How to Find a Real Estate Agent in 2021

Jamie Ayers

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Jamie Ayers

August 20th, 2021
Updated August 20th, 2021

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✍️ Editor’s note: This guide will teach you the best (and worst) ways to find realtors for any situation. Our advice is based on hundreds of hours of research and expert interviews. We hope it helps you find the perfect agent faster and, ideally, save some money along the way. Why trust us?

The fastest and easiest way to find a great local realtor (by far) is through an agent matching service. These free online services recommend local agents from top brokerages, like Keller Williams and RE/MAX, who may be a good fit for your needs.

A good agent matching service can provide 2-3 solid realtors to compare within a few hours. The first matches typically arrive in minutes. The best brands offer built-in savings. That's a big perk, as it's hard to negotiate savings with agents on your own.[1]

Asking family and friends for recommendations is also a smart move. Just make sure the person making the referral had similar circumstances to yours and thoroughly vet the agent.

Finding a realtor yourself online, via sites like Zillow or Google, is certainly possible, but we don't recommend it. It takes longer and is more error-prone than other approaches.

Top 3 ways to find a great realtor in 2021

1. 🏆 Our pick: Try a free agent matching service

⚡️ Fastest and easiest option

  • Experts find the agents for you.
  • Free to use with no obligation.
  • The good ones only work with highly rated agents.
  • Some offer built-in savings, no negotiating required.

Agent matching services learn about your situation and preferences, then quickly match you with local realtors from name-brand brokerages (think Coldwell Banker, Century 21, etc.) to compare and choose the best fit. All agent matching services are free to use and available nationwide (though some may have less coverage in smaller towns and rural areas).

Why they're great: Agent matching services are much faster and easier than searching yourself. The good ones only work with good agents, so you’re choosing from a short list of solid options. Stick with brands that offer some sort of built-in cost benefit, like Clever Real Estate. Going through one of these services can net you significant savings with effectively zero tradeoffs. You can view our top picks here.

2. Also good: Ask family and friends

👍 Can work, just be careful

  • Finding the “right” agent is personal and subjective.
  • May work if the person’s sale or purchase was similar to yours.
  • Don’t assume one size fits all, even if the experience lines up.
  • Compare referral with 1-2 other realtors.
  • Avoid hiring agents you know personally. Things can get messy.

Most people assume the best way to find a realtor is asking family and friends for referrals. In practice, that’s often not the case. Finding the perfect match is highly individual. The realtor your cousin loved could end up driving you crazy. Ask the person making the recommendation some screening questions before reaching out to the agent.

Important: You should always compare any personally referred agent to at least 1-2 others to ensure you’re getting the best fit and value. In these cases, an agent matching service can really come in handy (remember, they're fast and free with no obligation).

3. Last resort: DIY online search

⛔️ Takes longer, difficult, risky

  • Avoid using platforms like Zillow and Google to find agents.
  • Huge number of results makes it inefficient and overwhelming.
  • Hard to tell top agents vs. agents who paid for more visibility.
  • These tools are better for vetting agents than finding them.

You can try a DIY online search via platforms like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Google, but we don’t recommend it. These sites yield too many options, with too little quality control, for you to make an informed decision quickly.

A better use for these tools: Screening prospective agents you found elsewhere. But if you want to try a DIY online search anyhow, be sure to read up on the various agent finder tools and sites so you know how to use them properly and avoid pitfalls.

🔎 Are you trying to find a realtor for a specific goal or situation?

Max savings | Sell fast | Sell and buy | Investing | Military | Short sale | Buying foreclosures

5 more ways to find a real estate agent

</p><p>Whether you’re selling or buying, swinging by open houses in your area and price range can be a great way to meet agents and do some instant face-to-face screening.</p><p><strong>Sellers: </strong>This approach gives you a leg up on two fronts: </p><ul><li>You know the agent has relevant experience — after all, they’re listing a house like yours, in your area.</li><li>Someone else already deemed them legit enough to hire. But, obviously, you’ll still need to thoroughly vet them for yourself.</li></ul><p><strong>Buyers:</strong> If you don’t have an agent yet, it could be worth going to an open house and speaking directly to the listing agent about buying it.</p><p>If you’re in a state that allows <a href="https://listwithclever.com/dual-agency/">dual agency</a>, it’s sometimes worth considering, so long as you fully understand and are ok with the potential risks. Working with a dual agent can sometimes even give you a leg up in super competitive markets.</p><p>If you’re in a non-dual agency state or, understandably, uncomfortable with the idea of having the same agent as the seller, the listing agent may be able to refer someone else from their office (called <a href="https://listwithclever.com/dual-agency/#designated-vs-dual-agency">designated agency</a>) or an entirely unaffiliated agent to represent you.</p><p>

