It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: you’re ready to buy or sell an apartment, and now you have to decide if you need a real estate agent to help you do it. After all, a good one can guide you through the process from start to finish — and help you get the best possible deal — so it’s critical to find someone you like and trust. But the burning question is how to find a real estate agent that meets all of your needs. Well, there are a few things to know before kickstarting your search. Use this guide to equip yourself with all the knowledge you’ll need.

Table of Contents

    Manhattan Homes Under $750K on StreetEasy Article continues below

    What Is a Partner Agent?  

    Whether it’s a starter studio or pied-à-terre, buying a place in NYC can be a challenging experience. Fortunately, a partner agent (also known as a buyer’s agent) can make the process less daunting by acting as your advocate. Many different parties are involved in the home buying process, from listing agents to real estate lawyers. A partner agent navigates all sides, but has a fiduciary duty to only you. That includes confidentiality, undivided loyalty, full disclosure, obedience, accountability, and reasonable care, according to broker Johnathan Agrelius of Coldwell Banker Warburg.

    Video Thumbnail
    Real estate agent Krista Nickols explains the benefits of having a buyer’s agent, also known as a partner agent, on your home shopping team.

    When Should You Hire a Partner Agent? 

    Ask any real estate broker, and most will tell serious home shoppers to find a partner agent (again, also known as a buyer’s agent) as early in the process as possible. That way, the agent can get up to speed on the buyer’s needs, advise them on the market, and start identifying suitable properties for them. The next question is how to find a real estate agent.

    Brooklyn Homes Under $750K on StreetEasy Article continues below

    How to Find a Great Agent for Buying a Home

    The best way to find an agent to help you buy a home in NYC is through StreetEasy Experts, our verified network of real estate agents that you can connect with right from the StreetEasy website. StreetEasy Experts are experienced agents with verified deal history in the buildings, neighborhoods, or home types (co-op, condo, etc.) you’re looking for. And they cannot pay to be referred to you.

    You can connect with an Expert in two ways. When searching on StreetEasy, if you have one or more neighborhood filters selected, simply scroll to the bottom of your search results page. Find the banner shown above, and click MATCH WITH AGENT to connect with an Expert who is well-suited for your home search. The Expert will contact you shortly.

    You can also connect with a StreetEasy Expert right from any sales listing. Simply click on either SCHEDULE A SHOWING or ASK A QUESTION — and presto! You’ll be able to connect with a vetted partner agent with top-notch experience in the building, neighborhood, or housing type you’re seeking. While Experts are seasoned professionals with proven expertise, contacting them to ask a question or schedule a showing does not obligate you to work with them. Learn more about working with a StreetEasy Expert.

    image of streeteasy expert schedule a showing drawer
    Here’s how to connect with an Expert real estate agent on a sales listing.

    You can also find an agent through referrals from friends, family, or colleagues. If you trust their advice on restaurants, movies, and travel destinations, you can probably also trust them to recommend a great real estate professional.

    Queens Homes Under $750K on StreetEasy Article continues below

    What Fees Do Partner Agents Charge?

    It’s an important thing to think about when considering how to find a real estate agent: what will it cost you? Whether you’re buying, selling, or renting, it’s best to discuss any fees with your broker before working together.

    In New York City, a partner agent typically earns a 5-6% commission, paid out to them at closing by the seller. So, if you’re the seller in the transaction, it’ll come out of your closing costs. If you’re the buyer, there is no cost to you for using a buyer’s agent, even if the agent is a StreetEasy Expert!

    Why You Should Work Exclusively With a Partner Agent

    Heads up! When trying to figure out how to find a real estate agent, this may be the most crucial tip. In some instances, the agent represents both the buyer and the seller on a listed property, and acts as what’s called a dual agent. Although legal, this is not ideal. “The risk associated with a dual agency is that dual agents can’t fulfill their fiduciary obligations to both parties,” says Alyssa Soto Brody, a licensed real estate broker with The Development Marketing Team. “Some may argue that a dual agent can’t advance the best interests of both buyer and seller because those interests always diverge. At worst, a dual agency creates a harmful conflict of interest.”

    Video Thumbnail
    Here, real estate agent, Krista Nickols shares how to find a buyer’s agent, also known as a partner agent.

    There are other important reasons to work exclusively with a partner agent:

    • Expertise: “Buyers rely on the agent to advise and educate them on properties that fit their needs and one that will also be a smart investment long term,” says Compass agent Yorgos Tsibiridis. “When you visit 20-30 properties with a buyer, you can weigh in and help buyers compare the various options to make a wise decision.”
    • Negotiation: Since the agent is solely focused on the buyer’s interest, it’s the agent’s responsibility to get the best possible deal on the property they are pursuing. That’s harder to accomplish in a dual agency scenario.
    • Process guidance: Buying a home is a process. A partner agent will help you every step of the way, from coming up with a bid to prepping for the co-op board interview. Again, that can be more complicated when an agent is representing both sides.

    What’s the Difference Between a Partner Agent and a Renter’s Agent?

    We would be remiss if we didn’t respond to this question. The main difference is that a partner agent will represent you in a purchase, and a renter’s agent functions as a go-between for prospective tenants and landlords. While both will help you in your home search and have your best interests in mind, a partner agent will go through a much lengthier process with more parties involved. It’s just the nature of buying versus renting.

    Video Thumbnail
    There are more professionals than just an agent to consider for your home buying team.

    Manhattan Rentals Under $3,000 on StreetEasy Article continues below

    What Is a Listing Agent?

    When it comes time to sell a home in NYC, you’ll need to choose a real estate agent to represent you as the seller, also known as a listing agent or seller’s agent. That’s because selling a home in NYC — not to mention getting the highest price possible — is a lot of work.

    When Should You Hire a Listing Agent?

    If you’re serious about selling, it’s time to get a listing agent. The agent you choose can advise you on pricing your home, and perhaps most importantly, they’ll also create and oversee a marketing plan that will help get your home sold quickly and at the best price.

    Brooklyn Rentals Under $3,000 on StreetEasy Article continues below

    How to Find a Listing Agent in NYC

    Wondering how to find a real estate listing agent in NYC? If you’re selling, it’s vital to speak to multiple listing agents before choosing one for your home. Unfortunately, many NYC sellers don’t do this.

    “In New York, everybody knows a real estate agent,” says Matthew Bizzarro, a StreetEasy Expert and founder of the Bizzarro Agency, a brokerage specializing in Upper Manhattan. “But just because you know someone doesn’t mean they’re good at their job.”

    Enter StreetEasy’s Expert Match tool, designed to make choosing a listing agent a snap. Expert Match combines StreetEasy’s extensive proprietary research and years of market expertise to recommend up to three agents (out of thousands!) whose experience is ideal for selling your home. Even better, every real estate agent recommended is a top-tier member of StreetEasy’s Experts Network. You can also get matched with an Expert by contacting the StreetEasy Concierge for sellers below.

    Find your Expert Match


    Reminder: Expert Match is 100% tailored to you, and the agents cannot pay to be recommended to you.

    How to Interview a Real Estate Listing Agent

    You can contact Expert Match agents right from your Owner Dashboard. Just click the contact button under each agent, and they’ll be in touch quickly. