So, you have decided to seek the services of a real estate agent. There are some important things to keep in mind when you make your choice of who to work with as you buy or sell likely the single largest asset you own. Real estate agents owe you, the buyer or seller, a fiduciary duty. They must place your interests ahead of their own at all times. You might ask yourself and look into other types of service providers in your life that owe you a fiduciary duty and be quite surprised at some of the ones that do not.
First, there are real estate agents, and then there are REALTORS®. All REALTORS® are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are REALTORS®. REALTORS® are members of the National Association of Realtors and are required to complete continuing education on and agree to be bound by a stringent Code of Ethics. This Code of Ethics is designed to ensure a higher level of professionalism in the field and a better outcome for the client. Any REALTOR® that speaks negatively about another REALTOR® is violating the Code of Ethics.
Second, many people use Zillow.com® and realtor.com®. Keep in mind that the agents that are prominent on those websites may or may not be in your local area and may or may not be the most successful agents in any area. They may pay to advertise themselves on those sites hoping you will reach out to them. They may actually claim they are the listing agent on a property, when, in fact, they are not. Perhaps they are the exact right agents for you, but at least be an informed consumer.
Finally, do some research on your local real estate companies and see which ones resonate with you. They each have a different focus or different processes that make them successful. Call several agents that look promising and make an appointment. They would be happy to talk to you about their approaches, expertise, and viewpoints on the current market. Each independent real estate office has a Broker of Record, the person who must ensure that all transactions proceed correctly. Real estate franchises may only have one Broker of Record in the entire state, not in individual offices. Decide what you think is important.
A real estate transaction is one that is often full of emotion, deals with a significant amount of money, and contains a lot of details that are always changing. Add on top of that the fact that buyers and sellers tend not to participate in a real estate transfer very often, and you realize how important it is to choose someone that will be your trusted advisor. Everyone is different. Only you can determine the right combination of expertise, integrity, and personality for your purposes.