✍️ Editor’s note: This guide will teach you the best (and worst) ways to find realtors for any situation. Our advice is based on hundreds of hours of research and expert interviews. We hope it helps you find the perfect agent faster and, ideally, save some money along the way. Why trust us?
The fastest and easiest way to find a great local realtor (by far) is through an agent matching service. These free online services recommend local agents from top brokerages, like Keller Williams and RE/MAX, who may be a good fit for your needs.
A good agent matching service can provide 2-3 solid realtors to compare within a few hours. The first matches typically arrive in minutes. The best brands offer built-in savings. That's a big perk, as it's hard to negotiate savings with agents on your own.
Asking family and friends for recommendations is also a smart move. Just make sure the person making the referral had similar circumstances to yours and thoroughly vet the agent.
Finding a realtor yourself online, via sites like Zillow or Google, is certainly possible, but we don't recommend it. It takes longer and is more error-prone than other approaches.
Top 3 ways to find a great realtor in 2021
1. 🏆 Our pick: Try a free agent matching service
⚡️ Fastest and easiest option
Agent matching services learn about your situation and preferences, then quickly match you with local realtors from name-brand brokerages (think Coldwell Banker, Century 21, etc.) to compare and choose the best fit. All agent matching services are free to use and available nationwide (though some may have less coverage in smaller towns and rural areas).
Why they're great: Agent matching services are much faster and easier than searching yourself. The good ones only work with good agents, so you’re choosing from a short list of solid options. Stick with brands that offer some sort of built-in cost benefit, like Clever Real Estate. Going through one of these services can net you significant savings with effectively zero tradeoffs. You can view our top picks here.
2. Also good: Ask family and friends
👍 Can work, just be careful
Most people assume the best way to find a realtor is asking family and friends for referrals. In practice, that’s often not the case. Finding the perfect match is highly individual. The realtor your cousin loved could end up driving you crazy. Ask the person making the recommendation some screening questions before reaching out to the agent.
Important: You should always compare any personally referred agent to at least 1-2 others to ensure you’re getting the best fit and value. In these cases, an agent matching service can really come in handy (remember, they're fast and free with no obligation).
3. Last resort: DIY online search
⛔️ Takes longer, difficult, risky
You can try a DIY online search via platforms like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Google, but we don’t recommend it. These sites yield too many options, with too little quality control, for you to make an informed decision quickly.
A better use for these tools: Screening prospective agents you found elsewhere. But if you want to try a DIY online search anyhow, be sure to read up on the various agent finder tools and sites so you know how to use them properly and avoid pitfalls.
5 more ways to find a real estate agent
Why trust us?
Clever has helped thousands of people, just like you, find great real estate agents and save money when selling or buying their homes. So “how to find a realtor” is a topic we’re well acquainted with — and have a lot of opinions on.
About our recommendations
Agent matching services are the fastest, easiest way to get a short-list of good options. And if you go with a brand offering built-in savings, that's a huge amount of value with no real drawbacks. But we also recognize that there’s more than one way to find a great realtor. And in some situations, it may make more sense to opt for a different approach.
Our primary goal is empowering you to make smarter real estate decisions, achieve your goals, and, ideally, save some money while you're at it. To that end, we strive to deliver highly objective, practical guides that cover a variety of different methods and companies so you get the best possible outcome, whether you choose to use our service or not.
About this guide
To create this guide (and others like it), our Editorial Team spent hundreds of hours interviewing experts — both in-house and external — trying out every agent matching service in existence, and exhaustively researching every other imaginable way to find a realtor in 2021. We’ll continue updating this guide over time as new information comes to light.
✍️ About the authorI’ve been writing about real estate professionally for the better part of a decade — and researching and reading about it obsessively for even longer. I’ve written and edited dozens of guides about discount real estate brokers, agent matching services, and how to save money when buying or selling a home.
My wife and I also recently bought a new home and used Clever to find our realtor. We got matched with a great agent, who helped us get our home for the asking price in a competitive market. Plus we got a check for $2,000 cash back after closing. Not too shabby.
While Clever worked for us, there's obviously no guarantee it will for you. But since it's free, it’s definitely worth a try. If you don’t like the agents Clever recommends, you can just walk away. If you do, the potential savings are huge.
Author, Researcher, Content Product Manager at Clever
If you have more questions about finding realtors (or Clever’s service), our licensed Concierge Team is standing by 7 days a week, 7am-9pm CST: 1-833-225-3837.
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Why agent matching services are the best way to find a realtor
👉 Key benefits of agent matching services
Agent matching services are companies that facilitate introductions between real estate agents and home buyers or sellers, kind of like a matchmaker.
Finding realtors through agent matching services is faster and easier than any other approach. And because they’re free with no obligation, there’s no real risk in giving one (or a few) a try.
Signing up for an agent matching service only takes a few minutes. You provide some basic info about your needs, and the company pulls together a vetted short list of agents it thinks will be a good fit. The whole process typically takes less than 24 hours. The first 1-2 matches often come within minutes.
Once you’ve got your agent matches, you can interview them, weigh your options, and pick the best fit. If you don’t like any of the agents, you can request more — or simply walk away.
⚖️ How to choose an agent matching service
To get the most value and best outcome, always look for an agent matching service that:
- Provides great customer service.
- Has strict quality standards for agents in its network.
- Offers the option of getting matched with multiple agents.
- Includes some kind of cost-savings benefit.
Companies worth considering
Brands that tick all (or at least some) of the boxes above include Clever Real Estate, UpNest, and Ideal Agent. HomeLight is also a trusted brand, but offers no cost-savings benefit, so we don't recommend it. See a full breakdown of our top picks here.
Companies to avoid
Avoid services like FastExpert, Sold.com, TopAgentsRanked, or Dave Ramsey’s ELP Realtors program, as they have minimal quality control, lackluster customer support, and mostly automated matching processes that yield subpar results.
Top 4 agent matching services in 2021
Avg seller savings*
Avg buyer savings**
Avg rating (# of reviews)
2. Ideal Agent
*Average of savings compared to a 3% listing fee at $100k, $250k, $500k, $750k.
**Average of savings at $250k, $500k, $750k, $1M, per offer terms.
🏆 Best value: Clever Real Estate
Clever Real Estate is fast, easy, and offers the biggest guaranteed savings of any agent matching service or discount brokerage in the U.S. Another unique Clever benefit is that every member of its Concierge Team is a licensed real estate agent. They can provide general real estate advice, in addition to helping manage the relationship with your agent.
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The right way to find a realtor through family or friends
👉 Key takeaways
Asking people you know for realtor recommendations is worth a try. Just know that personal referrals aren’t always the best or most reliable option.
Finding the right agent is a highly subjective and personal thing. The situation surrounding your sale or purchase is unique. So are your preferences when it comes to things like personality and customer service.
The perfect agent for a friend could be all wrong for you. They might not have the right experience for your price range or neighborhood. Or maybe you just won’t like them.
Don’t make assumptions and blindly sign on the dotted line. You need to thoroughly vet the agent, as you would if you’d found them on your own.
But before you even start screening the agent, evaluate the person making the recommendation to ensure their preferences and circumstances line up with your own.
7 things to ask about when someone recommends an agent
⚠️ You should still shop around!
When someone you know recommends an agent, it’s still important to shop around to get the best fit and value — even if that agent seems like a perfect fit. An agent matching service, like Clever, can quickly match you with 1-2 additional agents from top brokerages in your area so you can compare options and make an informed decision.
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Finding a good realtor via a DIY online search is hard
👉 Key takeaways
While it’s certainly possible to find a great realtor via Google or an agent finder tool like Zillow and Realtor.com, we don’t recommend it.
Agent finder tools surface and general search engines usually:
- Give you an overwhelming number of results to sift through.
- Contain unhelpful or completely inaccurate data and information.
- Prioritize agents who pay over the most qualified or relevant ones.
While many agent finder tools offer filters to help narrow your search, they’re not very reliable or useful. And you don’t get that same level of built-in trustworthiness that comes with a recommendation from a good agent matching services or someone you know.
Find prospective agents through other, more efficient and reliable means, then use tools like Realtor.com to vet them by looking at past sales, customer reviews, and so on.
If you want to try your hand at a DIY online realtor search anyhow, we’ve compiled some helpful tips and advice on how to use (and not use) some of the top agent finder platforms in 2021.
Top 4 sites for finding a realtor online in 2021
1. Zillow’s Agent Finder tool
⚡️Quick tips for using Zillow’s agent finder tool
Zillow is far and away the most popular real estate platform — but it’s also one of the most unreliable. The site is pretty notorious for having inaccurate or out-of-date information, both on its listings and in agent profiles.
Additionally, all agent finder tools generate money through A) advertising and B) selling your information, but Zillow is particularly loose when it comes to data privacy.