</p><p>If you’re buying, your lender may be able to recommend a solid local agent they do a lot of business with. This is a pretty credible referral source, as it’s in the lender’s best interest to get you a good agent so you actually end up buying a house and closing your loan.</p><p>That said, it’s still important to thoroughly vet the lender’s recommendations. When agents, lenders, etc. recommend other service providers, sometimes it’s more about maintaining “I send you customers so you send me customers” relationships than objective quality or value.</p><p>

</p><p>Online forums and message boards, like <a href="https://nextdoor.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Nextdoor</a> and <a href="https://frontporchforum.com/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Front Porch Forum</a>, can be a great place to find pretty much anything local, real estate agents included. One of the key benefits is that you’re getting objective advice and recommendations from other regular people in your area, which adds a layer of credibility.</p><p>If you’re trying to <a href="#find-an-agent-for-real-estate-investing" onclick="globalTOCClick('#find-an-agent-for-real-estate-investing');" data-link-type="jump-link">find a realtor for property investing</a> (or just some advice), check out the <a href="https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Bigger Pockets forums</a>.</p><p>

</p><p>Many brokerages still have local brick-and-mortar offices. Sometimes it’s worth simply waltzing in and having a face-to-face conversation. You’ll obviously be able to get a better sense of them than you would looking at a Zillow or Realtor.com profile — and the feedback is instantaneous.</p><p>Of course, this approach obviously requires more legwork than others mentioned in this guide, especially if you want to compare multiple options, which we recommend. And if you immediately realize it’s not a good fit, extricating yourself in person can be a little awkward.</p><p>To that end, sometimes it’s better to do a little upfront screening <em>before</em> the face-to-face meeting to avoid uncomfortable situations and save yourself (and the agent) time.</p><p>

</p><p>Agents plaster ads all over the place — newspapers, magazines, park benches, billboards, TV, you name it. There’s no real risk in reaching out to an agent you saw in an ad; you don’t have to work with them. But you’re not getting the benefit of built-in vetting <em>beforehand</em>, like you would with an agent matching service or personal recommendation.</p><p>

Why trust us?

Clever has helped thousands of people, just like you, find great real estate agents and save money when selling or buying their homes. So “how to find a realtor” is a topic we’re well acquainted with — and have a lot of opinions on.

About our recommendations

It's our honest and objective opinion that for most people, the best way to find a realtor is to use a free agent matching service, be it Clever or one of our competitors.

Agent matching services are the fastest, easiest way to get a short-list of good options. And if you go with a brand offering built-in savings, that's a huge amount of value with no real drawbacks. But we also recognize that there’s more than one way to find a great realtor. And in some situations, it may make more sense to opt for a different approach.

Our primary goal is empowering you to make smarter real estate decisions, achieve your goals, and, ideally, save some money while you're at it. To that end, we strive to deliver highly objective, practical guides that cover a variety of different methods and companies so you get the best possible outcome, whether you choose to use our service or not.

About this guide

To create this guide (and others like it), our Editorial Team spent hundreds of hours interviewing experts — both in-house and external — trying out every agent matching service in existence, and exhaustively researching every other imaginable way to find a realtor in 2021. We’ll continue updating this guide over time as new information comes to light.

✍️ About the author

I’ve been writing about real estate professionally for the better part of a decade — and researching and reading about it obsessively for even longer. I’ve written and edited dozens of guides about discount real estate brokers, agent matching services, and how to save money when buying or selling a home.

My wife and I also recently bought a new home and used Clever to find our realtor. We got matched with a great agent, who helped us get our home for the asking price in a competitive market. Plus we got a check for $2,000 cash back after closing. Not too shabby.

While Clever worked for us, there's obviously no guarantee it will for you. But since it's free, it’s definitely worth a try. If you don’t like the agents Clever recommends, you can just walk away. If you do, the potential savings are huge.

Jamie Ayers
Author, Researcher, Content Product Manager at Clever

Learn more

If you have more questions about finding realtors (or Clever’s service), our licensed Concierge Team is standing by 7 days a week, 7am-9pm CST: 1-833-225-3837.

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Why agent matching services are the best way to find a realtor

👉 Key benefits of agent matching services

  • Fast and easy: Someone else finds the agents for you.
  • Better agents: Most claim to vet agents for quality (though not all do).
  • More choice: Most brands match you with multiple agents to compare.
  • Ongoing support: Added layer to enforce quality service and handle the difficult conversations, if needed.
  • Savings: A few companies offer built-in savings for sellers and buyers.
  • Free: All are 100% free for consumers to use — the agents foot the bill.
  • No obligation: You don’t have to work with any of the recommended agents.

Agent matching services are companies that facilitate introductions between real estate agents and home buyers or sellers, kind of like a matchmaker.

