Finding the right real estate agent in 2022 is completely different than it was in the past. The internet makes finding an agent much easier than in the past, but you have to know where to start.
When searching for a real estate agent, we recommend using an agent matching service. They are fast, low effort, and some, like Clever Real Estate, offer additional built-in benefits like quality control and savings. They take a lot of the guesswork out of finding a real estate agent so you get a great agent without being overwhelmed by choices.
In this article, we’ll look at how to choose a real estate agent using an agent matching service. We’ll also cover alternate options, like getting references from family and friends. If you’re in a unique situation, such as a first-time home buyer or selling your house after a divorce, we'll give you options for that as well.
Read on to learn more about the best (and worst) ways to find a real estate agent in 2022.
Where to find a real estate agent in 2022
⚡️ Fast and easy, with potential savings
Agent matching services learn about your situation and preferences, then match you with local real estate agents from name-brand brokerages (think Keller Williams, Century 21, etc.) to compare and choose from. You can’t work with any agent you want — selection is limited to agents in the company’s network — but most offer plenty of choices (many have 10,000+ partner agents nationwide). And you can try multiple services for more options, since they’re all free with no obligation.
Why they're great: Agent matching services are much faster and easier than searching on your own. Signing up takes a few minutes and you’ll usually get your agent matches in a few hours. Top brands, like Clever, only work with highly rated agents, so you’re choosing from a short list of solid options. Some even offer pre-negotiated discounts, which is a big benefit (it’s hard to negotiate lower rates on your own).
How to choose: To get the most value, stick with brands that offer built-in savings and solid customer service. Clever, for example, ensures that its agents are top quality by holding them to high performance standards, such as requiring them to have a minimum of 5 years of experience and positive reviews from clients.
Unlike most agent matching services, Clever has built-in savings for both sellers and eligible buyers. So you can rest assured you’re getting a top local agent, while still paying less.
👍 Most credible option (if the fit is right)
Getting good real estate agent recommendations from people you know (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers) is another great option — assuming you know people who have recently bought or sold a home in your area.
Why it's great: Tapping your personal network is a relatively fast and easy way to find the right real estate agent. It’s also your most credible referral source. These are people who know you and care about your outcome, so they probably wouldn’t recommend an agent if they had a bad experience.
Potential drawbacks: Just because someone you know recommends a realtor doesn’t mean they’ll be the perfect fit for your needs or preferences. Ask the person making the referral some basic screening questions before reaching out to their agent. Also, a personal referral likely won’t get you any sort of cost benefit. If savings are a top priority, we recommend trying one of our top agent matching service picks first.
Bottom line: It’s definitely worth asking around for recommendations. But even if you get a solid referral, you should still compare the agent with 1–2 others just to be sure you’re getting the best fit and value.
3. Recommendations from real estate pros
🔥 Good for getting an informed opinion
Similarly, you may want to get a recommendation from somebody who works in the real estate industry, such as a mortgage broker or home inspector. Real estate professionals tend to have connections with lots of real estate agents and they can likely recommend someone who they think is a good fit for you.
Why it’s great: A real estate professional typically has a lot of knowledge about local realtors, including what neighborhoods they cover and their specialties. If a real estate pro knows you fairly well and what you’re looking for in an agent, they can often recommend someone who is a good fit.
Potential drawbacks: If you don’t already know any real estate professionals, then this option will have limited benefits. While you can certainly ask a mortgage broker or other industry pro for recommendations, if they’re not familiar with your real estate needs or personality, they may have trouble giving you a recommendation that fits.
Bottom line: So long as you know somebody in the real estate industry — such as a house inspector or mortgage broker you worked with in the past — they can be a great contact for finding an agent. But always interview 2–3 agents before making a final decision.
Everything to know about agent matching services
👉 Key benefits of agent matching services
Agent matching services learn about your situation and goals, then recommend a short-list of local agents they think will be a good fit for your needs. Once you have 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 usually ask for more matches — or simply walk away.
Finding real estate agents through agent matching services is usually faster and easier than other approaches. You can typically sign up and get your first matches in a matter of minutes. The whole process usually takes less than 24 hours.
⚖️ How to choose an agent matching service
To get the most value and best outcome, always look for these qualities in an agent matching service:
Great customer service: The best brands have dedicated customer service teams that (a) help guide you through the selection process and (b) manage the relationship with your agent to ensure they deliver a good experience.
