How to Find a Real Estate Agent

Sternsmith Group

Buyers and sellers planning a home transaction should always begin by searching for a real estate agent. Those fortunate enough to call the San Francisco Peninsula home can access countless amenities like the San Francisco Bay Trail, the 366-acre Pulgas Ridge Riverside, and Michelin-starred restaurants like Village Pub and Selbys. Whether relocating within or outside the city, use this guide to understand how to find a real estate agent.

What to know before searching for agents

Several options are available to buyers and sellers when starting a search online or reviewing recommendations from family and friends. Make certain the agents you are interviewing have local expertise, are currently active realtors in the market, experience, and confirm what their clients have to say about them on Zillow Reviews and Google Reviews.

What does it mean to be a local real estate expert

Being a local real estate expert means having in-depth knowledge and expertise in a specific geographic area or real estate market. This expertise goes beyond simply knowing the basics of buying and selling property; it involves a deep understanding of the local market conditions, trends, and factors that can affect property values and transactions in that particular area. Some key attributes include and are not limited to neighborhood expertise, ability to accurately assess the value of properties, strong network of local contacts, including other real estate professionals, inspectors, appraisers, lenders, and contractors, marketing expertise, negotiation skills, and data-driven insights to guide informed decisions.

What does it mean to be a realtor that is active in the market

Being a realtor who is "active in the market" means that you are actively engaged in the real estate industry, conducting business and transactions regularly. You can research what someone has sold on Zillow and the Compass website/application.

For instance, the Sternsmith Group is #2 in volume for real estate sales in San Mateo County, #1 real estate agent in San Mateo, Top Ten Residential Real Estate Team in the Bay Area (San Francisco Business Times), and the #39 Medium Team in California. Rankings are great, and what really matters are happy clients, so make certain you ask for references and read their reviews on Zillow and Google.

How to find a real estate agent that knows your market best

Local Recommendations: Ask neighbors, friends, or family members who have recently bought or sold properties in your area if they can recommend a reliable real estate agent.

Real Estate Websites: Many real estate agents have their websites where they showcase the agents expertise, process, client testimonials and reviews.

Social Media: Real estate agents may have a presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can check their profiles for their activity, client reviews, and areas of expertise.

Online websites like Zillow and Compass have profiles for real estate agents, where you can find reviews and ratings from past clients. Be wary about the Zillow Premier Agents as these are paid spots to be exposed on the top.

How to read reviews on a real estate agent before interviewing

Finding reviews on a real estate agent is an important step when you're looking to hire one for your real estate needs. Online review websites are great tools. Websites like Zillow often have profiles for real estate agents, where you can find reviews and ratings from past clients.  Google Reviews also feature reviews of real estate agents and agencies. You can search for an agent by name or by the agency they work for.

How to interview an agent

There are a few things buyers and sellers should establish when interviewing an agent. Make sure they’re a right fit by asking about prior experience, their marketing strategy,  then ask about who they work with and their rates. Any respectable agent will be willing to provide references for buyers and sellers.

Ask about their experience

First, ask an agent about their prior experience. This experience should reflect successful home purchases or sales within the same area a buyer and seller are in. Ideally, they’ll have experience working with a similar property type or a specific client type. An agent should also be certified and have a local understanding of market trends and amenities in the area.

Understand how they work

Another thing to look for when understanding how to find a real estate agent is how they work. In other words, do buyers and sellers work directly with the agent or does the agent have assistants who complete tasks on their behalf? Also, ask about commission rates, contracts, and means of communication.

Request references

Buyers and sellers who have finished an interview and are still unsure about an agent can request past references. An agent should be able to supply one or two past clients who have had a positive and recent partnership with the agent.

Review online reviews

Look for online reviews and ratings of the real estate agents you're considering on websites like Zillow,, Yelp, and Google. Pay attention to both positive and negative reviews.

What a great buyer’s agent does

A great buyer’s agent will help their clients find a home that meets their goals, negotiate with seller’s agents for the best offer, and inform their clients about market trends that affect a search.

Searches for homes on and off market that meet buyer goals

Buyers’ agents show they care about a client’s goals by listening attentively to their wants and needs, asking questions that clarify their goals, and tailoring a search to these specifications. They’ll also understand a buyer’s budget and look within a set amount for a better chance of closing on a property.

Negotiates the best offer

After writing and sending an offer letter, a buyer’s agent negotiates the offer’s terms with a seller’s agent or the seller if the home is listed FSBO. Agents will use accurate vocabulary, skills built up over the years, and recent market knowledge to land the best price, contingencies, and closing dates for their clients.

Informs client about market trends

A buyer’s agent ensures their client doesn’t enter a home search blindly by explaining market trends and setting realistic expectations regarding the timing and realistic pricing for the home purchase. This helps buyers avoid disappointment from a long process or being unprepared for a short one.

What a great seller’s agent does

Sellers unsure about how to find a real estate agent should look for the three things below when interviewing local agents. A great agent markets the property, prepares the listing, and understands the competition.

Markets the property

One of the main things a seller’s agent does for their client is market the listing. This is essential to finding interested buyers and receiving offers on the home. To market, an agent will take professional photos of the property, use social media, and schedule home showings. The Sternsmith group has a very specific approach to maximize exposure for their listings.

Prepares the listing

Before listing, an agent will prepare the property by suggesting repairs or cost-effective improvements to sellers. They’ll also advise the sellers on how to pick a competitive price using a comparative market analysis so a listing doesn’t linger on the market.

Understands the competition

Since a seller’s agent specializes in a certain area, they have a good idea of what other listings look like and how their client’s listing compares. They’ll use this information to prepare a listing for success and market it for a high-priced sale.

Negotiation skills

In a competitive market, negotiation skills are the most overlooked aspect when choosing a realtor. Getting sellers the highest possible price with the best terms should always the focus.  With training and over 18 years of experience, many of our clients choose us for our negotiating expertise and track record for surpassing our clients expectations.

Start your agent search today

From the difference between licensed professionals to uncovering the services a buyer and seller should receive, there’s plenty to understand about partnering with a real estate agent. When you’re ready to start a home transaction with a local professional, contact one of the trusted agents at the Sternsmith Group for expert services.


Who is viewed as a qualified real estate agent?

Real estate agents are licensed professionals that help clients sell, buy, or rent properties. An agent may also be called a real estate salesperson or real estate associate who works under a brokerage or agency. In exchange for their services, agents get paid a commission.

What is a broker?

Real estate brokers are companies or agents who have earned their broker licenses. This allows them to start their own business and hire other agents to work for them. Associate brokers have their license but work under someone else, managing brokers look over daily office tasks, and principal brokers supervise the agents in the company.

Who can be called a “Realtor”?

Realtors are agents that are a part of NAR and may refer to a professional real estate broker, salesperson, property manager, or appraiser. Realtors must be actively working, have a valid license, and have no history of unprofessional conduct to keep their status.

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock


Insightful local knowledge and extensive expertise. We looks forward to earning your family’s trust and leveraging our success for your benefit for generations to come. We looks forward to earning your family’s trust and leveraging our success for your benefit for generations to come.

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