Should your real estate agent be your friend?

Buying a home is inherently emotional. After all, it’s the place you’ll be spending much of your free time, and the place where you’ll be making new memories. It’s a gathering place for friends and loved ones. It’s the shelter over your head at the end of a long day and for many years to come. So, how well should you know the person who’s helping you in your homebuying journey? In short: It’s a personal choice.

For my own home, I used a friend of a friend as my real estate agent. I didn’t know the person very well—in fact, I hadn’t even met her prior to our first day of looking at houses—but I had it on good authority that she was trustworthy. Of course, a real estate agent’s credentials matter much more than if you happen to know them personally or not: Always, always opt for a licensed professional.

However, in the interest of sussing out what choice is right for you, the following three homeowners all took different approaches. One used a friend, one used a stranger, and the other used someone with whom they had a distant personal connection. Here are their takeaways:

The Case for Having a Friend Become Your Real Estate Agent

“Having a friend help us find our home was absolutely a pro,” says Florida-based homeowner Morgan Claytor. She and her husband were first-time homebuyers looking for a home in a pricey suburb of Orlando known for its strong school districts. In short? Things were going to get competitive, and a great agent was a must.

According to Claytor:

“We had already built a personal relationship where I trusted her to have my best interest in mind. I knew from our friendship and conversations about her profession that she was very conservative and not a risk-taker, which is exactly what I wanted in an agent, even though we live in a competitive market. It was like added insurance knowing that when we bought our home, she was looking out for us.”

Through her friend’s help, Claytor found a corner-lot property in a sought-after zip code without breaking the bank and without being too much of a fixer-upper. “We weren’t in a place financially to make a ton of huge changes at first, so we wanted to be sure we didn’t get stuck in a home that required more work than we were ready for. She made sure of that.”

The Case for a Total Stranger

South Carolina-based homeowner Matt McNab opted to choose a complete stranger to be his real estate agent in order to avoid any complications that might come from mixing friendship and business.

McNab reflects:

“In my experience, homebuying is like the Goldilocks problem—you’re really hoping to find the property that’s just right. But if you’re being led in this process by a friend, I think you might feel more pressure to help them out and complete a sale. That could cause you to compromise on a home that’s above your budget or needs more work than you intended.”

However, he still made sure his real estate agent was a good fit.

“I had interviewed a couple of older Realtors, but the woman who became my real estate agent was on the younger side, closer to my own age at the time,” McNab says. “I think that made her more attuned to the fact that the purchase of a first home was a monumental occasion in my life, but I don’t think not knowing her impacted her ability to help me.” In fact, he says, it was just the opposite. “She was firm with the bank when I needed her to be—especially important because I ended up purchasing a foreclosure sale.” 

After the closing, the real estate agent sent a nice note and a Home Depot gift card, he says. “I thought that was above and beyond. But I haven’t spoken to her since!”

The Middle-of-the-Road Approach

In the booming Austin real estate market, homebuyer Angela Trumbaturi knew she wanted and needed to move quickly in order to secure a home. However, because she was relatively new to the city, she wanted to have a comfortable rapport with her real estate agent. On the flip side, however, she didn’t want a personal friend in case things went sour in such a highly competitive market.

Her solution? She called upon the cousin of a good personal friend. “It was such a pro because it was a nice mix of feeling like I could really trust her, that she was acting in my best interests,” Trumbaturi said. “On the flip side, I could still be honest and open without fear of hurting her feelings or our working relationship.”

"I could still be honest and open without fear of hurting her feelings."

Choosing someone she “halfway knew” also had an added benefit. As a busy career woman, she found she didn’t have much downtime to cultivate a relationship with a real estate agent or devote too much time to showing up to properties that didn’t fit the bill. Because of a more distant personal connection to her agent, she could largely give her agent carte blanche. “There was a built-in trust factor as opposed to me having to do a lot to build that trust.”

The Bottom Line

One common denominator between these three homeowners is that they all chose a credentialed, licensed real estate professional who—whether they knew them personally or not—also passed the “feel” test, meaning the homebuyers felt good about their choice, which is incredibly important when you’re trusting someone to help you make a life-altering purchase.

Not sure where to start in your search for a real estate agent? You can search for a Neighborhoods.com-approved agent through our website or new app. We hand-select agents who are knowledgeable, experienced, trustworthy, and free-of-charge, so you can feel confident moving forward with the homebuying process. Think of it as a recommendation from a friend.

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