Finding realtors through agent matching services is faster and easier than any other approach. And because they’re free with no obligation, there’s no real risk in giving one (or a few) a try.

Signing up for an agent matching service only takes a few minutes. You provide some basic info about your needs, and the company pulls together a vetted short list of agents it thinks will be a good fit. The whole process typically takes less than 24 hours. The first 1-2 matches often come within minutes.

Once you’ve got your agent matches, you can interview them, weigh your options, and pick the best fit. If you don’t like any of the agents, you can request more — or simply walk away.

⚖️ How to choose an agent matching service

To get the most value and best outcome, always look for an agent matching service that:

  • Provides great customer service.
  • Has strict quality standards for agents in its network.
  • Offers the option of getting matched with multiple agents.
  • Includes some kind of cost-savings benefit.

Companies worth considering

Brands that tick all (or at least some) of the boxes above include Clever Real Estate, UpNest, and Ideal Agent. HomeLight is also a trusted brand, but offers no cost-savings benefit, so we don't recommend it. See a full breakdown of our top picks here.

Companies to avoid

Avoid services like FastExpert, Sold.com, TopAgentsRanked, or Dave Ramsey’s ELP Realtors program, as they have minimal quality control, lackluster customer support, and mostly automated matching processes that yield subpar results.

Top 4 agent matching services in 2021

Company
Avg seller savings*
Avg buyer savings**
Avg rating (# of reviews)
$7,375
$3,125
4.89 (1,208)
$3,750

4.90 (3,156)
$3,200
Not specified
4.57 (3,628)


4.67 (1,099)
*Average of savings compared to a 3% listing fee at $100k, $250k, $500k, $750k.
**Average of savings at $250k, $500k, $750k, $1M, per offer terms.

🏆 Best value: Clever Real Estate

Clever Real Estate is fast, easy, and offers the biggest guaranteed savings of any agent matching service or discount brokerage in the U.S.[2] Another unique Clever benefit is that every member of its Concierge Team is a licensed real estate agent. They can provide general real estate advice, in addition to helping manage the relationship with your agent.

» MORE: Learn about Clever and how much you could save

</p><p><a href="https://listwithclever.com/reviews/ideal-agent/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Ideal Agent</a> has strict quality criteria for the agents in its network and offers 2% listing fees for sellers, which is 2x more expensive than Clever’s pre-negotiated rates. It offers no savings for buyers. Unlike most competitors, Ideal Agent only matches you with a single agent. If you want to give Ideal Agent a try, do so in conjunction with 1-2 recommendations from another agent matching service or someone you know so you can compare options.</p><p><a href="https://listwithclever.com/reviews/upnest/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">UpNest</a> is an “online marketplace” where agents submit proposals and compete for your business. In theory, artificial competition drives savings. In practice, the savings are pretty marginal (and not guaranteed). UpNest sellers pay an average total commission of 5.2% — not much better than standard going rates (5.45% is the nationwide average<sup data-tip="3" data-anchor="Average Real Estate Commission Rates By State (2021)" data-id="cit3" data-sourcename="Clever Real Estate" data-url="https://listwithclever.com/average-real-estate-commission-rate/" data-index="3">[3]</sup>). In contrast, Clever sellers typically pay between 3.5-4% total, or up to $8,500 more savings than UpNest on a $500,000 home.</p><p><a href="https://listwithclever.com/real-estate-blog/homelight-reviews/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">HomeLight</a> is probably the best-known agent matching service, but we don’t recommend it. Lax quality standards and a fully automated matching process may yield spotty results and mismatches. HomeLight also offers no cost benefits, which is a big drawback vs. competitors offering the same (or better) agent quality PLUS built-in savings for sellers and buyers.</p><p>

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The right way to find a realtor through family or friends

👉 Key takeaways

  • It’s definitely worth asking family and friends for recommendations. Just be very cautious and picky.
  • You’ll need to ask the person making the referral several questions to ensure their recommendation is actually a good fit for your needs.
  • Don’t assume! Always vet any agent recommendation thoroughly and compare with a few other agents to make an informed decision.
  • Avoid working with agents who are personal relations, e.g., family members, friends, friends of friends, etc. Things can get messy fast.

Asking people you know for realtor recommendations is worth a try. Just know that personal referrals aren’t always the best or most reliable option.

Finding the right agent is a highly subjective and personal thing. The situation surrounding your sale or purchase is unique. So are your preferences when it comes to things like personality and customer service.

The perfect agent for a friend could be all wrong for you. They might not have the right experience for your price range or neighborhood. Or maybe you just won’t like them.

Don’t make assumptions and blindly sign on the dotted line. You need to thoroughly vet the agent, as you would if you’d found them on your own.

But before you even start screening the agent, evaluate the person making the recommendation to ensure their preferences and circumstances line up with your own.

