A couple celebrates the purchase of their new home with their real estate agent

How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

Updated August 1, 2020 . AmFam Team

When you’re in the market for buying or selling a home, who you choose to help you along the way is a crucial factor. Learn how to shop for the right real estate agent.

Finding the right real estate agent is about asking yourself what your goals are and finding the agent who aligns with them seamlessly. While it’s possible to take on the roles and responsibilities of buying or selling a home yourself, there’s no greater relief than doing so with the help of a qualified professional who has your back through every step of the process.

The journey through buying or selling a home can be a challenging one. According to a 2019 profile of home buyers and sellers by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 89 percent of buyers or sellers used the assistance of a real estate agent or Realtor® — a 20 percent increase over the last 20 years. The reason finding the right real estate agent or broker is so important is because it can save you money, time and the headache of navigating through the nuances of the modern real estate market.

Taking the time to interview the best qualified real estate professional for your needs is the most beneficial step to buying or selling your home, so let’s ask some questions!

What’s the Difference Between Real Estate Agents, Brokers and Realtors?

To an inexperienced buyer or seller, it would seem like titles for real estate professionals are interchangeable — real estate agent, Realtor, broker or salesperson — but the reality is that each of these titles represent unique differences. Learning the distinctions between them can help you to make the right choice for your buying or selling needs and provide some clarity when you’re ready to setup candidate interviews.

Real estate agent

One of the key differences between real estate agents and Realtors, for example, is certifications. A real estate agent is simply defined as anyone who is licensed to assist in the buying or selling of commercial or residential property. This is a first step for any professional in the real estate trade. Though they facilitate similar roles for buyers and sellers, real estate agents are not members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) — one of the largest trade organizations in the U.S.

Agents are required to complete a curriculum defined by their respective state and pass an examination. State requirements for licenses, however, vary.


Realtors are agents who are active members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The association defines itself by its code of ethics which, according to NAR, “separates Realtors from non-member real estate agents.” Founded over a century ago, the organization has designated the term “Realtor” to its members for approximately 40 years in order to communicate a level of expertise, ethics and professional standard.

Some of the requirements for a real estate agent to become a member include holding a valid real estate license, having a clean real estate transaction record and maintaining regular engagement in the real estate business. Additionally, a code of ethics defined by the NAR must be maintained by all Realtors.


Brokers are agents who continued their path and obtained a broker license. These individuals can operate independently or employ other real estate agents. The main difference between a broker and an agent is autonomy — brokers can work by themselves where agents must conduct business under a licensed broker. Associate brokers can be thought of as brokers-in-training and must also work under a licensed broker.

When Should You Start Looking for a Realtor, Broker or Real Estate Agent?

Moving along in the buying or selling journey will take you to the question of, “When should I start looking?” The answer to that question may very well be right now! If you’re reading this, you’re likely in the market, or soon to be in the market, for a new home. Experts advise seekers and sellers to begin their preparations well in advance, with buyers making contacts and to-dos up to six months out, and sellers up to about a year ahead of time.

Once you’ve settled on the idea of buying or selling, start looking in your area — or desired area, if relocating — for the right real estate professional for your needs.

What Do Buyers Agents Look For?

This relationship could be one of the most important in a person, family or investor’s life. While it may not necessarily mean you get together for trivia night on Fridays, it could certainly mean saving you a lot of money on the home of your dreams. By looking for agents who specialize in and work exclusively with the buyer market, you’re limiting the risk that a real estate company takes shortcuts to simply sell you one of the homes they have listed for a seller.

While many agents can represent both sides of real estate — buying and selling — the reason you want to search for an exclusive buyer’s agent is for the benefit of knowing you’re getting the sweetest deal possible. Buyer’s agents are real estate professionals, just like selling agents, who specialize in connecting buyers with homes. They work exclusively in buyer’s interests and rarely have incentive to show you ill-fitting listings.

What Does a Real Estate Agent Do for a Seller?

Once you’ve committed to the idea of selling your home, it can feel like the race is on. From decluttering to repairing, there’s no shortage of possible beginnings to a home selling story. Without a doubt, however, your first page should include a real estate agent to help.

Real estate agents help sellers by preparing your home for sale, setting a price and drafting a strategy. An agent will also do all the negotiation work for you, too — a major stress reliever! Agents keep tabs on local markets, potential buyers and unique opportunities as well, so you have more time to focus on the big picture. They’ll evaluate your property and make recommendations to help yield the biggest bang for your buck.

A good agent will come up with a game plan that puts you and your goals at the center. This may include:

  • Prepping your home to be shown on the market
  • Staging the home for first impressions
  • Hiring a professional photographer to capture your home at its best
  • Developing a pricing strategy
  • Marketing your home
  • Closing time

Good agents yield positive results, so be sure that you interview each candidate with a focus on previous sales history. Learn more about their approach to home listings. Ask about challenges they’ve faced selling similar homes in the past. Be diligent in your interview for your real estate agent, Realtor or broker so that you walk away confident that your agent has you covered.

Insuring your investment

We know buying or selling a home can be a lot to think about. We’re here to help at any point in your journey, whether it be selecting the right coverage for a home you’re moving into — or out of — so reach out to one of our agents (Opens in a new tab) with any questions! Selecting the right insurance for the place of your dreams is our specialty.

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