As of this writing, there are over 42,000 active real estate agents in Los Angeles, CA. There are over 27,000 active real estate agents in Houston, TX. San Francisco, a city that’s only 7×7 miles, still has over 7,000 real estate agents buying and selling right now. As Lillian Montalto, a top listing agent who has sold over 494 single family homes in her career, remarks: “If you don’t have a friend who doesn’t have a real estate license, then you don’t have very many friends!”
You need to sell or buy and to find a Realtor for that transaction you have to sift through thousands of people who could make or break one of the most serious, important financial decisions in your life. Where do you begin?
It’s tough to find a Realtor: the process is time consuming, most sites are full of ads agents pay for to get front and center, and references from family and friends are not reliable.
Let’s think about Los Angeles, for example. You could be selling a single family home in Silver Lake, an apartment in a high rise Downtown, a condo in Universal City, a funky bungalow in Venice. You need to narrow your search down from 40,000 real estate agents to one Realtor who specializes in your area, has great statistics, and works well with your personality.
You should not have to dig through Google, attend 10 open houses every Sunday, or call a brokerage service from a billboard to get face time with a great real estate agent. Even if you did all of that, the real estate agent could:
1. Not know how to negotiate
2. Set the list price too high
3. Be a bad match for your personality
4. Not listen to what you want or need in the buying/selling process
5. Have unhappy past clients and no sales data to back up their promises.
If the relationship doesn’t work out, you end up back at square one with 39,999 agents to interview. Again.
Real estate agent look-up services are often misleading: every agent in the city has a profile saturated with five-star reviews, or a Realtor has amazing reviews on one site and awful reviews on another. There’s often no way to get a gauge on their practical qualifications. Where do you get their sale to list price ratio, their median sale price, or days on market? You can’t call 40,000 real estate agents to ask them about their track records. Well, you could. But who has the time?
We feel your pain. In an attempt to do our homework, we dug through the internet to find a real estate agent in Silver Lake, Los Angeles and felt the frustration of trusting reviews that have no data to back them up.
These are the sites that pop up when we searched “real estate agents in Los Angeles” online. It’s some serious garbage: only two of the sites actually advertise real estate agents, and one is a self-promoted website.
There’s a lot to sift through.
We clicked into Zillow’s “Agent Finder” and these are the “Most Active” agents.
See any trends?
Almost every real estate agent has 5-stars but no listings.
We pulled the top five agents for a mid-range price point person selling a single family home in Silver Lake from our “Find a Realtor” tool. Every agent shows statistics on why they belong here: one agent sells properties 32% quicker than her peers. Another has sold 254 single family homes in her career. That information is real transaction history that is much more telling than five empty stars on a page.
If you do not have a solution to weed out bad agents, you could end up in a situation where the Realtor does not know how to close the deal, over prices your home, blows a negotiation, or keeps your home sitting on the market for way too long.
You could skip the online search altogether and go with your family friend who has his license and sells houses as a hobby on the side. But as Montalto warns, “I think the biggest mistake people make is using a friend…because oftentimes that friend is not doing it full time…I think it’s really important that you seek out two or three people in the marketplace where you’re looking and really do your homework.”
The process to find a Realtor does not have to be a frustrating one that takes twenty-six zillion days. You don’t have to figure out where to start on your own. You can find a real estate agent who you trust, has amazing transaction data and happy clients, and get it done in less than 30 minutes.
Find a Realtor You Can Trust
Use performance data and customer reviews to find top Realtors in your area.
We used the statistics from our “Find a Realtor tool” and insight from three top real estate agents who each are in the top 1% of agents in their areas. We used their knowledge to put together a guide for how to weed through thousands of Realtors to find an amazing real estate agent.
You have to do your homework as a home seller or buyer. The only way to do that is with objective transaction data that cuts through the bad real estate agents so that you are left with a manageable sample of top agents you can interview and trust.
1. Use Data to Narrow the Search
There are potentially hundreds of real estate agents in your area, all of them hungry for your business. The first thing you need to do is eliminate the potential flops from your list. The most reliable (and most efficient) way to find a Realtor with a track record of success is to analyze their historical transactions. Past success is one of the strongest indicators of future success.