7 things to ask about when someone recommends an agent

</p><p>You want to determine whether the sale or purchase was relatively recent — ideally in the past 12-16 months. Also make sure market conditions are similar. Your brother’s speedy sale may have been more due to spring demand than his agent’s skills. If you’re selling in December, you may have a different outcome.</p><p>

</p><p>Don’t hire an agent who helped someone sell or buy a property outside of your target area! You want to make sure they have plenty of experience in your market. Tip: in lower population areas, it’s common for agents to cover several towns or zip codes. In cities and high-population suburbs, try to find agents who specialize in your neighborhood, specifically.</p><p>

</p><p>You need to make sure the agent has plenty of experience in your target price range. For example, the agent who just sold your cousin’s $300,000 condo might not be the best choice for selling your $1.2 million mansion.</p><p>

</p><p>Asking how much the agent charged will immediately determine whether they’re in your price range and even worth considering. It also provides useful intelligence for pricing discussions down the road: you’ll know if the agent is trying to overcharge you — or if there may be wiggle room to <a href="https://listwithclever.com/real-estate-blog/how-to-negotiate-realtor-commission/">negotiate the commission</a> down from their initially quoted rate.</p><p>

</p><p>You want to make sure that the agent was a good communicator and will live up to your specific needs and preferences. For example, if you’re a first time home buyer, you might want more proactive communication and hand holding than was required by your aunt and uncle, who have lots of home buying experience.</p><p>

</p><p>This one is going to be subjective, but try to dig into what the agent was like, personality-wise, to suss out whether it seems like you’ll get along with them. If someone tells you, “They weren’t exactly what I’d call ‘friendly’ -- but they got the deal done,” that’s useful info you can factor into your decision-making process.</p><p>

</p><p>You want to get a clear sense of any and all services provided to help get a house sold or purchased. Did the agent go above and beyond the call of duty? Was there anything they <em>didn’t </em>do that you know you absolutely want, like attending showings and inspections or including HD drone photography?</p><p>

⚠️ You should still shop around!

When someone you know recommends an agent, it’s still important to shop around to get the best fit and value — even if that agent seems like a perfect fit. An agent matching service, like Clever, can quickly match you with 1-2 additional agents from top brokerages in your area so you can compare options and make an informed decision.

Try Clever's free agent matching service

Connect with top local agents now! Sellers get pre-negotiated discounted rates. Eligible buyers get cash back after closing. It’s 100% free with no obligation.

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Finding a good realtor via a DIY online search is hard

👉 Key takeaways

  • Finding an agent on an agent finder tool like Zillow or Realtor.com is much harder and more time intensive than other methods
  • A better use for these tools is to screen agents recommended by an agent matching service or someone you know
  • Sometimes top results aren’t the most qualified, but agents who paid for premium placement. Watch for “ad” or “sponsored” labels in your results.
  • When you find an agent, call or email them directly. When you reach out through the platform, your info gets sold and you get spammed.

While it’s certainly possible to find a great realtor via Google or an agent finder tool like Zillow and Realtor.com, we don’t recommend it.

Agent finder tools surface and general search engines usually:

  • Give you an overwhelming number of results to sift through.
  • Contain unhelpful or completely inaccurate data and information.
  • Prioritize agents who pay over the most qualified or relevant ones.

While many agent finder tools offer filters to help narrow your search, they’re not very reliable or useful. And you don’t get that same level of built-in trustworthiness that comes with a recommendation from a good agent matching services or someone you know.

Find prospective agents through other, more efficient and reliable means, then use tools like Realtor.com to vet them by looking at past sales, customer reviews, and so on.

If you want to try your hand at a DIY online realtor search anyhow, we’ve compiled some helpful tips and advice on how to use (and not use) some of the top agent finder platforms in 2021.

Top 4 sites for finding a realtor online in 2021

1. Zillow’s Agent Finder tool

Sections: 1. Zillow | 2. Realtor.com | 3. Redfin | 4. Google

⚡️Quick tips for using Zillow’s agent finder tool

  • Ignore those “featured agents” at the top. They paid to be there.
  • Don’t just roll with whoever has the most reviews (Zillow's default). Use filters to find agents who may be a good fit for your situation and/or needs.
  • Click “advanced” and enter your target price range and home type to view agents with the most recent sales or purchases in your price range and area.
  • Can try using Zillow's "specialty" filters (short sale, investing, etc.) but be wary. Agents self-select these specializations, so they're not verified.

Zillow is far and away the most popular real estate platform — but it’s also one of the most unreliable. The site is pretty notorious for having inaccurate or out-of-date information, both on its listings and in agent profiles.

Additionally, all agent finder tools generate money through A) advertising and B) selling your information, but Zillow is particularly loose when it comes to data privacy.