Strict quality standards for agents: You want a service that will match you with a highly rated, experienced real estate agent from a top nationwide brand or regional real estate brokerage. Clever removes agents who become inactive or get negative feedback from customers. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference — we break down the good ones vs. the bad below.
Provides multiple agent matches: Look for a company that lets you request 2–3 agent matches to compare. If you try a brand that only offers a single match (as a policy or because they don’t have many agents in your area), consider signing up for another free service to get a few more options to compare.
Includes cost-savings benefit: A few brands offer built-in commission savings when you find your agent through their service. If they find an agent you like, you could literally save thousands vs. had you found the same agent through a competitor or on your own.
Top 4 agent matching services in 2022
Avg seller savings*
Avg buyer savings**
Avg rating (# of reviews)
2. Ideal Agent
*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 overall: Clever Real Estate
Clever Real Estate is fast, easy to use, and offers the biggest guaranteed savings of any agent matching service or discount brokerage in the U.S. Sellers get pre-negotiated $3,000 or 1% listing commission rates (instead of the typical 3%). And buyers can get up to 0.5% in cash back after closing — or $2,000 on a $400,000 house.
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.
🔎 The competition
Good quality, less selection and savings
Ideal Agent has strict quality criteria for the agents in its network and a solid average customer rating. It also offers discounted 2% listing fees for sellers. That’s solid savings compared to the typical 3% listing fee, but about 2x more than you’d pay through Clever. Ideal Agent 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, get 1–2 more referrals from another agent matching service or someone you know so you can compare options.
No guaranteed savings
UpNest is fast, easy, and has solid agents in its network. It’s an online marketplace where agents submit proposals and compete for your business. In theory, the artificial competition drives savings. In practice, we found the savings to be pretty marginal (and not guaranteed). UpNest says sellers pay an average total commission of 5.2% — not much better than standard going rates (5.45% is the nationwide average). In contrast, Clever sellers typically pay between 3.5–4% total, or up to $8,500 more in savings than UpNest on a $500,000 home.
No savings, spotty matches
HomeLight is probably the best-known company on the list, but we don’t recommend it. It has a lot of great agents in its network and is really easy to use. But the same could be said of Clever, Ideal Agent, and UpNest, and they all offer some sort of cost benefit. Just as importantly, the match quality can be spotty. Our mystery shoppers got great matches in certain markets, but the fully-automated process often yielded spotty results and off-base recommendations – particularly outside of major metro areas.
⛔️ Agent matching services to avoid
We recommend avoiding the following agent matching services: FastExpert, Sold.com, TopAgentsRanked, and Dave Ramsey’s ELP Realtors program. We researched and mystery shopped every major agent matching service over a two-month period and felt these brands don’t offer enough value through quality control, customer support, or cost savings to make them worth considering.
The right way to find real estate agents through family or friends
- It’s definitely worth asking family and friends for recommendations!
- This is the most credible referral source — but don’t just assume their agent will be a perfect fit for your needs.
- You’ll need to ask the referrer several questions to ensure their recommendation is actually a good fit.
- Always vet any agent recommendation thoroughly and compare with a few other agents to make an informed decision.
Tapping your personal network for realtor recommendations is 100% worth it, assuming you know people who have recently bought or sold homes in your market.
Personal referrals are the most trustworthy, because they’re coming from people who actually know and care about you. It’s unlikely they’ll recommend an agent they had a bad experience with.
Just know that personal referrals aren’t always the best or most reliable option. And they definitely carry some risks.
Finding the right real estate agent is a highly subjective and personal thing. The situation surrounding your sale or purchase is unique, and so are your preferences when it comes to things like personality and customer service.
In other words, the perfect agent for a friend could be all wrong for you. The agent might not have the right experience for your price range or neighborhood. Or maybe you just won't connect with their personality.
We don't recommend agreeing to work with a real estate agent just because they helped a family member, friend, or relative. You still need to thoroughly vet the agent, as you would if you’d found them on your own.
Before you even start screening the agent, evaluate the person making the recommendation to ensure their preferences and circumstances line up with your own.
⚠️ 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 in your area so you can compare options and make an informed decision.
