating experience that they can help you get the best deal.

Real estate professionals serve homebuyers and sellers differently.

What do real estate agents do for homebuyers?

When you’re buying a home, a real estate agent serves as a “buyer’s agent.” They’ll help you shop for homes, make offers, negotiate with sellers and navigate the closing process.

What do real estate agents do for home sellers?

When you’re selling a home, a real estate agent serves as a “listing agent” (also known as a “seller’s agent”). They’ll help you with everything from pricing to listing the house, as well as staging and showing it to prospective buyers. Once negotiations begin, they can help you get the best price possible.

Real estate professionals can also have different titles and certifications.

What is a real estate agent vs. Realtor® vs. broker?

A Realtor® is a real estate agent who’s also a member of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). All Realtors® are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors®.

Meanwhile, a real estate broker is licensed to manage their own real estate business; real estate agents typically work for a real estate broker.

1. Ask friends or family for referrals

Personal referrals are a great way to find local agents. More than a third (36%) of sellers use an agent recommended by a friend or family member, according to a 2022 NAR survey. The survey also found that 89% of buyers would use their real estate agent again or recommend their agent to others. Ask around to see if anyone you know has had positive experiences buying or selling a home.

2. Use a local Realtor® association

Another tip for finding an agent is to contact your local Realtors® association, either online or by phone. They’ll have a list of agents who work in the area in which you’re looking to buy. NAR also has a free online search tool.

3. Look at online listings

Online real estate listings can put you in contact with a wide range of local agents. On many sites, you can easily view an agent’s profile and website or contact information. If you find an agent you like through an online listing, you’ll want to check with your local Realtors® association or real estate licensing entity to verify their qualifications.

4. Meet real estate agents in person

Once you have several real estate agents to consider, take the time to meet at least three. It’s important to interview several agents to make a good comparison and get a better idea of how knowledgeable they are about your desired neighborhood. The questions listed in the next section can help you test the real estate agents’ knowledge.

5. Check references

It might seem overly formal, but checking references isn’t just about making sure a real estate agent is on the up-and-up. It’s also a great way to get a feel for how that agent works, what sort of impressions they leave on their clients and whether they’re experienced enough to handle your home sale or purchase.

Questions to ask your potential real estate agent

  What certifications, experience or training do you have in my area? Find out how long they’ve been in practice, how many local transactions they’ve completed and the certifications or licenses they’ve earned. You’ll want an experienced agent, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer or have specific needs.

  How does your commission work? What are your fees? Real estate agents make most of their income from commissions, which have traditionally been paid for by the home seller. However, due to recent litigation and rule changes, commission fees may not necessarily be covered by the seller and could also decrease. Realtors® can also charge consulting, brokerage or transaction fees, but they need to have a prior agreement with you.

  What do I need to know about today’s housing market? A real estate agent should have local housing knowledge that you can’t get by searching online. A local expert can help you buy or sell your home at an optimal price, because they understand real estate trends and what’s working for other local buyers and sellers.

  How long are homes on the market in this neighborhood? Real estate agents should have a sense of how quickly houses turn over in your area. Knowing this can help you make a competitive offer or prepare for bidding wars.

  How will you help negotiate prices and make attractive offers? Negotiating prices is one of the most important skills to look for in a real estate agent. Knowing an agent’s game plan to help you buy or sell your home at the best price can make it easier for you to choose the right real estate agent.


Find a real estate agent you like and trust

While the questions above help to test your real estate agent’s knowledge and qualifications, personal chemistry and communication skills also play a crucial role. You need to feel comfortable enough to trust this agent to buy or sell your home with your best interests in mind.

Red flags when dealing with a real estate agent

  • Complaints: You can check a real estate agent’s license or find out what complaints have been filed against them by contacting your state’s licensing board. This step can help you avoid scammers or people misrepresenting themselves as real estate agents.
  • Conflicts of interest: Your agent might not be acting in your best interests if they represent both the homebuyer and seller, which is called “dual agency.” Be sure you understand who your agent is representing. Ideally, you should find an agent that is working solely for you.
  • Weird fees or forms of payment: An agent that requests an upfront fee, cash or payments made in their name is likely a scammer. You shouldn’t have to pay an upfront fee or deposit to view a property. In addition, when you pay a real estate agent, the funds should go to the agent’s broker of record (typically another agent in charge of the firm’s contracts and transactions) and not to the agent directly. Lastly, never pay in cash — use a credit card or check to leave a paper trail.

Once you’re feeling confident about the real estate agent you want to hire, follow these steps to make your relationship official and start things off on the right foot:

  1. Agree on the commission. Before hiring an agent to help sell your home, you should discuss — and be ready to negotiate — the commission fee and when in the process the payment will be due. Making an agreement upfront can help prevent conflicts later and, as of July 2024, a written agreement between real estate agents and buyers will be required if that agent uses a multiple listing service (MLS).
  2. Set goals. Be clear and open with your agent about your goals. Do you need to find or sell a home fast, or are you willing to wait for the perfect opportunity? Is your budget strict or flexible? What about the neighborhood is most important to your family?
  3. Sign a written agreement. A buyer’s agent agreement lays out the services the real estate agent must provide and puts the agreed-upon commission in black and white. Sellers should have a similar written agreement about the terms of the sale. These documents should also spell out whether the agent can represent both the buyer and seller and what information must be kept confidential.
  4. Understand exclusivity. While a written agreement can be one way to guarantee an agent is working solely on your behalf, it can also hinder you from working with another agent. If the written agreement is “exclusive,” then you’re agreeing to have the agent solely represent you for a certain period of time. In other words, even if you find a home without your agent, you’ll still owe the agent money.

You’re not required by law to use a real estate agent when buying (or selling) a house. But, unless you’re a seasoned homebuyer, it can be very tough to manage a home purchase alone. Real estate agents can provide information and reassurance while also verifying that the transaction is handled properly and legally.

Having a third party who’ll communicate on your behalf can also ease the stress of negotiating with a seller. Both buying and selling a home can be emotional and, when tensions run high, it’s nice to have a professional acting as the middleman.

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