Finding the right real estate agent is difficult because you have so many options. In fact, there are over 4 million licensed agents in the country!
You should aim to put together a shortlist of 2–3 vetted candidates who you can choose from. Using the methods we’ve outlined below can get you there.
|Top 3 ways to find a real estate agent|
Agent matching services are the easiest, fastest way to find good real estate agents because they do all of the work for you and they're free. Some, like Clever Real Estate, even offer built-in savings for buyers and sellers.
Referrals from friends and family can be useful, but you'll still need to evaluate them carefully. An agent who isn't local or doesn't have the expertise you need is a bad choice, even if they come highly recommended.
Searching for an agent online is risky, so we don't recommend it. Online searches take a long time because you have to sift through pages of results, and agent finder tools on sites like Zillow can be misleading. If you're going to use these sites, we'll tell you what to watch out for.
Why you should trust us
Before we created this guide, The Real Estate Witch team spent hundreds of hours interviewing agents, home buyers/sellers, and real estate investors to uncover the best methods for finding a realtor.
Read on to learn more about our findings, including why we think agent matching services are usually the best choice.
Use an agent matching service
Agent matching services
A fast, easy way to connect with local agents
- Free to use
- Saves time
- Agents are pre-vetted
Agent matching services can accelerate your search by quickly connecting you with one or more pre-vetted agents. You still need to evaluate matches on your own to ensure that they’re a good fit, but agent matching services don’t cost anything and they’re more likely to help you get your search right the first time.
Agent matching services are the fastest, easiest way to connect with local agents. The best ones recommend 2–3 carefully screened local agents after learning more about your needs as a home buyer or seller.
Agent matching services are 100% free and there’s no obligation to work with anyone they recommend. If you get matched with an agent you don’t like you can request a new match or walk away.
Benefits of an agent matching service
|⏩ Ease and speed: Someone else does all of the screening and sends you potential matches in a few hours or less.|
|⭐ Better agents: Most agent matching services have quality criteria for agents who want to join the network.|
|👥 Compare the best options: The best agent matching services give you 2–3 matches so you can weigh your options.|
|✔ Quality control: The agent matching service ensures that the agent meets their standards throughout the sales process and can even step in if something goes wrong.|
|💸 Savings: The best agent matching services pre-negotiate savings on your behalf.|
|🆓 100% free: All agent matching services are free for consumers since they make money by charging agents a referral fee.|
⚠️ Not all agent matching services are equal
Some agent matching services miss the mark when it comes to quality and value because they don’t carefully vet agents who join their network, and they don’t offer matches with multiple agents.
For example, FastExpert doesn’t have any requirements for agents who want to join their network, while Ideal Agent only matches customers with a single agent at a time — eliminating the possibility of comparing options.
The leading services, like Clever Real Estate, do it all — they help you save money, provide multiple matches so you can compare options, and they ensure you’re only connected with top-performing local agents.
Best agent matching services
|Company||Built-in savings||Multiple matches|
|Best overall 🏆||Clever||✅||✅|
|Third place 🥉||Ideal Agent||✅||❌|
Our No. 1 pick: Clever Real Estate
Overall, Clever offers customers the most value when compared to other top agent matching services.
Clever pre-negotiates a flat rate with listing agents, so you pay the agent just $3,000 or 1% to list your home instead of the traditional 2.5–3%.
Clever also matches you with multiple agents, giving you the chance to interview several agents and select the one you like best.
If you’re a buyer, Clever offers Clever Cash Back on eligible purchases, so you can get a check for up to 0.5% of the final sale price back after closing.
Clever vs. UpNest
UpNest also offers discounted rates, but they aren’t guaranteed. The average UpNest seller pays a 2.2% listing fee — versus only $3,000 or 1% with Clever.
Like Clever, UpNest can match you with multiple agents, giving you the opportunity to hand pick the one you like most.
Clever vs. Ideal Agent
Ideal Agent’s pre-negotiated listing fees are 2% — 2x more than Clever’s flat rate of $3,000 or 1%. Furthermore, Ideal Agent has no incentives for buyers, while Clever offers up to 0.5% cash back for eligible buyers.