If you want to search for a realtor on Zillow stick to agent finder tool (i.e., its self-serve database) and avoid connecting with agents via buttons on actual property listings.

⚙️ Don’t get sucked into Zillow’s advertising machine!

The “Contact Agent” and “Schedule a tour” buttons on Zillow listings connect you with Zillow Premier Agents — agents who sign up for Zillow's paid advertising platform. Agents pay a monthly fee to Zillow for a share of the total number of people who click that button in a certain zip code. There's no vetting and no matching. Like any ad platform, it’s all about who has the biggest budget. And get ready for a flood of phone calls and text messages from not only agents, but also lenders, title companies, insurance brokers, and more.

Don't contact real estate agents through Zillow listings.

When you enter your zip code or area into Zillow’s agent finder tool, you’re going to get a ton of results. You’ll need to use the filters to narrow it down to a more actionable short list.

2. Realtor.com’s Find Realtors® tool

Sections: 1. Zillow | 2. Realtor.com | 3. Redfin | 4. Google

⚡️ Quick tips for using Realtor.com’s agent finder tool

  • Avoid the the “Top Realtors” drop down, which generates a seemingly random assemblage of local realtors that are neither A) top producers or B) the highest rated
  • Narrow your results using filters. In particular, add your price rage, whether your selling or buying, and sort by customer rating
  • Realtor.com offers the ability to filter by credentials, which could be useful if you’re looking for a specialist (e.g., short sale, investing, etc.)
  • But be wary of these credentials and vet the agent thoroughly! Many are simply badges agents can pay for, without any real requirements or practical merit

Realtor.com and Zillow's home search and agent finder tools are pretty dang similar, but there are a few notable differences.

For one, info on Realtor.com is usually more reliable than Zillow. Its data gets pulled directly from local MLSs, which are generally up-to-date and subject to at least some degree of oversight and accuracy requirements.

But unlike Zillow, Realtor.com only shows you capital-R Realtors®, dues paying members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

NAR has about 1.4 million members,[4] which is a lot — but the other 2 million+ active real estate agents who aren’t NAR members[5] won’t show up in your results.

Like Zillow, Realtor.com makes its money via advertising, which means it tends to push you toward the highest bidders vs. the best agents for your needs.

As with Zillow, avoid the “email agent” and “schedule a private tour” buttons on listings. And reach out to agents directly vs. through the platform — lest ye be swept away in a tidal wave of calls from agents and other service providers (check out this gnarly disclaimer).

Disclaimer from Realtor.com submission form

🔎 How to find agents who bought or sold nearby homes on Realtor.com

If you want to figure out who helped the seller or buyer in a recent home sale in your area, it’s actually pretty easy to do on Realtor.com.

  1. On the Realtor.com homepage, click “Just Sold” above the search bar
  2. Type in your zip code, town, or region, then filter by price and property type to see who handled recent sales or purchases similar to yours
  3. You can also type in a specific address if you have a particular property in mind
  4. At the top of any listing, you’ll see the names of the agents / brokerages who handled the transaction (even if they’re not REALTORS®)
  5. Again, contact that agent or brokerage directly instead of through Realtor.com to avoid the deluge of sales calls and emails.

How to use Realtor.com to find agents who handled recent sales in your area.

Note: some Zillow listings also show this info, but property listings on Zillow are often less up-to-date and accurate than those on Realtor.com

3. Finding a realtor on Redfin

Sections: 1. Zillow | 2. Realtor.com | 3. Redfin | 4. Google

Redfin, a popular home search site and the largest discount brokerage in the U.S., has an agent finder tool that’s pretty similar to the tools on Zillow and Realtor.com.

However — and this is important — while Redfin’s home search tool shows all property listings, its agent finder tool ONLY shows you Redfin agents.

The good news is that Redfin’s tool is easy to use and pretty transparent. You can see recent sales in your area and read reviews from past customers, just like any other agent finder tool

And because there are only about 1,800 Redfin agents nationwide,[6] you likely won’t be overwhelmed by too many options like you would on Zillow or Google.

👉 What’s a Redfin Partner Agent?

When you search for an agent on Redfin, you might see some “Redfin Partner Agents” at the bottom of the page. These are agents from other brokerages who pay Redfin a fee for referred business. Importantly, Redfin’s partners don’t have to offer the 1.5% fee, so expect to pay the typical 2.5-3% listing fee rate.

But if you’re iffy about working with a discount brokerage and would prefer a conventional brokerage, Redfin’s agent finder tool is obviously a no-fly zone.

If you’re unsure whether you want to work with Redfin, check out our Redfin review to learn more about its service.

If you’re here for the savings, it’s worth giving Clever a look as well

Clever matches you with full-service agents from conventional brokerages like Keller Williams and RE/MAX, but offers lower pre-negotiated rates ($3k or 1%) than Redfin (1.5%). In other words, better savings without any of the risk.