If you want to search for a realtor on Zillow stick to agent finder tool (i.e., its self-serve database) and avoid connecting with agents via buttons on actual property listings.
⚙️ Don’t get sucked into Zillow’s advertising machine!
The “Contact Agent” and “Schedule a tour” buttons on Zillow listings connect you with Zillow Premier Agents — agents who sign up for Zillow's paid advertising platform. Agents pay a monthly fee to Zillow for a share of the total number of people who click that button in a certain zip code. There's no vetting and no matching. Like any ad platform, it’s all about who has the biggest budget. And get ready for a flood of phone calls and text messages from not only agents, but also lenders, title companies, insurance brokers, and more.
When you enter your zip code or area into Zillow’s agent finder tool, you’re going to get a ton of results. You’ll need to use the filters to narrow it down to a more actionable short list.
2. Realtor.com’s Find Realtors® tool
⚡️ Quick tips for using Realtor.com’s agent finder tool
Realtor.com and Zillow's home search and agent finder tools are pretty dang similar, but there are a few notable differences.
For one, info on Realtor.com is usually more reliable than Zillow. Its data gets pulled directly from local MLSs, which are generally up-to-date and subject to at least some degree of oversight and accuracy requirements.
But unlike Zillow, Realtor.com only shows you capital-R Realtors®, dues paying members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
NAR has about 1.4 million members, which is a lot — but the other 2 million+ active real estate agents who aren’t NAR members won’t show up in your results.
Like Zillow, Realtor.com makes its money via advertising, which means it tends to push you toward the highest bidders vs. the best agents for your needs.
As with Zillow, avoid the “email agent” and “schedule a private tour” buttons on listings. And reach out to agents directly vs. through the platform — lest ye be swept away in a tidal wave of calls from agents and other service providers (check out this gnarly disclaimer).
🔎 How to find agents who bought or sold nearby homes on Realtor.com
If you want to figure out who helped the seller or buyer in a recent home sale in your area, it’s actually pretty easy to do on Realtor.com.
- On the Realtor.com homepage, click “Just Sold” above the search bar
- Type in your zip code, town, or region, then filter by price and property type to see who handled recent sales or purchases similar to yours
- You can also type in a specific address if you have a particular property in mind
- At the top of any listing, you’ll see the names of the agents / brokerages who handled the transaction (even if they’re not REALTORS®)
- Again, contact that agent or brokerage directly instead of through Realtor.com to avoid the deluge of sales calls and emails.
Note: some Zillow listings also show this info, but property listings on Zillow are often less up-to-date and accurate than those on Realtor.com
3. Finding a realtor on Redfin
Redfin, a popular home search site and the largest discount brokerage in the U.S., has an agent finder tool that’s pretty similar to the tools on Zillow and Realtor.com.
However — and this is important — while Redfin’s home search tool shows all property listings, its agent finder tool ONLY shows you Redfin agents.
The good news is that Redfin’s tool is easy to use and pretty transparent. You can see recent sales in your area and read reviews from past customers, just like any other agent finder tool
And because there are only about 1,800 Redfin agents nationwide, you likely won’t be overwhelmed by too many options like you would on Zillow or Google.
👉 What’s a Redfin Partner Agent?
When you search for an agent on Redfin, you might see some “Redfin Partner Agents” at the bottom of the page. These are agents from other brokerages who pay Redfin a fee for referred business. Importantly, Redfin’s partners don’t have to offer the 1.5% fee, so expect to pay the typical 2.5-3% listing fee rate.
But if you’re iffy about working with a discount brokerage and would prefer a conventional brokerage, Redfin’s agent finder tool is obviously a no-fly zone.
If you’re unsure whether you want to work with Redfin, check out our Redfin review to learn more about its service.
If you’re here for the savings, it’s worth giving Clever a look as well
Clever matches you with full-service agents from conventional brokerages like Keller Williams and RE/MAX, but offers lower pre-negotiated rates ($3k or 1%) than Redfin (1.5%). In other words, better savings without any of the risk.
4. Finding a realtor on Google
When it comes to searching for anything, real estate agents included, Google is pretty much everyone’s go-to tool. But we don’t recommend it for finding real estate agents.
First of all, you’re going to get an unbelievably huge number of results, which is never very helpful — especially not when you’re trying to make an informed decision quickly.
There’s also zero quality control. Google is an advertising engine, not an objective meritocracy.