Unlike Clever, Ideal Agent only provides you with one agent when you use their matching service, so you don’t have the option to interview multiple agents.
Get a referral from friends and family
Get connected with agents through friends and family
- Can be a quick first step
- Work with someone your trust
- Learn more about the agent
Referrals can be great, but don’t accept them without doing your homework. Even if you trust the person who’s referring you to the agent, look into the agent’s expertise and local knowledge before you go any further.
A referral from a friend or family member who worked with a real estate agent could be a good shortcut if their buying or selling situation was similar to yours.
Always evaluate referrals the same way you would evaluate any other agent — check customer reviews and local sales data to learn more about them. In particular, you should see if they have recent sales in the area where you want to buy/sell, and if the price point that they’re familiar with lines up with your buying or selling needs.
Referrals can come with a few drawbacks
- It’s difficult to gauge whether or not the agent will be a good fit for your specific needs.
- The agent probably won’t offer a discount like they would if you’d connected with them through an agent matching service.
- Things could get awkward if the agent is someone you know personally. You should keep your relationship professional and always hire someone you’re comfortable firing if they don’t meet your expectations.
Even if you get a relevant referral from a friend or family member, it’s worth comparing them to other agents who you’ve sourced through an agent matching service.
7 questions to ask when someone recommends an agent
1. When did you work with them? Knowing when someone worked with an agent will put things in perspective. For example, your friend might think their listing agent was fantastic because their home sold in 48 hours, but maybe the market was so hot that it would have sold quickly regardless of who listed it.
2. Where did they help you buy or sell? The best realtors have extensive local knowledge, but you won’t get that from an agent who doesn’t actively work with customers in your area.
3. How was their communication? Did they respond quickly and proactively reach out for updates, or did you have to keep hounding them for a response? How did they communicate most of the time: via text, email or phone?
4. What was their personality like? Find out if the agent was enthusiastic and easy to talk to, or if they were distant. You don’t have to become best friends, but you want an agent who will stay engaged and be friendly while they’re working for you.
5. How much did you buy/sell for? This matters because you should be on the lookout for agents who buy/sell in your price range. They’ll have a better understanding of this segment of the market, so they’ll know what buyers are looking for and what common problems sellers encounter.
6. What did the agent do? Learn exactly what services the agent offered as part of their listing package, and whether they offered any additional services like staging or a 3D tour of the home.
7. How much did they change you? (sellers) This might help you determine if the agent is willing to offer a discount, or if they added extra fees for additional services. Most listing agents charge 2.5–3% of the final sale price.
Doing your own search for a real estate agent
A time-consuming way to find local agents
- Too many options
- Time intensive
- Unreliable results
We don’t recommend doing your own search online because it yields too many results, which makes it time intensive, overwhelming, and difficult to find legitimately qualified candidates who are a good fit for your needs. Agent matching services and even personal referrals are much more efficient and lower risk.
Popular real estate sites like Zillow and Realtor.com have agent finder tools that allow you to look up agents by city or ZIP code — but we don’t recommend using them.
Agent finder tools might seem like an easy way to find local agents, but using them is difficult because:
- There are thousands of options to choose from so it can take hours to find even a handful of relevant options.
- These sites tend to favor agents who pay to advertise, such as Zillow Premier agents, so the rankings don’t necessarily indicate which agents are actually best.
If you still want to give an agent finder tool a try, you’ll have to wade through all the options and carefully vet each agent you select. An agent matching service can cut your search time way down by doing this for you!
Agent finder tools vs. agent matching services
Good agent matching services focus on quality control and still give you a way to choose the best agent for your needs.
In contrast, agent finder tools on sites like Zillow and Realtor.com give preference to agents who buy customer leads, so there’s no assurance that the agents you connect with using these tools will be a good fit.
Zillow’s agent finder prioritizes agents who pay to advertise
Zillow’s agent finder gives preference to Zillow Premier agents — agents who pay to market themselves on Zillow.
