How to choose a real estate agentRecently I chatted with a lovely woman who is looking to sell her home outside of Silicon Valley and purchase a replacement one here in the San Jose area.  She has met a lot of real estate agents whom she likes.  They all appear competent, experienced, and trustworthy.  Since she is comfortable with all of them, how is she going to be able to pick just one to list her home and one to buy the new one here?

This does happen sometimes!

I have a few suggestions.

  1. Ask where these agents have been working with buyers and sellers.  It is NOT necessary that the agent be experienced in one particular subdivision or small neighborhood, but it is helpful if he or she has sold in the zip code where you want to buy or sell.  Give priority to sales in the same zip code or general area.  You can ask for a list of their sales.  This is easy for them to generate from the MLS.
  2. Is the agent active in your home type and price point?  This matters too!
  3. Did you get the agent’s name via a reference from someone you trust?   Is that person making the referral either in the business or is that person a past client of the one being referred? If so, give priority!
  4. Where does the Realtor’s client base come from?  Repeat and referral business is a good sign.  There are agents who just churn through business or who get a lot from marketing (ads in the paper, postcards etc.) but whose clients don’t come back for more.  That’s a clue or red flag – pay attention.
  5. Does the agent make ongoing training a priority?  Taking the time and spending the money on classes, with or without a designation, means that you have a true professional who’s dedicated to doing his or her best.  That would rank high in my book!
  6. What is the plan?  A listing agent will have a marketing plan. A buyer’s agent may be watching the mls diligently, but may also be networking and doing other things to find the ideal home.  Ask what will be done if he or she is hired.

A few common mistakes I see that I would like to caution against:

  1. Please be careful of fast talkers who cannot back up promises with any kind of proof (such as testimonials from happy clients)
  2. Hiring the #1 sales person may seem like a good idea (more sales, more experience, right?) but sometimes that person is stretched too thin to stay on top of all of it.   So ask about systems, the team, etc. to make sure you understand who will do what if you hire that person or team.
  3. Hiring a friend or relative: sometimes consumers will automatically choose OR automatically rule out friends and family.  Either extreme can be a mistake.  Instead, do a little digging.  Realize that some relationships will do fine if the business layer is added, some will actually deepen, and some may be damaged.  Don’t assume that it’s always or never a bad idea to hire the friend or relative.  (“Easy answers” can get anyone into trouble.)

You can go crazy with interviewing too many people, but it is wise to talk to 3-4 or maybe even 5 agents, from different companies, to get an idea of the services offered and so on.   If you overwork it, you may get stuck on Step Number 1 and never advance to your goal of buying or selling, or find yourself doing more of the work than is needed since you are unable to find a real estate professional upon whom you can rely.  Be careful not to over-analyze.  In most cases, you can move ahead with an agent and if it doesn’t work, change course later.  With a listing, you may have to wait awhile (though many people, myself included, offer an “easy exit” listing agreement).  It’s simpler to switch buyer’s agents, most of the time.


  1. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,871 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,863 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,558 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,176 sqft
  3. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,242 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,359 sqft
  4. 5 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,485 sq ft
    Lot size: 13,094 sqft
  5. 1 bed, 2 baths
    Home size: 962 sq ft
    Lot size: 644 sqft
  6. 2 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,319 sq ft
    Lot size: 1,389 sqft
  7. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,133 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,000 sqft
  8. 3 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,684 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,537 sqft
  9. 5 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,350 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,298 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,108 sq ft
    Lot size: 3,545 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Campbell.
(all data current as of 10/21/2018)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.


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Mary Pope-Handy
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at)
License# 01153805

Selling homes in
Silicon Valley:
Santa Clara County,
San Mateo County, and
Santa Cruz County.
Special focus on:
San Jose, Los Gatos,
Saratoga, Campbell,
Almaden Valley,
Cambrian Park.
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Mary’s Blog Awards
Top 25 real estate blogs of 2018 by RentPrep2018's list of top 25 real estate blogs to follow

Top 25 real estate blogs 2016
2016: Personal Income's list of top 25 real estate blogs.

Best Realtor blog award
2016: Coastal Group OC's list of best Realtor blogs

The 2009 Sellsius list of top 12 women real estate bloggers
2009: Sellsius list of top
12 women real estate bloggers

Mary Pope-Handy's Live in Los Gatos blog won the 2007 Project Blogger contest, sponsored by Inman News and Active Rain

2007: Mary Pope-Handy and Frances Flynn Thorsen win the Project Blogger Contest for Mary's Live in Los Gatos blog. The contest was sponsored by
Active Rain and Inman News.

Non blog award

Best real estate agent in Silicon Valley from the San Jose Mercury News poll of readers in 2011
"Best real estate agent
in Silicon Valley"

2011 readers' poll,
San Jose Mercury News