First, think about what matters the most to you: speed of sale, number of homes worked with in their career, sale to list price ratio, or knowledge of your neighborhood. All of these strengths are represented in a Realtor’s sales history.
Montalto sites the most important stats to look for in a top real estate agent are, for sellers:
- How many homes they have sold in the past six months and in the past year
- How many days it takes the agent to sell a house on average, and how that compares to local trends
- How much more or less than the list price an agent usually sells for
According to Montalto, buyers should make sure an agent “knows the marketplace, knows the inventory, is able to provide [them] with information,” like how hot the market is and what homes are about to list.
The best way to whittle down 40,000 agents is with those stats, and you don’t have to scour the internet or call every real estate agent within a 25 mile radius to get them.
That’s where our “Find a Realtor Tool” comes into play.
HomeLight runs the stats of all real estate agents in your neighborhood and narrows hundreds of Realtors and agents by specialty and historical transactions to two to three top performing real estate agents that are the best match for you. The reliance on historical transaction data is what makes the recommended matches objective, and the tool’s speed allows you to spend 2-3 minutes per agent profile to determine who you’d like to interview.
2. Speak to Multiple Agents
As Montalto advises, you should interview at least three different real estate agents before you make your final decision.
Even if all three agents have incredible, competitive stats, you need to build a great rapport to really know if you and the agent will work well together.
3. Ask Them The Right Questions
We wrote an article on questions to ask your real estate agent, but these are the major deal breakers according to our research and our interviews with three of the nation’s top real estate agents.
Here are the most important questions to ask potential real estate agents:
Q: What is your “days on market” average
A: The “days on market” number should be about half of the days on market for average agents. You can find the average days on market for your city with a quick glance at your city’s page.
Q: How many homes have you sold in the past twelve months?
A: According to top agent James Silver, who works with 76% more single-family homes than average, a real estate team should sell around 200-300 homes in a year. Silver says a good number for a single agent is in the 30-50 home range. This is the range in Detroit, Michigan, where Silver practices, but may not be the same in other areas.
Q: What is your sale to list price ratio?
A: A good rule of thumb is that the agent’s sale to list price ratio is over the average in the area. You can find the average sale to list price in your city on your city’s page.
Q: How well do you know the market in my neighborhood?
A: According to Mary Cordova, a top real estate agent in El Paso, Texas, one of the most important qualities in a real estate agent is how well they know the ins and outs of your neighborhood.
Q: How well do you know the area?
A: Cordova also said that an agent who knows the area will be able to provide resources pointing you to key information about the area, such as the quality of local schools, access to nearby restaurants and grocery stores, and crime data for various neighborhoods.
How do you know if a real estate agent has enough experience in an area? The real estate agent lives nearby or has had the bulk of their transactions in your neighborhood. You can also look at a map of every location where real estate agent has bought and sold houses when you’re on their HomeLight profile page.
Q: What are your priorities for buyers/sellers?
A: Think about what you need most from the sale. Are you swamped at work and need a real estate agent who does their job well, fast, and who keeps contact to a minimum? Are you a first time seller or buyer who needs an agent who will go out of their way to dedicate time to explain every step? Think about whether you need an agent who keeps you in the loop or takes care of all the details without checking in after every step.
All you need is five minutes on the phone with your top three agents. Ask them these (and any other) questions you have. You can answer most questions on the real estate agent’s stats with a look at their HomeLight profile page (and you’ll get the profiles of your top two to three matches after you fill out the quiz), so the biggest test on the phone is if you liked the Realtor’s personality.
The most important information to consider on your five minute interview is if you actually liked the real estate agent or not. Every one of the three agents you speak with is a top agent with amazing stats, so what makes your final decision? Listen to your gut instinct. Did you have a good rapport? Did you like her personality? Do his priorities line up with yours?
After your five minute interviews you should be able to make an informed, data driven decision on a Realtor you feel confident in, comfortable with, and who you can trust.
Good luck! And if you need us, we’re always here for you!