Choose your realtor well and you can save time, money, and headaches. You might even sell a home for a better price, get a smarter mortgage, or find the home of your dreams at a dreamier price. But success hinges on your ability to find the best person for the job.

Not all realtors are created equal, and neither are their clients. Finding the right match for you and your specific situation is the key. Here are five tips to help find the right realtor:

  1. Good chemistry is magic. Your realtor will help you make one of the biggest financial decisions in your life, so the two-way communication needs to be excellent. Trust your intuition. If you aren't comfortable with the agent for any reason, keep looking. Good rapport is essential; don't ignore that important element.
  2. Examine your needs. If you're buying, you don't need the top producing listing agent or marketing hotshot. If you're selling, you don't need a relocation buying expert. Figure out what you want, and find a realtor who focuses on that specialty and excels in that particular niche.
  3. Proven track record and proper credentials. Check professional credentials, interview past clients, and select a realtor who knows and understands mortgage financing options and the specific neighborhoods and types of homes that you're interested in buying or selling.
  4. Keep your eye on conflicts of interest. If an agent who's helping you buy steers you only to their own office's listings, it's a red flag. If you have a dual agent-one who works for both the buyer and the seller-be careful about how you share information with her. She has a legal responsibility to report that back to the other party in the transaction, so you might weaken your negotiating position by showing all your cards to your dual-role realtor.
  5. Customer is key, but price is nice. If your realtor doesn't return calls within 24 hours, dump her. If you can save money by going with a discount broker without compromising service, it's a wise option. Insist on superior service without making unreasonable demands, and pay only for what you get and nothing more.

Base your choice and the working relationship not just on a cleverly worded legal contract, but on rapport and reciprocation, a verifiable reputation, and an eagerness to render service above and beyond the call of duty. If you're not getting that from your realtor, it won't make things better to simultaneously work with a whole bunch of other agents who are similarly mismatched or unqualified. A better strategy is to continue shopping for a deserving professional who will earn your respect and money. Stick with her. You won't waste your time or hers, and you'll get faster and more profitable results.

Published on July 8, 2008