For example, the agents in the “Real estate agents nearby” widget at the top of the page paid to be there (hence the “sponsored” label). And the “Google screened” badge doesn’t speak to their ability or experience. It just means the agent holds an active real estate license.
The map widget features the three local businesses Google deems most relevant to your search. You can also click through to see more options in your area.
Bear in mind that Google Maps will only show agencies with GoogleMyBusiness accounts, and therefore may not reflect all the options in your area.
Also remember that Google doesn’t rank or vet these businesses, so don’t make any assumptions about the quality of the brokerages you see featured here.
In practice, Google Maps is a lot better for finding restaurants and retail stores than professional services providers, like realtors.
The other Google results you’ll see are mostly advertisements and links for agent matching services like Clever and HomeLight, local directories like Yelp and Zillow, and possibly some local brokerages. Once you click one of these links, you’re finding your agent via that platform, not Google.
👉 The bottom line
Don’t try to find your realtor on Google. Use Google to find A) websites and companies that will do a better job of helping you find a realtor or B) track down a specific agent’s phone number, address, or website.
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🔎 Finding a realtor for specific situations or goals
For max savings, we recommend finding your realtor through an agent matching service that offers built-in discounts for sellers and cash back for buyers.
Clever Real Estate currently offers the lowest rates and best overall savings of any nationwide full-service real estate company.
Clever sellers get full service for just $3,000 or 1% vs. the typical 2.5-3% rate. Eligible Clever buyers get 0.5% of their home’s purchase price in cash back after closing.
The other savings-centric agent matching brands are UpNest and Ideal Agent. The agent quality is comparable to Clever’s (all three partner with many of the same agents), but both are at least 2x more expensive and have some significant drawbacks.
It might also be worth investigating discount real estate brokerages. Redfin offers 1.5% listing fees in 80+ markets. Other companies like Trelora and Houwzer may also provide good value, but are only available in a handful of markets. Discount real estate brokers also carry some risks when it comes to service quality.
Selling your house fast
If you need to sell your house fast and want to find a realtor so you can list on the open market and get a fair price, an agent matching service is definitely your best bet. Agent matching services like Clever can recommend local agents with established track records of fast sales. Plus most will get you matches within a few hours (even minutes), so you can hit the ground running immediately.
You might also want to look into iBuyers, companies that make near-instant cash offers, like Opendoor, Zillow Offers, and Offerpad. iBuyers typically pay close to fair market value and can close in just a few weeks. But they only buy certain types of homes in a handful of cities across the U.S., so most homes don’t actually qualify. It’s worth checking out if you need to move quickly, though, as requesting an offer is free with no obligation.
If you’re really under the gun to sell fast (in pre-foreclosure, moving for work, etc.) and don’t qualify for an iBuyer purchase, consider selling to a local property investoror “We Buy Houses for Cash” company. These companies will buy any property (literally) and, because they typically pay all cash, can usually close within a few weeks. But expect to take a hit on price. Most investors will only pay about 70% of a home’s fair market value.
Selling and buying
If you need an agent to sell and buy, we still recommend going through an agent matching service. If your move is local, they can quickly recommend a few agents who can help with both (some agents specialize, but most work with sellers and buyers).
Agent matching services are especially useful when your move isn’t local, as they can help you find both agents quickly and will likely have a better read on the new area (and more contacts) than you do. If you have a solid network of friends or family in either your current area, the place you're moving to, or both, it’s certainly worth asking around for recommendations.
Note that when you sell and buy with the same agent, you may be able to get a discount. Offering an agent two deals can sometimes give you leverage when negotiating fees, but it’s probably easier to work with a brand that offers built-in savings. For example, Redfin drops its 1.5% listing fee to 1% when you sell and buy within the same year.
But Clever is still your best bet by far in terms of cost-savings benefits. You’ll get $3,000 or 1% listing fees no matter what, plus you can get 0.5% cash back when you buy.
Try Clever's free agent matching service!
Find top local agents, save thousands.
Real estate investing
If you’re a property investor in need of an agent, we recommend using an agent matching service. And, surprise surprise, we think it should be Clever — but for good reason!
Clever can recommend agents in your target market with investor experience. And can even help you find agents with specific expertise, like rental properties, house flipping, commercial investing, and more. Plus Clever’s built-in savings make it easier to minimize overhead and be profitable — both on the purchase and resale.
It’s also worth digging into the Bigger Pockets forums. They’re a great resource for finding agents, investment opportunities, potential partners — and just learning in general.
