We asked real estate agents what home buyers and sellers should look for in a real estate agent and we took their word for it.
Here's what real estate agents suggest, pretty much verbatim.
Begin with seeking referrals from family, friends, co-workers and others you trust, who've recently enjoyed success working with an agent, advises Tree (Patricia) Spaulding, a real estate agent with Green Tree Realty in Asheville, NC.
"I recommend people ask trusted contacts in the area to recommend a buyer's agent - not just someone who mainly lists homes. Then they should informally meet with three of them to see who's a good fit," Spaulding said.
"If they want someone who uses the latest in technology, they can call a list of recommended agents and ask if they use a iPad or at least a smart phone, or ask in general how they use technology in helping their clients. If they are relocating and need the agent to preview homes, having a way to take and send photos or videos from the homes is very helpful. I don't think technology is as important as a person's reputation for being honest, knowledgeable and hardworking, but it doesn't hurt," she added.
Hank Miller, an associate broker and appraiser with HoundDogRealEState.com in Atlanta, GA is dogged about choosing a well-rounded agent.
"An agent should be selected based upon experience, production, research ability and ability to communicate effectively. This is a fluid, data driven business and the ability to communicate effectively with pointed opinions is vital. The ability to do that outside of 'business' hours is required as well," said Miller.
He added, "Too often, buyers consider friendship, relations or a sense of 'we have to use' over competency and production. Buying a home involves multiple levels of risk, yet the public remains woefully inept and conflicted when it comes to qualifying an agent. All the data in world is useless without an experienced agent to digest and explain it."
Jim Mellen, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Peninsula at New Town in Williamsburg, VA says consumers don't take enough time vetting a real estate agent.
"I'm always amazed that someone will call an office and work with the first agent who answers the phone, without doing some extra homework. Buyers need to do quite a bit of additional research on the agents they choose to engage," Mellen said.
Most agents say they can't thrive in today's market without the latest technology. A recent Postling.com report backs that up and says 84 percent of real estate agents use social media.
"In this day and age you need someone who knows the value of communication. It is no longer a phone call, but it is a text, a video, a Skype meeting or e-mail alerts. It is still about great customer service and that is why the new technologies must be embraced by agents so that the buyer may use whatever their preferred method," said Mark Gladue, a real estate agent with Forward Realty Group a Keller Williams company in Madison, WI.
"Byers want to communicate electronically - at least in the searching phase - so make sure you can email, text, Skype, blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc., the agent you settle on. Also determine if they are using electronic forms and signatures. If you are on a tight schedule you don't want to have to drive all over the place or fuss with faxing documents with decreasing clarity," he added.
Gladue says a real estate agent must be as quick on his or her feet as he or she is with the gadgets.
"It also helps to have an agent who is constantly out looking at homes. I see more than 50 homes a week with buyers and that allows me to know the Madison market better than most. The average home buyer now has the ability to search a thousand different portals to find the perfect home and today's agent must be aware of what's out there," Gladue added.
Market smarts also come into play
"If you are thinking about buying a home this spring, you need an agent who has experience with negotiating with multiple offers," should your market become flooded with buyers, says Leslie Hutchison, a real estate agent with Fall Properties in Falls Church, VA.
Natalie Dean, an agent with Taylor Properties in the Washington, D.C. metro area says today's market is not for the faint of heart.
The reduced inventory includes foreclosed properties and short sales and competition from all-cash investors buying multiple properties as well as well-prepared rank-and-file buyers.
"For these reasons, it is unlikely that a buyer will be successful in obtaining their home without a full time well-informed real estate agent who keeps their finger on the pulse of the market," said Dean.
"Your agent must have a whole system of professionals in place. All are title companies are not familiar with distressed properties and what is necessary for the bank to approve the file. A good short sale negotiator could be a must. It's a different landscape today and if the agent doesn't have any experience in these new areas, chances are the buyer will suffer in the process," Dean added.