1. REALTORS® and Real Estate Agents
All Realtors® are licensed to sell real estate as an agent or a broker but not all real estate agents are Realtors®. Only Realtors® can display the Realtor® logo. Realtors® belong to the National Association of Realtors and pledge to follow the Code of Ethics, a comprehensive list containing 17 articles and underlying standards of practice, which establish levels of conduct that are higher than ordinary business practices or those required by law. Less than half of all licensees are Realtors®.
Most real estate agents stay in business because satisfied clients refer them to friends, family, neighbors and coworkers. Ask the people around you who they have used and ask them to describe their experiences with this real estate agent. Successful agents make customer satisfaction their number one priority and put their customers' needs before their own. Try to find an agent who goes above and beyond her responsibilities. She'll be the agent whose praises your friends sing loudest.
3. Search Online for Agent Listings
There are plenty of websites that will refer agents to you but that is no assurance of quality. The agents they refer are those who have paid the website owners a fee to be listed in their directory. A better bet is to Google the top real estate companies in your area, go to those websites and look up profiles of individual agents at offices near you. Agents who are experienced will tell you in plain view on their websites, but newer agents might have more time to spend with you. Look for customer reviews.
4. Attend Open Houses
By going to open houses, you can meet real estate agents in a non-threatening working environment and interact with them. Collect business cards and make notes on them. If you're thinking about selling your home, pay attention to how the agent is showing the home. Is she polite and informative; appear knowledgeable? Does she hand out professional-looking promotional material about the home? Is she trying to sell features of the home? Or is she sitting in a corner reading a book, ignoring you?
5. Track Neighborhood Signs
Pay attention to the listing signs in your neighborhood. Make note of the day they go up and when the sign disappears. Don't wait for a sold sign because not all agents will post a sold sign. The agent who sells listings the fastest might be better for you than the agent with the largest number of "for sale" signs. Results speak volumes.
6. Using Print Advertising
Real estate agents run real estate ads for two purposes. The first is to sell specific real estate. The second is to promote the real estate agent. Look in your local community newspaper for house ads in your targeted neighborhood. Then look up the websites of the agents who are advertising. These agents could be specialists in your neighborhood. Call and ask them about their experience.
7. Recommendations from Professionals
Ask other real estate agents for referrals. Agents are happy to refer buyers and sellers to associates, especially if the service you need is not a specialty of the agent who is referring you. Some agents specialize in residential resales while others work exclusively with new home builders. Other agents sell only commercial or investment property. Mortgage brokers are also a resource for agent referrals as many brokers have first-hand knowledge of exceptional agents. Professionals tend to refer other professionals like themselves.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, BRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.