Buying or selling a home can have a ton of ups and downs. Hiring the right realtor for you, your house, and your financial situation can help keep everything on an even keel for the duration of the sale. The best way to find a realtor is to ask friends, family, and co-workers which agent they used and if they would work with that person again. There are several places you shouldn't look for an agent as well.
1. Open House: Often one of the first steps on a potential homebuyer's journey is to explore open homes for sale in the area. While this is a great way to get a feel for the market, please realize that busy agents generally do not have time to hold open houses. That job is often relegated to new agents in the office as a way for them to get their feet wet in the industry and to build up their list of potential buyers. Chances are you would prefer to hire someone with more experience.
2. Online: Many homes listed for sale on dubious online sites are scams. Likewise, finding an agent on such sites can be risky business. Be sure to be thorough when vetting who to do business with in your home purchase.
3. Listing Agent: You found the house of your dreams so you don't need a realtor. You can just call the listing agent, right? Well, yes and no. Listing agents will work with anyone willing to buy their client's house, but they will always have the best interest of their client in mind, not yours. You have two choices. You can ask the listing agent to act as a dual agent (and sign paperwork to that effect) or you can work with a buyer's agent. A buyer's agent works strictly for the buyer but is paid out of the seller's proceeds, meaning it doesn't cost you anything to have someone represent you in the transaction.
4. Friends and Family: Hiring a family member can be a sticky situation. On the one hand, you want to help them make a commission. On the other, you want the smoothest real estate deal for yourself. If your friend or family member is a professional agent with five or more years of full-time work under their belts, consider working with them. If, however, they are new to the field, you may want to work with an agent with more experience.
5. Part-Time: While working with a licensed agent that you know and trust is important, you don't want to hire anyone that works as a realtor on the side. Working in real estate is a full-time job and then some. A good agent can spend up to 60 hours a week marketing their listings, helping buyers, and managing all the important details of upcoming closings. A part-time agent, on the other hand, may not be able to devote as much time as is necessary to get the job done. Likewise, they do not have as much experience in handling problems as they arise.