The Best and Worst Ways to Search for a Realtor in 2024

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The search for a Realtor® used to be a lot more difficult. Even in the early days of the Internet, it was hard to find reliable data on a real estate agent’s track record and whether past clients were happy with their services. In 2024, how do you search for a realtor?

However, companies like HomeLight have made the search for a Realtor easier by introducing free agent-matching services that elevate top-of-market performers. And narrowing the agent pool is important; there are over two million active real estate licensees nationwide.

Agent matching programs are quick, accurate, and free to use. We’ve ranked the main ways to search for a Realtor from best to worst.

Side note: Real estate agent vs. Realtor®

A quick primer: A Realtor® is not the same as a real estate agent, though there is a lot of overlap between those two job titles.

The state licenses a real estate agent to help transact real estate and is usually also a Realtor®, but not always.

A Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors® and is almost always a practicing real estate agent or broker. Real estate agent matching services can connect buyers and sellers with agents with the Realtor® designation and those without.

5 ways to find an agent in your area

Today it’s possible to find an agent online or in-person. Here we explore the various options available to you.

1. Use a free-agent matching service

Ranking: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

An online agent matching service does more than just provide a list of agents for your area.

Here’s a rundown of how it works:

  • Fill out a short questionnaire: A digital matching service needs to learn a bit about your situation and preferences to narrow down your agent search, such as your address, property type (single-family, condo, or townhome), value range, and your selling timeline.
  • Run a query: From there, an algorithm instantly sifts through a deep database of local agents to surface top candidates with relevant experience for your type of sale.
  • Crunch the data: By filtering by stats like how fast an agent sells homes, how much over list price their homes usually sell for, and what properties they specialize in, a matching program can surface a handful of qualified agents who check the critical boxes.
  • Check reviews: The best programs, such as HomeLight, will also consider qualitative factors like an agent’s specialties and reviews. For example, by identifying their specializations and certifications, we can determine if an agent has waterfront experience if you’re selling a lakefront home or if someone is savvy with investment properties.
  • Receive your matches: As soon as they are ready, you’ll receive communications (often emails) with a list of your recommended agents and a summary of their experience. From there, you can interview each agent and determine who you want to work with. You can request that each agent provide a comparative market analysis to determine their pricing strategy and hear an initial evaluation of your home.

This should save you time while leading to a more effective search for some of the best local agents you can meet with.

You may wonder, does it make a difference if you work with a top agent versus one who seems friendly and experienced enough?

Having matched over 1 million clients with top agents since we started our agent finder business in 2012, HomeLight can say yes — it can make a difference. Our internal transaction data shows that the top 5% of agents sell homes for as much as 10% more on average.

For these reasons, we give agent-matching services a five-star rating as a method that combines convenience with precision. However, we recommend working with an established company such as HomeLight to ensure your matches are legitimate and backed by data.

There's a Better Way to Search for an Agent

HomeLight’s agent matching service will connect you with up to three top candidates in your area for a satisfying selling experience.


  • Working with an agent-matching service is free, fast, and easy
  • Narrow your agent search to top performers only
  • Rule out anyone who isn’t directly familiar with your neighborhood
  • Receive a handful of matches and pick your favorite
  • Get easy access to the agent’s ratings and reviews
  • Sell your home faster and for more money

2. Word of mouth

Ranking: ⭐⭐⭐

Whether you need a recommendation for a restaurant, dentist, or real estate agent — there’s something comforting about receiving one from a trusted family member or friend.

In 2023, 36% of sellers who used a real estate agent found their agent through a friend or family member.

Getting a referral this way is typically a safer bet than doing a random Google search.

However, assuming that a great agent match for one person will translate as the best outcome for you would be a mistake. Ideally, your real estate agent hire should be highly individualized.

You’ll spend a lot of time with this person over the next three to six months. Just because your aunt got along great with this agent doesn’t mean you will. Beware of personality clashes.

Plus, a custom match could lead to a better sales experience. You want someone specializing in your price point, property type, and neighborhood.

You’ll want to vet these considerations before you take anyone up on a personal referral.