How to choose a real estate agent
We recommend interviewing at least 2–3 real estate agents before choosing one. You should choose those agents based on how much recent experience they have, how many closings they have in your local area, what online reviews say about them, and whether they hit any other specific criteria you may have.
Agent matching services make choosing 2–3 real estate agents especially easy. Many, including Clever, give you multiple agents to choose from and provide you with the essential information you need to know about their experience and specialties. If you don't like your first matches, you can also request to see other real estate agents.
Once you’ve chosen your top 2–3 candidates, you’ll need to interview each agent to make sure their communication style, personality, and responsiveness matches what you’re looking for. Jump ahead to find out which questions you should ask a real estate agent.
If you’re selling, you’ll also want to host any potential agents at your house. This is an opportunity to learn important information, such as how much they think your home may sell for, what repairs or improvements may be needed, and what their marketing and negotiating strategies will be.
Questions to ask a real estate agent
Ask when the realtor’s most recent sales or purchases were. Ideally they should be within the past year. The market conditions should be similar, too: Your realtor’s speedy sale may have been more due to a scorching-hot market than their skills (i.e., selling in a slower market may bring you a different outcome).
Avoid hiring an agent who focuses mostly on buying and selling properties outside of your target area. You need an agent who understands your local area. In lower population areas, it’s common for agents to cover several towns or zip codes. But in cities and high-population suburbs, try to find agents who specialize in your neighborhood.
Does the agent have experience in your price range? For example, the agent who just sold your cousin’s $300,000 condo might not be the best choice for selling your $2 million mansion. The agent should know what buyers in your price range are looking for and how to market your home effectively.
The agent's commission rate will help determine whether they’re in your price range and even worth considering. For traditional real estate agents, commission usually falls between 2.5–3% for both the buyer’s agent and the listing agent. Your total commission, if you’re a seller, will typically be 5–6%. But that’s not set in stone and there may be wiggle room to negotiate the commission down.
Ask if the agent is a strong communicator and can handle your specific needs and preferences. For example, if you’re a first-time home buyer, you might want more proactive communication and guidance compared to someone with lots of home buying experience.
Asking for references is a good way to find out about what the agent was like to work with. 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. You should also research your agent's online presence for reviews from previous clients.
You want to get a clear sense of any and all services provided to help get a house sold or purchased. Will the agent go above and beyond the call of duty? Is there anything they don’t do that you know you absolutely want, like attending showings and inspections for buyers, or including 3D video tours for sellers?
🔎 Finding a realtor for specific situations or goals
To save the most money, your best choice is an agent matching service that offers built-in discounts for sellers and buyers.
Clever Real Estate currently offers the best overall savings of any nationwide, full-service real estate company.
- Sellers get full service for just $3,000 or 1% commission, vs. the typical 2.5% to 3% listing commission.
- Buyers can get .50% of their home's purchase price in cash back after closing ($1,500 on a $300,000 purchase).
Other savings-centric agent matching brands include UpNest and Ideal Agent. The agent quality is comparable to Clever's, but both are more expensive and have some significant drawbacks. Make sure you compare top agent matching services to achieve the best outcome.
It might also be worth investigating discount real estate brokerages like Redfin, Trelora, and Houwzer.
Redfin offers 1.5% listing fees in 80+ markets. Trelora and Houwzer may also provide good value (particularly for pricier homes, due to their flat fee pricing models), but are only available in a handful of markets. A discount real estate broker will also carry some risks when it comes to service quality.
Selling your house fast
If you need to sell your house fast and want to find a listing agent, you have a couple options.
Agent matching service: Most will get you matched with a local seller's agent with an established track record of fast sales, and can do so within a few hours (even minutes), so this is likely your best bet. Compare top agent matching services.
iBuyers: These are companies that make near-instant cash offers, like Opendoor and Offerpad. iBuyers typically pay close to fair market value and the selling process is fast, with closing often happening in just a few weeks. But they only buy certain types of homes in a handful of cities across the country, so your home may not qualify.
Investors: Selling to a local investor or "We Buy Houses for Cash" company is a last resort option. They should only be used if you need to sell ASAP, or have a home in poor condition that will be hard to sell in a traditional sale. Investors purchase properties in any condition, typically pay all cash, and can close in a few weeks (or sooner). But expect to take a hit on price: Investors usually offer 70% or less of a home's after-repair value, minus estimated repairs.
