Buying a home is no small feat, and it’s one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. When you’re ready to buy a house, finding a real estate agent with the right experience to guide you through the process can be key.

There’s no shortage of agents vying for your business via online ads, yard signs and even billboards. And with so many professionals to choose from, finding the right one can feel overwhelming. Follow these eight steps to learn how to find a good real estate agent, so that you hire the perfect pro for your purchase.

1. Get preapproved for a mortgage

Sometimes, home shoppers dive into their home search before they ever talk to a mortgage lender. But it’s smart to meet with a lender first, before you even look for an agent, to learn how much you can afford to spend on a home.

Getting preapproved for a mortgage educates you on the maximum amount you are likely to be able to borrow and identifies any potential issues early in the process. This helps you understand which homes are in the right price range for you, so you don’t waste time looking at listings beyond your means. In addition, it will show both agents and sellers that you’re a qualified buyer. In competitive markets, buyers might need a preapproval letter for sellers to even consider their offer.

2. Ask friends and family for agent referrals

One great way to find a good real estate agent is to ask people in your network if they can recommend one with whom they’ve had a good experience. Ideally, you want someone who has experience working in your desired area, with clients in circumstances similar to yours. The needs of first-time homebuyers, for example, are different from those of repeat buyers or homeowners who are looking to downsize. And a downtown-condo specialist will have a different type of knowledge than an agent whose expertise lies in single-family homes.

Many consumers look for a real estate agent who is also a Realtor. That title means they’re a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and have formally agreed to abide by the group’s code of ethics, among other things. Some Realtors also have certifications to show that they’ve completed training in a certain area of expertise. Designations homebuyers might look for include:

  • CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): Completed additional training in handling residential real estate
  • ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative): Completed additional training in representing buyers in transactions
  • SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist): Completed training aimed at helping buyers and sellers aged 50 and older
  • RENE (Real Estate Negotiation Expert): Completed additional training in negotiating skills and advocating for their client

But regardless of whether they’re a Realtor or not, all agents are licensed professionals with the ability to facilitate your home purchase.

Buyer’s agents vs. seller’s agents

A buyer’s agent represents a homebuyer in a real estate transaction, while a seller’s or listing agent is responsible for the seller’s side, including pricing and marketing the home. Many agents do both, but some specialize in one or the other. Sometimes, a single agent can represent both parties, a practice known as dual agency (some states don’t allow this arrangement). You might also encounter a referral agent, who provides leads to other agents for a fee.

3. Research potential candidates

There are a lot of agents out there. When you’re considering one, start by examining their online presence: Check their website and social media accounts, noting whether they have closed deals in your specific area. The more familiar an agent is with the area you’re hoping to buy in, the better.

Take a look at their online reviews, as well. Don’t worry about one or two negative reviews, but more than that could be a red flag. And you can vet candidates on your local Better Business Bureau’s website to see if they’ve received any complaints. You may also want to check with your state’s real estate regulator, to confirm that the agent is licensed and see whether they have any disciplinary actions.

4. Interview at least three agents

An interview is your opportunity to get a sense of the agent’s work style and experience. It’s best to find someone who knows your particular area and understands your budget and needs.

“See how polished and professional their proposal is,” says Katherine Hutt, president and founder of Nautilus Communications and former chief communications officer with the Better Business Bureau. “The more effort they put into a presentation for you, the more effort they’ll put into presentations when they’re working for you. You want someone who is really savvy.”

Questions to ask Realtor candidates include how long they’ve been an agent, whether they work full- or part-time and how many clients they currently have. It’s also a good idea to ask the typical price range and neighborhoods of homes they help their buyers find. If you’re a first-time buyer, inquire about their experience helping others who fall into this category. The same applies to other unique scenarios, like out of state relocation or foreclosure purchases.

Interviews also give you a chance to find out the agent’s preferred method of communication and their availability. For example, if you’re most comfortable texting and expect to visit homes after work hours during the week, you’ll want an agent who’s happy to do the same.

5. Discuss commissions

Whether they represent the buyer or seller in a transaction, real estate agents earn a commission on the deal, typically a percentage of the home’s sale price. Traditionally, the seller has paid this fee for both their own agent and their buyer’s agent. However, due to the recent settlement of a federal lawsuit, this is set to change as of August 2024 and homebuyers may be responsible for paying their own agent directly.

Each agent’s commission typically falls somewhere between 2.5 and 3 percent of the sale — but it may be lower depending on the deal, and commission rates are often negotiable. Make sure you understand how much an agent will be paid before you agree to work with them.

6. Request references — and check them

Ask the agents you’re interviewing to provide information on homes they’ve listed and sold in the past year, with contact information for at least a few recent clients. Reach out to those clients to find out their experiences and what type of support the agent provided throughout the process. Ask whether they’d hire that agent again for their next real estate transaction.

7. Trust your instinct

Above all, go with an agent you trust and will feel comfortable with if the road to closing gets a little bumpy. If you get a bad vibe from someone during your interview, that’s unlikely to change when you start working together.

“It’s like dating — sometimes it just comes down to chemistry,” says Herman Chan, an associate broker and Realtor with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International in Berkeley, California. “If everything checks out, but you just don’t vibe with that person, don’t go with them. There are plenty of other real estate agents out there that will be happy to help you and might be a better personality fit.”

8. Review your contract

Once you select an agent, you’ll likely need to sign a contract. The contract should spell out all the terms to which you’ve agreed, including the commission rate. Another factor to look at: the contract’s duration. Aim for a contract limited to a time frame of six months or less, if possible. According to NAR data, homes that sold in April 2024 typically remained on the market for just 26 days. If you haven’t found the home you want within a few months, it’s helpful to keep your options open.

How to find a good Realtor: Bottom line

In a challenging housing market like today’s, where low inventory and high prices can restrict your buying options significantly, having a trusted agent by your side really makes a difference. Follow the eight steps above to find the best real estate agent for you, and together, you can start your journey toward finding the right home at the right price.


  • When thinking about how to find a good real estate agent, hone in on their expertise and reputation. Real estate is very localized, and you want someone who’s extremely knowledgeable about the market in your specific area. You should also look for someone with a successful track record of negotiating and closing deals, preferably for homes similar to the kind you want to buy. For example, if you want a condo, look for someone with condo experience.
  • The typical commission on a real estate transaction totals somewhere between 5 and 6 percent of the home’s sale price, split evenly between the listing agent and buyer’s agent. So, if the home sells for $350,000, each agent would receive between $8,750 and $10,500. However, commission amounts are often negotiable.
  • Yes. You’re not legally obligated to hire an agent to help you buy a home. However, it’s typically in your best interest to do so. Agents are licensed experts; they know the market inside-out and can provide crucial assistance in both finding a home and negotiating a deal. This includes submitting offers, reviewing the purchase agreement, coordinating the closing and more. Plus, they can smooth the path if you encounter any hiccups along the way.