If you’re already a serious investor, or aim to become one, it could be worth getting licensed yourself. That said, many experts, including Bigger Pockets’ Brandon Turner, don’t recommend that approach.
Military and first responders
There are several agent matching services out there specifically geared towards members of the military and first responders, like Homes for Heroes and Veterans United Realty. While these organizations aren’t actually affiliated with any government agencies, they’re worth investigating, as you may be able to find a great agent and get a commission discount and/or home buyer rebate.
That said, some other agent matching brands and discount brokers may still offer better built-in savings. For example, Clever Real Estate’s pre-negotiated $3,000 or 1% listing fees for sellers are currently the lowest of any full-service nationwide real estate company. And it offers 0.5% cash back for buyers on eligible purchases. That’d be $2,000 back on a $400,000 home.
We recommend trying a few agent matching services so you can compare options and get the best value.
Selling in pre-foreclosure or short sales
If you’re in pre-foreclosure or underwater on your loan, Clever can find you a short sale specialist quickly and its pre-negotiated $3,000 or 1% rates will help you save big and minimize any losses.
You can try Realtor.com’s agent finder tool and use the filters to find agents with CDPE or SFR designations, which signify they've gotten some additional training for short sales and/or foreclosures. Though think of this as more of a starting point than a guarantee of practical expertise.
Zillow’s agent finder tool lets you filter for “short sale / pre-foreclosure” specialists, but these credentials aren’t verified. Agents self-submit their own “specializations” on their Zillow profiles, so this isn’t necessarily a very trustworthy approach.
Just keep in mind that agents with this type of experience are rare. According to NAR, only about 14% of realtors have closed a deal involving foreclosure in the past 12 months. Only about 2% of realtors have handled more than six. Regardless of how you search, be careful and thoroughly vet any prospects to ensure they have legit experience!
Buying foreclosures (REOs)
If you’re looking to buy an REO (real estate-owned) foreclosure directly from a bank or lender, we recommend working with an agent matching service that can help you find an agent with extensive REO experience, as the process is quite different from a conventional purchase.
Same goes for government-owned properties. You actually can’t buy HUD, VA, and USDA foreclosures on your own. You must work with a licensed agent or broker.
You can also try Realtor.com to search for agents with CDPE or SFR designations — or look for buyer’s agents with “foreclosure” experience on Zillow. But again, while these credentials signify the agent may have completed some additional training, there's no guarantee it will translate into practical expertise. Proceed with caution.
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FAQs about finding a real estate agent
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Alternatives to working a real estate agent
For sale by owner (FSBO)
Selling your house without an agent could make sense in certain situations. And, if you manage to put it off, avoiding that 3% listing fee could save you a lot of money. But we don’t recommend FSBO for most sellers, as it typically involves a ton of time and effort, is risky, and will likely result in a lower sale price.
Flat fee MLS services
Flat fee MLS services will publish your listing on your local multiple listing service (MLS) — the main platform agents and brokers use to find homes for their buyer clients — for a flat, upfront fee. It’s usually much cheaper than listing with a traditional agent, helping for sale by owner (FSBO) sellers get more eyeballs on their listing without breaking the bank. However, the benefits end there. You’ll have to handle your entire sale yourself, and you’ll be on the hook for the flat fee MLS service’s fee, whether your home sells or not.
We Buy Houses for Cash companies
We Buy Houses for Cash companies and local investors will buy any property, in any condition and location, for cash. They’re worth considering if you need to sell fast, or your home isn’t in good enough condition to sell to a retail buyer (most mortgage lenders won’t write loans on properties that need a lot of repairs). The downside is that you’ll likely take a hit on price: cash buyer companies typically only pay about 60-70% of a home’s after-repair value.
iBuyer companies make near-instant cash offers on certain types of homes, usually sight unseen. In this way, iBuyers are kind of like conventional cash buyer companies, only they pay closer to a fair price and are much, much pickier about the types of homes they’ll buy. They also typically charge a built-in “service fee” that’s at least comparable — if not well above — the typical 5-6% realtor commission.
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Consumer Federation of America. "Hidden Real Estate Commissions: Consumer Costs and Improved Transparency."
Clever Real Estate. "What Real Estate Company Has the Lowest Commission Rate in 2021?."
The National Association of Realtors. "Quick Real Estate Statistics."
ARELLO's task force on Promoting Judicious Real Estate Regulation. "Licensure Study 2021."
Redfin. "Redfin Annual Report 2020."
HUD, USDA, VA. "Homes for Sale by the U.S. Government."