First-time home buyer
If you’re wondering how to find a real estate agent as a first-time home buyer, you might be feeling overwhelmed. Your real estate agent is there to guide you through the process, explain how everything works, and empower you to make well-informed decisions when making offers and negotiating with sellers.
While most agents will gladly work with first-time home buyers, the best real estate agent for you will tick certain boxes. Experience — particularly in your neighborhood — is especially important. An experienced agent knows what’s normal and what’s not and can alert you to potential red flags.
Experienced realtors also tend to have more connections with industry professionals, such as mortgage brokers, attorneys, and home inspectors. They can recommend reliable and trustworthy professionals, which takes some of the stress and risk out of buying your first house.
Finally, you’ll want a realtor who is patient and communicative. Buying a house is complicated and it’s normal to have a lot of questions. Your first realtor should be willing to take the time to answer your questions clearly and make you feel comfortable admitting if you don’t understand something. We recommend interviewing 2–3 agents to ensure they’re a good personality fit so you can get a sense of whether or not their communication style fits with yours.
Some real estate agents claim to specialize in "change of life" situations, which often includes helping divorcing clients sell a house.
The key benefit is the agent has experience handling the various issues and conflicts that may arise between divorcing clients in the home sale process. A good agent can also help the buying or selling process progress more quickly, which may be a top concern after a divorce.
If you have a divorce attorney, you can ask them for local realtor recommendations. They might be able to refer you to an agent who has relevant experience.
You can also search for agents who have completed the Certified Divorce Specialist program, which is a course for professionals who work with divorcing clients.
Relocation (remote sale or purchase)
Some realtors specialize in helping clients who are relocating to a new area.
Often called relocation specialists, these agents not only help you sell or buy a home, but may also assist with your move.
There are a few key benefits to hiring a relocation specialist:
- The agent can help with stressful tasks related to your move, like finding movers and booking travel.
- If you've not yet relocated to your destination but need to buy a house, tech-savvy relocation agents can provide you with virtual tours.
- If you're selling your home but need to move ASAP, a trustworthy agent can handle the sale in your absence.
Worldwide ERC, a trade group for the relocation services industry, has two designations for realtors: CRP (Certified Relocation Professional) and GMS (Global Mobility Specialist). You can search for certified agents at its online directory.
Clever can also refer you to top-rated local agents with remote sale or purchase experience. It provides pre-negotiated low commission rates for sellers and cash back at closing for eligible buyers.
Investors in need of an agent should consider using an agent matching service.
Companies like Clever can recommend investor-friendly agents in your local real estate market, and can even help you find agents with specific investing expertise, like rental properties, house flipping, or commercial investing. And Clever’s built-in savings can help widen your margins on the purchase and resale.
It's also worth digging into the BiggerPockets forums, which are a great resource for finding agents, investment opportunities, potential partners, or just real estate education.
Military and veterans
These organizations aren't affiliated with any government agencies, but may be worth investigating to find an agent who understands the unique needs of service members and veterans. You can potentially get a commission discount or home buyer rebate as well.
That said, some agent matching brands and discount brokers can match you with military-friendly realtors, and may offer built-in savings.
For example, Clever will match you with agents based on your specific needs, such as if you’re looking for a good agent who specializes in VA loans. Clever also pre-negotiates a $3,000 discount or 1% listing fee for sellers, the lowest of any full-service nationwide real estate company, and offers 0.5% cash back for buyers on eligible purchases.
We recommend trying a few agent matching services so you can compare multiple real estate agents and price points to get the best overall fit and value.
Selling in pre-foreclosure or short sales
If you’re in pre-foreclosure or underwater on your loan, you’ll want to find a specialist to help you navigate the tricky process and get the best possible outcome.
Clever can find you a short sale specialist quickly. Not to mention, its pre-negotiated $3,000 or 1% rates will help you save big and minimize losses.
You can also try Realtor.com’s agent finder tool and use the filters to find agents with CDPE or SFR designations, which signify they have 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 trustworthy approach.
Just keep in mind that finding a seller's agent with this type of experience is hard. 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 and government-owned homes
If you're looking to buy a REO (real estate owned) foreclosure directly from a bank or lender, an agent-matching service can help you find an agent with extensive REO experience, as the process differs from a conventional purchase.
