How to Choose a Broker


By Diane Saatchi

When you’re looking to buy a house, your broker is going to know how much you can spend, why, what kind of lifestyle you have, and a million other intimate facts your closest friends might not even know. That’s why, whether you’re buying or selling, you want to be thoughtful about who you choose.

In looking for a real estate professional, most people start with a recommendation from a friend (and every friend has a recommendation).

Photo by Morgan Anderson

They may also choose to work with someone who has helped them in the past, or even someone whose ads or website “speaks” to them, but do be wary of out-of-town referrals to local brokers. For instance, if you asked your nephew, an agent in Los Angeles, if he or she knows someone good in Southampton, your beloved nephew will get a referral fee if you purchase. That’s a good thing, if he really knows the referral broker is a good match. But if he scrambled to find a name for you and doesn’t know the referral personally, there’s a good chance it won’t ultimately work out. It’s like a blind date set up by someone you do not know: Sometimes you get lucky .. and sometimes you don’t.

Here are a few of the qualities I recommend looking for in a broker, whether buying or selling: 

They’re honest, and discreet. Honesty is the most important quality in the broker you choose to work with. For the reasons mentioned above, you really want somebody you can trust, who’s going to be discreet, who isn’t going to give out any information that they shouldn’t, and who will use their knowledge of you in a way that’s to your benefit. It’s a very strange relationship. You feel like you can relate. That said, trusting someone is usually a gut thing. Part of it is being able to relate to them -- not that you have background in common, but you have some sort of connectedness. Perhaps you have mutual acquaintances or similar hobbies, or were born in the same town.

On, there are now broker reviews, which you can use to get a feel for a broker’s personality. Whether the emergent narrative of an individual is that he is kind, or she is efficient, what others write in those reviews should resonate.  Note that while people obviously request reviews from clients happy with their services, Zillow uses a thorough vetting process to make sure reviews are legitimate before publishing.  They have first-hand knowledge of your market. 

Your broker should know enough to present the reality of your situation.

One of our hardest jobs is delivering accurate information without disappointing a customer in a way that turns them off. While it feels good to experience unrestrained enthusiasm and high hopes from a broker, it’s in your best interest to work with someone who knows the market, listens to you, and can say “I know you want XYZ, but the reality is, the available choices are ABC.” 

If you’re buying or selling, you'll also want them to be experienced doing deals in your price range. If you have a $10 million house, aren’t you going to want to work with someone who’s done that before?

Experience matters. 

If you’re buying, you want someone who realizes this process is about you. You also want a broker who doesn’t spend too much time talking about him or herself. It’s not about the broker, it’s about you, and you should feel like it. Bearing all this in mind, don’t stress yourself out about finding the “perfect” broker.

If you are buying (or renting) and find you do not like or trust your broker, its okay to change. If you find yourself unhappy with your broker, for any reason, let him or her know. We'd much rather hear (or read) it's not working for you than to wonder why calls, texts, and emails are ignored.

© 2016 Diane Saatchi