» MORE: Learn about Clever and how much you could save

4. Finding a realtor on Google

Sections: 1. Zillow | 2. Realtor.com | 3. Redfin | 4. Google

When it comes to searching for anything, real estate agents included, Google is pretty much everyone’s go-to tool. But we don’t recommend it for finding real estate agents.

First of all, you’re going to get an unbelievably huge number of results, which is never very helpful — especially not when you’re trying to make an informed decision quickly.

There’s also zero quality control. Google is an advertising engine, not an objective meritocracy.

For example, the agents in the “Real estate agents nearby” widget at the top of the page paid to be there (hence the “sponsored” label). And the “Google screened” badge doesn’t speak to their ability or experience. It just means the agent holds an active real estate license.

When a real estate agent is Google Screened it just means they have an active sales license.

The map widget features the three local businesses Google deems most relevant to your search. You can also click through to see more options in your area.

Bear in mind that Google Maps will only show agencies with GoogleMyBusiness accounts, and therefore may not reflect all the options in your area.

Also remember that Google doesn’t rank or vet these businesses, so don’t make any assumptions about the quality of the brokerages you see featured here.

In practice, Google Maps is a lot better for finding restaurants and retail stores than professional services providers, like realtors.

Google Maps results for real estate brokers near me.

The other Google results you’ll see are mostly advertisements and links for agent matching services like Clever and HomeLight, local directories like Yelp and Zillow, and possibly some local brokerages. Once you click one of these links, you’re finding your agent via that platform, not Google.

👉 The bottom line

Don’t try to find your realtor on Google. Use Google to find A) websites and companies that will do a better job of helping you find a realtor or B) track down a specific agent’s phone number, address, or website.

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🔎 Finding a realtor for specific situations or goals

Maximum savings

For max savings, we recommend finding your realtor through an agent matching service that offers built-in discounts for sellers and cash back for buyers.

Clever Real Estate currently offers the lowest rates and best overall savings of any nationwide full-service real estate company.

Clever sellers get full service for just $3,000 or 1% vs. the typical 2.5-3% rate. Eligible Clever buyers get 0.5% of their home’s purchase price in cash back after closing.

The other savings-centric agent matching brands are UpNest and Ideal Agent. The agent quality is comparable to Clever’s (all three partner with many of the same agents), but both are at least 2x more expensive and have some significant drawbacks.

It might also be worth investigating discount real estate brokerages. Redfin offers 1.5% listing fees in 80+ markets. Other companies like Trelora and Houwzer may also provide good value, but are only available in a handful of markets. Discount real estate brokers also carry some risks when it comes to service quality.

» MORE: What real estate company charges the lowest commission?

Selling your house fast

If you need to sell your house fast and want to find a realtor so you can list on the open market and get a fair price, an agent matching service is definitely your best bet. Agent matching services like Clever can recommend local agents with established track records of fast sales. Plus most will get you matches within a few hours (even minutes), so you can hit the ground running immediately.

You might also want to look into iBuyers, companies that make near-instant cash offers, like Opendoor, Zillow Offers, and Offerpad. iBuyers typically pay close to fair market value and can close in just a few weeks. But they only buy certain types of homes in a handful of cities across the U.S., so most homes don’t actually qualify. It’s worth checking out if you need to move quickly, though, as requesting an offer is free with no obligation.

» MORE: Find out how much Opendoor would pay for your home

If you’re really under the gun to sell fast (in pre-foreclosure, moving for work, etc.) and don’t qualify for an iBuyer purchase, consider selling to a local property investoror “We Buy Houses for Cash” company. These companies will buy any property (literally) and, because they typically pay all cash, can usually close within a few weeks. But expect to take a hit on price. Most investors will only pay about 70% of a home’s fair market value.

Selling and buying

If you need an agent to sell and buy, we still recommend going through an agent matching service. If your move is local, they can quickly recommend a few agents who can help with both (some agents specialize, but most work with sellers and buyers).

Agent matching services are especially useful when your move isn’t local, as they can help you find both agents quickly and will likely have a better read on the new area (and more contacts) than you do. If you have a solid network of friends or family in either your current area, the place you're moving to, or both, it’s certainly worth asking around for recommendations.

Note that when you sell and buy with the same agent, you may be able to get a discount. Offering an agent two deals can sometimes give you leverage when negotiating fees, but it’s probably easier to work with a brand that offers built-in savings. For example, Redfin drops its 1.5% listing fee to 1% when you sell and buy within the same year.

But Clever is still your best bet by far in terms of cost-savings benefits. You’ll get $3,000 or 1% listing fees no matter what, plus you can get 0.5% cash back when you buy.

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Real estate investing

If you’re a property investor in need of an agent, we recommend using an agent matching service. And, surprise surprise, we think it should be Clever — but for good reason!