  • Word-of-mouth recommendations can work to find an agent
  • Better than randomly picking an agent from an ad you see
  • No guarantee that the agent is top-of-market
  • Agent’s expertise may not be tailored to your needs
  • May not share your same communication preferences
  • One person’s opinion / no objective evaluation of the agent’s performance to go off

3. Attend open houses

Ranking: ⭐⭐

Many people selling a home also purchase one simultaneously, and some are relocating to a home within the same market or city. If you fall into this camp, you may be dropping into open houses on evenings and weekends in addition to preparing to sell your existing residence.

In these scenarios, the agent hosting the open house will be looking to connect with potential clients who haven’t already signed with a real estate agent. They will likely ask you if you’re already working with an agent and offer to provide services for you if you aren’t.

The benefits of this route are convenience (i.e., you’re not going out of your way to meet an agent but encountering one in a real estate setting) and immediacy. You should be able to gauge the agent’s level of professionalism and communication style on the spot. You’ll be able to ask questions right then and there and see how well they know the area.

There’s no formula for selecting an agent in an open-house environment. You’re not picking them due to their performance or expertise but simply because you were in the same place at the same time.

Being there in person, you may feel pressured to agree, whereas when you receive information about an agent online, you can spend some time reviewing their experience before making a decision. For these reasons, we give this method two stars — one less than a word-of-mouth referral.


  • You’ll naturally meet agents if you’re attending open houses
  • An agent you encounter at an open house may be qualified to list your home, but it’s not a guarantee
  • Avoid signing with an agent at an open house on the spot — go home and do some research first
  • Not all agents hosting open houses will be top performers or experts in your market

4. Pick an agent from a brokerage you trust

Ranking: ⭐⭐

Every market usually has a real estate brand or two that has infiltrated the city to the point of instant recognition. These brands typically dominate for-sale signs from yard to yard and have a distinct color scheme that residents connect with the company.

It may be a local independent brokerage that does the most deals in your neck of the woods, though more than likely, you’re familiar with the big box brands the likes of Keller Williams, Coldwell Banker, RE/MAX, or Century 21.

Seeing a certain real estate brand all the time can make it feel like the obvious choice when finding an agent.

While certain brokerages offer their agents better training and tools, it doesn’t always translate directly to a better listing experience because real estate agents are independent contractors, not employees.

So, the quality of the service you receive will depend more on the individual agent. As you decide, focus on what the agent brings to the table, rather than which office they’re part of.

HomeLight recognizes the importance of the individual relationship between client and agent; thus, we seek the best agents from large and small brokerages across the nation. So going with an agent from your city’s most popular brokerage is a method to find an agent we can give only 2 stars.


  • The saturation of certain real estate brands can influence your decision to hire an agent
  • Brokerages oversee agents who have a wide array of experience levels
  • Being associated with a recognizable brokerage is no guarantee that an agent will be the best match for you
  • Focus on the strengths of the individual agent, rather than the brokerage they work under

5. DIY search online

Ranking: ⭐

It’s possible to do a quick Google search for “top real estate agents near me” or to sift through endless names in an Agent Directory. But you may not be happy with the experience or outcome.

Casting such a wide net in your search is risky; remember that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of real estate agents in your market alone. Whittling that pool down is tough if you don’t have the right filters for sorting.

It’ll also be tough to get the full picture. Let’s say you can see that an agent has many listings, but it’s unclear if any have been within a few-mile radius of your home. In that case, will they bring enough local knowledge to the table?

Or what if an agent has an impressive transaction tally — but none happened within the past 12 months? With our Agent Profiles and unique algorithm, HomeLight does this parsing for you and presents you with the exact information you need to decide.


  • Today you can’t measure agent quality based on whether someone has a website; an online presence is table-stakes
  • Agent directories are not the same as agent-matching services. Without the element of matching, your search will take longer and be error-prone
  • With real estate being such a popular business, you’re casting too wide a net with a DIY online search

Good luck in your search for a Realtor®!

Selling a home is no easy task. When you have so much going on, it’s easy to hire the first agent you meet or find online just to check one more step off the list. But now you have no excuse not to work with someone qualified and perfect for you — since companies like HomeLight can provide tailored and well-researched recommendations for free.

Don’t end up in a situation where an agent does not know how to close the deal, overprices your home, blows a negotiation, or keeps your home sitting on the market for too long. Whenever you’re ready, HomeLight would be happy to connect you with one of the top agents in your area.

Header Image Source: (Erik Mclean / Unsplash)