Choosing a Realtor

Buying a house is a daunting project, so choosing a qualified realtor is an important step in the process. With the housing market declining, realtors may be more likely to take advantage of naïve house-hunters. Word of mouth is a good way to begin the process of finding a reliable realtor, but following up with public records and online information is necessary.

Each State Has a Department of Real Estate

Typically, the state department of real estate coordinates licensing and exams for realtors and offers assistance information and protection for consumers. In addition to discussing consumer rights and what to expect in a real property transaction, home buyers may be able to search an online database for the licensing status of a real estate agent. A list of people or entities that have worked without a license and/or have been issued a Desist and Refrain order is often available as well.

For example, through California’s Department of Real Estate you can learn the following about a licensed realtor:

  • License type (salesperson or broker)
  • Full name and any former names
  • Mailing address and main office address
  • License ID
  • Date issued and expiration date
  • License status
  • Affiliated branches, licensed corporations or salespersons

Some states allow you to learn even more by submitting a written request. Continuing with the California example, additional licensing history is available for a fee by submitting a form to the state department of real estate. For a specified realtor, this request will provide you with:

  • Licensing history for the past five years, unless otherwise specified
  • Any disciplinary action taken
  • Current license status
  • Date first licensed and expiration date

To learn more about conducting research on realtors in other states, see this list which provides links to each department of real estate.

National Association of Realtors

The National Association of Realtors is a trade organization that offers tools and resources for both licensed agents and home buyers. Registering for their website will allow access to tips and help you locate a realtor registered with the association who has pledged to the National Association of Realtors’ code of ethics and standards of practice.