The “Featured agents” list at the top of the results shows Zillow Premier agents with the most reviews, the most transactions, or a combination of the two. This emphasis on volume doesn’t really give you any qualitative information about what the agent is actually like. For example, an agent might have 600 reviews, but that doesn’t mean they’re all good.
You might have to scroll through several pages of results before you start seeing non-Premier agents.
Zillow is also notorious for having incomplete data. For example, a listing agent’s info in the agent finder search results might say that they have 20 sales in the past 12 months, but you’ll notice that they have no active listings if you click on their whole profile.
For this reason it’s best not to rely on Zillow’s data when you’re vetting an agent.
Realtor.com can be limiting and overwhelming at the same time
Realtor.com’s Find a REALTOR tool can help you search for local REALTORS, but it excludes agents who aren’t members of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR)— leaving out hundreds if not thousands of possible good agents.
The tool ranks agents by things like:
- Years of experience
- Number of sales in the past 24 months
- Number of active listings
These metrics can be helpful, but they don’t give you the full story. They don’t tell you more important things, like what actual customers are saying about the agent or where they’re doing the majority of their business — unless you’re willing to keep digging for the information.
If you’re using this tool, you might have to search by ZIP code and then pick a few names based on your own criteria before you can begin to drill down and learn more about each agent.
You can use Realtor.com transaction data to dive deeper
Realtor.com generally has more up-to-date transaction data than Zillow, so we recommend using it to learn more about how much money comparable homes in your area are selling for.
This might also be a good way to find the names of 3–4 agents who you can interview. At the very least, you’ll know that they all have experience in the right neighborhood at the right price point. Here’s how to find those names:
- Above the search bar on the Realtor.com home page, click “Just sold” and then search by city or ZIP code.
- Use the filters to show results that match the features of the home you want to buy or sell.
- You’ll see sold prices for matching results. Click on individual listings to see who the buyer’s agent/listing agent was.
Should I use Redfin to find agents?
The Redfin agent finder only shows Redfin agents, so it will only be useful if you want to work with Redfin.
Redfin is the largest discount brokerage in the U.S. It offers discounted 1.5% listing fees, but with some strings attached: Redfin agents handle 3x more customers than the average agent, so they might be stretched too thin to give you the personalized support you need.
By comparison, Clever is able to match you with local agents from full-service brokerages who charge even less — just $3,000 or 1% to list your home.
How NOT to use Google to find agents
Don’t just contact the first agents who pop up in the search results when you Google “agents near me” — you still need to vet them yourself before you contact them.
What “Google screened” really means
You’ll probably notice a list of agents who are “Google screened” when you do a local search.
These agents pay to advertise on Google. “Google screened” only means that Google has verified the agent holds an active real estate license. These agents haven’t been evaluated on meaningful factors like customer reviews, transaction volume, and expertise, so don’t rely on Google to find the best realtor for you.
Paid local advertising
You’ll also probably see business listings when you search for agents. This just means that the agent or their broker has set up a Google page, not that they’re the best agent in your area.
As always, do your homework and look out for bad customer reviews before you contact an agent.
How to use the NAR Find a REALTOR tool to vet realtors
You can use the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Find a REALTOR tool to look up the contact info and professional designations of a REALTOR you’ve found elsewhere. The tool will also tell you if the REALTOR has had any formal complaints filed against them.
We don’t recommend this tool when you’re starting your search for an agent because it has a dated interface and the results are difficult to compare to each other.
What to focus on when you’re searching for a real estate agent
We spoke to sourcing experts from Clever Real Estate’s agent matching team. Here’s what they recommend drilling down on when you’re searching for a good agent:
|📈 Number of transactions in the past 12 months: An active agent will have at least the average number of transactions (14) in a year — or more. Agents with less than 14 might be working part time, or might be less successful selling houses. On the other hand, agents with an unusually large number of transactions might be overextended.|
|📍Local knowledge: Make sure agents have at least three years of experience (based on transaction history) working in and around the ZIP code you're interested in. They'll know about things like which schools are the best, what utility bills and property taxes typically cost, and what special zoning laws might influence your efforts to buy or sell.|
|😠 Bad reviews: Good reviews can be helpful, but bad reviews can help you weed out an agent with problems. Numerous bad reviews are a sign to steer clear.|
|💰 Sale prices: This tells you if the agent has experience buying/selling homes in your price range, which is a good indicator of how well they know that segment of the market.|
Alternatives: buying or selling without an agent
Buyers and sellers who don’t want to work with an agent have other options. The alternatives typically don’t deliver as much value as a real estate agent, but they might work for you in certain situations.