Clever can recommend agents in your target market with investor experience. And can even help you find agents with specific expertise, like rental properties, house flipping, commercial investing, and more. Plus Clever’s built-in savings make it easier to minimize overhead and be profitable — both on the purchase and resale.

It’s also worth digging into the Bigger Pockets forums. They’re a great resource for finding agents, investment opportunities, potential partners — and just learning in general.

If you’re already a serious investor, or aim to become one, it could be worth getting licensed yourself. That said, many experts, including Bigger Pockets’ Brandon Turner, don’t recommend that approach.

Military and first responders

There are several agent matching services out there specifically geared towards members of the military and first responders, like Homes for Heroes and Veterans United Realty. While these organizations aren’t actually affiliated with any government agencies, they’re worth investigating, as you may be able to find a great agent and get a commission discount and/or home buyer rebate.

That said, some other agent matching brands and discount brokers may still offer better built-in savings. For example, Clever Real Estate’s pre-negotiated $3,000 or 1% listing fees for sellers are currently the lowest of any full-service nationwide real estate company.[2] And it offers 0.5% cash back for buyers on eligible purchases. That’d be $2,000 back on a $400,000 home.

We recommend trying a few agent matching services so you can compare options and get the best value.

Selling in pre-foreclosure or short sales

If you’re in pre-foreclosure or underwater on your loan, Clever can find you a short sale specialist quickly and its pre-negotiated $3,000 or 1% rates will help you save big and minimize any losses.

You can try Realtor.com’s agent finder tool and use the filters to find agents with CDPE or SFR designations, which signify they've gotten some additional training for short sales and/or foreclosures. Though think of this as more of a starting point than a guarantee of practical expertise.

Zillow’s agent finder tool lets you filter for “short sale / pre-foreclosure” specialists, but these credentials aren’t verified. Agents self-submit their own “specializations” on their Zillow profiles, so this isn’t necessarily a very trustworthy approach.

Just keep in mind that agents with this type of experience are rare. According to NAR, only about 14% of realtors have closed a deal involving foreclosure in the past 12 months. Only about 2% of realtors have handled more than six. Regardless of how you search, be careful and thoroughly vet any prospects to ensure they have legit experience!

Buying foreclosures (REOs)

If you’re looking to buy an REO (real estate-owned) foreclosure directly from a bank or lender, we recommend working with an agent matching service that can help you find an agent with extensive REO experience, as the process is quite different from a conventional purchase.

Same goes for government-owned properties. You actually can’t buy HUD, VA, and USDA foreclosures on your own. You must work with a licensed agent or broker.[7]

You can also try Realtor.com to search for agents with CDPE or SFR designations — or look for buyer’s agents with “foreclosure” experience on Zillow. But again, while these credentials signify the agent may have completed some additional training, there's no guarantee it will translate into practical expertise. Proceed with caution.

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FAQs about finding a real estate agent

</p><p>The best way to find a realtor is to use <a href="http://listwithclever.com/how-to-find-a-real-estate-agent/#agent-matching-services">a free online agent matching service</a>. These companies learn about your needs and quickly match you with 2-3 pre-vetted local agents from top brokerages like Century 21 and RE/MAX. Going through an agent matching service is much easier and faster than finding an agent on your own. A few agent matching services, like <a href="https://listwithclever.com/real-estate-blog/clever-real-estate-reviews/">Clever Real Estate</a>, even offer significant built-in cost benefits. If you're selling, Clever's pre-negotiated discounts can save you up to 50% on commission fees. On average, Clever sellers save $9,600. And eligible buyers can get 0.5% of their home's purchase price in cash back after closing. On a $400,000 purchase, that'd put $2,000 back in your pocket. Just for finding your agent through Clever instead of on your own. <a href="http://listwithclever.com/how-to-find-a-real-estate-agent/#top-agent-matching-services">Find the best agent matching services here</a>.</p><p>