Same goes for government-owned properties; you need to work with an agent to buy HUD, VA, and USDA foreclosures.
You can also try Realtor.com to search for agents with investor designations, such as CDPE or SFR, or look for buyer's agents with "foreclosure" experience on Zillow. Proceed with caution: while these credentials signify the agent may have completed training, there's no guarantee it will translate into practical expertise.
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. Finding a real estate agent 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 the perfect real estate agent is to use a free agent matching service — whether it’s Clever or one of our competitors.
Agent matching services are the fastest, easiest way to get a short-list of good options. If you find an agent you like through a brand offering built-in savings, you’re getting a lot of value with no real drawbacks. Discounts are hard to negotiate on your own, especially if you've never done it before.
Ultimately, the most important thing is finding the best agent for the job. Sometimes agent matching services (including our own) simply won’t have any agents you like — or another approach will make more sense.
Our primary objective is empowering you to make smarter real estate decisions, achieve your goals, and 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 the author
I've been writing about real estate professionally for the better part of a decade — 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 found our realtor using Clever's agent matching service. We got matched with a great agent, who helped us buy our home for its asking price in a competitive market. Plus we got a check for $2,000 cash back after closing. Not too shabby.
While Clever's agent matching service worked for us, there's obviously no guarantee it will work for you. But since it's free, with no risk or obligation, it's definitely worth a try. If you don't like the agent Clever recommends, you can just walk away and find an agent elsewhere.
Author, Researcher, Content Product Manager at Clever
FAQs about finding a realtor
The best way to find a realtor is through a free agent matching service. 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 Clever Real Estate, 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. 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. Find the best agent matching services here.
Sellers and buyers aren’t required to work with real estate agents, but it’s a smart choice for most situations. The latest data suggests claims that technology is making realtors obsolete simply aren’t true: today, roughly 90% of sellers and buyers sell or purchase their homes through real estate agents and brokers.
Home sellers: Your agent has the experience and connections to help you get a better outcome and 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.
Home buyers: Because you likely won’t pay your agent’s fee out of pocket, it’s effectively free to work with them. A good buyer’s agent makes a huge 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 understand the risks beforehand.
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.
Home sellers: 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:
- Choose the optimal time of year to list your home.
- Get the pieces in place so you’re prepared for your move.
- Make any necessary improvements or repairs beforehand.
Home buyers: 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 serious and ready to make offers.
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. Find out which companies offer the lowest commission rates here.
When buying a house, your real estate agent’s experience and negotiating skills matter a lot. You want an agent who has experience in the neighborhood or town you’re looking to move to and one who has a clear negotiating strategy for getting you the right price. You may also want to consider an agent who is able to offer cash back after you sell your house. For example, eligible buyers who use a Clever Partner Agent can get a check worth up to 0.5% of the purchase price after they close. Find out how to save on your next home purchase with Clever.
We recommend using an agent matching service when looking for a realtor to help sell your house. Agent matching services pair you with real estate agents based on your unique needs and expectations, such as your desired sale price, location, and property type. Some agent matching services, like Clever, will also pre-negotiate discounted listing fees on your behalf, which could save you thousands of dollars. Learn more about how an agent matching service can help.
If you’re moving states, finding a real estate agent to help you buy a house in your new state adds a whole new level of complexity. A good buyer’s agent will need to know the local market conditions and help you identify neighborhoods that meet your expectations. Agent matching services like Clever are the best way to find an agent in another state. Clever can match you with a top local real estate agent in your new state based on your unique needs. That way you’ll have a local expert who can take out a lot of the stress of finding your new home. Talk to a Clever Concierge now and find your real estate agent!
Consumer Federation of America. "Hidden Real Estate Commissions: Consumer Costs and Improved Transparency."
Clever Real Estate. "What Real Estate Company Has the Lowest Commission Rate in 2022?."
Clever Real Estate. "Average Real Estate Commission Rates By State."
Mike DelPrete. "The 2021 Emerging Models in Real Estate Report."
The National Association of Realtors. "Quick Real Estate Statistics."
Dr. Michael Sklarz and Dr. Norman Miller, Collateral Analytics Research. "Saving Real Estate Commissions at Any Price."