If you aren’t convinced that working with an agent is the best choice for you, compare one or two alternatives before you decide.
Alternatives for sellers
Sell to an iBuyer: iBuyers can make almost instant offers on homes and close in as little as two weeks. We recommend Opendoor because it’s available in 40+ markets and has lower fees than other iBuyers. Find out how much Opendoor would pay for your home!
Sell FSBO: Selling for sale by owner (FSBO) can be difficult because you have to market the home yourself and negotiate with buyers on your own. In fact, many FSBO sellers end up hiring an agent after their sale is unsuccessful. Even FSBO sellers who succeed tend to net less money than sellers who work with agents.
Use a flat fee MLS company: Flat fee MLS companies are an option for FSBO sellers who want to list their home on the MLS and get limited service from a real estate brokerage without paying full commission.
Alternatives for buyers
Represent yourself: If you decide not to use a buyer’s agent, you might be able to get a discount since the seller won’t have to worry about paying your agent’s commission. However, you won’t have an agent in your corner to protect you when you’re negotiating.
Buy directly from an iBuyer: You can buy houses directly from iBuyers like Opendoor if you live in one of the markets that they serve. Most iBuyers have incentives for people to buy directly from them (without an agent), which could come in the form of a rebate after closing or a reduced service fee.
Other ways to find a real estate agent
Go to open houses
You don’t have to be a serious buyer to go to an open house, so you could attend several open houses in your neighborhood and talk to local listing agents in person.
Whether you’re buying or selling, you can make contact with an agent and quickly assess their communication skills.
If the agent gives you their contact info and promises to follow up, do your homework and check customer reviews, transaction history, and so on before talking to them again.
Get contact info from local advertisements
The fact that an agent has their face plastered all over town doesn’t mean they’re a good realtor — it just means they’re spending more money on advertising than other agents.
Still, it might be worth giving the agent a call and reading customer reviews to find out more about them. Don’t take their advertising at face value — do your own research.
How do I find a good real estate agent?
The most reliable way to find a good real estate agent is to use an agent matching service. The service will learn about your situation as a buyer or seller and then connect you with 2–3 top local agents in their network who might be a good fit.
Agent matching services are free, there's no obligation, and they're easy to use.
We recommend using Clever Real Estate. You can get matched with multiple agents and interview the one who's the best fit for you, and you'll save thousands of dollars in commission.
How do I find a local real estate agent?
- Work with a free agent matching service (Best): Agent matching services have a network of pre-vetted agents, so they can take your information and quickly match you with 2–3 local agents who would be a good fit.
- Ask friends and family in the area for recommendations (Can also work): Referrals from someone you trust can be helpful if their buying or selling situation was similar to yours. However, you still need to vet each referral to find out if they're actually a good agent for your situation.
- Try an agent finder tool like Realtor.com or Zillow (If all else fails): We don't recommend using these sites because they're biased towards realtors who pay for advertising, and because searching on your own is time consuming.
The Role of the Real Estate Agent. Find out exactly what real estate agents do for buyers and sellers, and how they get paid for their services.
What’s a Buyer’s Agent? (And Do I Need One?) Buyer’s agents represent home buyers. Learn more about what a good buyer’s agent will do for you when you’re ready to buy a new home.
What’s a Listing Agent? (Do I Need One?) Listing agents work with home sellers to help them sell quickly and for the best possible price. Learn more about how they do it!
What Is a Listing Agreement? (And How Does it Work?) A listing agreement is a legally binding contract between a real estate agent and a home seller. Learn everything that you need to know before you sign a listing agreement with a realtor.