</p><p>Sellers and buyers aren’t required to work with real estate agents, but <a href="https://listwithclever.com/do-i-need-a-real-estate-agent/">it’s a smart choice for most people and situations</a>. The latest data suggests claims that technology is making realtors obsolete simply aren’t true: today, roughly 90% of sellers<sup data-tip="8" data-anchor="The 2021 Emerging Models in Real Estate Report" data-id="cit8" data-sourcename="Mike DelPrete" data-url="https://www.mikedp.com/articles/2021/7/5/the-2021-emerging-models-in-real-estate-report" data-index="8">[8]</sup> and buyers<sup data-tip="4" data-anchor="Quick Real Estate Statistics" data-id="cit4" data-sourcename="The National Association of Realtors" data-url="https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/quick-real-estate-statistics" data-index="4">[4]</sup> sell or purchase their homes through real estate agents and brokers.</p><p><strong>Home sellers</strong>: Your agent has the experience and connections to help you get a better outcome <em>and</em> save you a huge amount of time, hassle, and stress throughout the process.In most cases, an agent’s impact on final selling price more than makes up for their commission fee (this is especially true in the case of agents with reduced rates).If you’re a more experienced seller in a hot market, you may be able to get away with selling for sale by owner (FSBO) — but it’s a ton of work and, according to a recent study, you’ll likely sell for less than you would with an agent.<sup data-tip="9" data-anchor="Saving Real Estate Commissions at Any Price" data-id="cit9" data-sourcename="Dr. Michael Sklarz and Dr. Norman Miller, Collateral Analytics Research" data-url="https://collateralanalytics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/CA-RESEARCH-Saving-Real-Estate-Commissions-at-Any-Price.pdf" data-index="9">[9]</sup></p><p><strong>Home buyers: </strong>Because you likely<strong> </strong>won’t pay your agent’s fee out of pocket, it’s effectively free to work with them. And a good buyer’s agent makes a <em>huge</em> difference, especially if you’re a less experienced buyer or relocating to a new area. We recommend all buyers work with an agent. The only exception might be if you opt for a dual agency purchase to give yourself an edge in a competitive market — but make sure you fully <a href="https://listwithclever.com/dual-agency/#dual-agency-pros-cons">understand the risks</a> beforehand.</p><p>

</p><p>The short answer is that it’s never too early to reach out to agents to start asking questions and weighing your options — whether you’re selling or buying.</p><p><strong>Home sellers: </strong>When possible, try to find your realtor at least 4-6 months in advance. But even 12+ might make sense in some situations. Reaching out early when you’re selling gives you plenty of time to:</p><ul><li>Choose the optimal time of year to list your home</li><li>Get the pieces in place so you’re prepared for your move</li><li>Make any necessary improvements or repairs beforehand</li></ul><p><strong>Home buyers:</strong> You can certainly reach out to agents well in advance, too. But most agents will likely answer your questions, then recommend you get back in touch when you’re actually ready to start house hunting. To that end, it often makes sense to get pre-approved by a lender before contacting agents, which signals you’re not just a tire kicker, but serious and ready to make offers.</p><p>

</p><p>Most real estate agents collect 2.5-3% of a home’s sale price as a commission fee at closing. Because most home sales involve two agents, the total commission is usually between 5-6%. If you’re the seller, you’ll typically be on the hook for this fee; however, it’s taken out of your sale proceeds, so it’s unlikely you’ll be paying any of it out of pocket. That said, 5-6% is a hefty chunk of change that can really eat into your profits. Luckily, some brokerages and agent matching services are upending the conventional commission model and offering significant discounts for sellers — in some cases, with no reduction in service quality or scope. <a href="https://listwithclever.com/real-estate-blog/which-real-estate-company-has-the-lowest-commission/">Find out which companies offer the lowest commission rates here.</a></p><p>

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Alternatives to working a real estate agent

For sale by owner (FSBO)

Selling your house without an agent could make sense in certain situations. And, if you manage to put it off, avoiding that 3% listing fee could save you a lot of money. But we don’t recommend FSBO for most sellers, as it typically involves a ton of time and effort, is risky, and will likely result in a lower sale price.

Flat fee MLS services

Flat fee MLS services will publish your listing on your local multiple listing service (MLS) — the main platform agents and brokers use to find homes for their buyer clients — for a flat, upfront fee. It’s usually much cheaper than listing with a traditional agent, helping for sale by owner (FSBO) sellers get more eyeballs on their listing without breaking the bank. However, the benefits end there. You’ll have to handle your entire sale yourself, and you’ll be on the hook for the flat fee MLS service’s fee, whether your home sells or not.

We Buy Houses for Cash companies

We Buy Houses for Cash companies and local investors will buy any property, in any condition and location, for cash. They’re worth considering if you need to sell fast, or your home isn’t in good enough condition to sell to a retail buyer (most mortgage lenders won’t write loans on properties that need a lot of repairs). The downside is that you’ll likely take a hit on price: cash buyer companies typically only pay about 60-70% of a home’s after-repair value.

iBuyers

iBuyer companies make near-instant cash offers on certain types of homes, usually sight unseen. In this way, iBuyers are kind of like conventional cash buyer companies, only they pay closer to a fair price and are much, much pickier about the types of homes they’ll buy. They also typically charge a built-in “service fee” that’s at least comparable — if not well above — the typical 5-6% realtor commission.

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ARTICLE SOURCES
[3]

The National Association of Realtors. "Quick Real Estate Statistics." 

[4]

ARELLO's task force on Promoting Judicious Real Estate Regulation. "Licensure Study 2021." 

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