The First Step
Our search for the top real estate agents in any area begins with:
- Understanding local demographics
- Analyzing the housing market
- Consulting local real estate professionals
Understand local demographics
At Clever, we believe that the key difference between a good real estate agent match and a great one is how well the agent understands their client. There are many metrics to gauge an agent’s effectiveness, but if they don’t understand their client’s preferences and priorities, no amount of skill will make up for it.
When researching local demographics, we answer questions like:
- What language do people speak in the area?
- How reputable are the local schools?
- What is the typical age range, ethnic diversity, or economic status of the local community?
Analyze the housing market
Real estate agents are the gatekeepers of the housing market. As such, we believe that the local housing market will determine the key measures of success for an agent.
When analyzing the housing market, we answer questions like:
- Is this a market that favors buyers or sellers?
- How much does a typical home cost in the area?
- How long does it take for the average home to sell?
- Is it common for listings to receive price reductions?
Interview local real estate experts
Unfortunately, we don’t have the omniscience to experience real estate markets around the country ourselves. Instead, we have to rely on interviews with local real estate experts to provide us with ground-level insights into a community.
When consulting local real estate experts we ask questions like:
- Why do people like living in the area?
- What communities are growing?
- Where are people getting the best deals?
The Next Step
Once we understand the area, we start by selecting a list of initial agents that have:
- Consistent activity
- Positive reviews
- Local experience
We look for agents who have sufficient recent activity to show they’re a practicing agent in the area. We also observe past history and experience to determine whether an agent provides consistent results to their clients. Whether you’re a young, prodigious upstart or a seasoned veteran, you have to show you can achieve good, steady results for your clients to make our list.
We also watch for fraudulent accounts that may present a single agent but may actually have an entire team of agents behind them, combining profiles to achieve search engine rankings. If a single agent is pricing, listing, and closing on multiple homes a week, they’re usually not the only individual involved.
Positive reviews from clients are a good indicator of agent quality, but they must be read with a grade of skepticism. Agents may purchase positive reviews or only solicit them after a positive transaction. Either way, their overall score may be skewed.
To combat this, we read through reviews, eliminate any that seem suspicious, and take into account the common praises and compliments from reviewers. We also consider the number of positive reviews per transaction to ensure they are providing a consistent level of good service.
Initial search results for local agents can prove misleading because the agents provided may not consistently sell homes in the given area.
We look for agents that understand the area, sell homes there frequently and consistently, and earn reviews from locals that live there. One of the best indicators of a local agent is a review from a local family that has used the agent multiple times combined with multiple local transactions.
The Final Step
To finalize, rank, and make our list, the selected agents must score at the top for:
- Customer service
Though they may advertise themselves as such, no agent is going to be the best option for buyers, sellers, investors, relocations, fixer-uppers, luxury homes, AND rentals. If an individual agent like that exists, we have yet to find them. We look at an agent’s history, experience, and reviews to determine an agent’s actual specialty, whether it’s selling a certain type of home or helping clients find their next investment.
The most common specialties include:
- Property types
- Price ranges
- Customers (buyers, sellers, investors)
- Needs (relocation, upsizing, property management)
Regardless of an agent’s specialty, the ability to negotiate a great deal is key. Specifically, we measure an agent’s ability to negotiate on price, based on recent transactions. We highlight the fact that our focus is limited because some agents may be able to negotiate great terms on a sale without it being reflected in the price.
So far, we’ve found the ability to negotiate on price to predict the ability to negotiate overall. This is true for agents representing both buyers and sellers.
Inconsistent accuracy in pricing by an agent could lead to longer times on market, lower offers, and an overall conflicting experience. We measure how often agents require price reductions and how large those price reductions are. This gives us insight into their pricing ability and helps us understand if this is a strength or a weakness.
When reading reviews, we look for specific examples of an agent going above and beyond for a customer. While the agents on our list all offer great service, there are times when an agent that goes the extra mile is best.
A listing agent must know how to market a property.
We look for consistent:
- Well-written descriptions
- Professional photography
- Extra listing features
- Audience reach
This is also a category that can strictly remove an otherwise good agent for the list. We do not tolerate cheating or lying in our listings. Any agent that we observe actively attempting to deceive potential clients through their marketing will be excluded from the list.
Unfortunately, we can’t personally experience the services of every agent we list. Our evaluations are based on data and observation alone and are therefore imperfect. But our goal is to continue to refine our list of agents and our process to produce ever-improving results.
We’re always asking agents, experts, and customers how we can innovate our rankings to provide our readers with the best possible agents for their circumstances.
That means we avoid:
- Accepting money for rankings
- Trading rankings for favors
- Copying someone else’s rankings
- Letting our rankings get stale
- Thinking our process if perfect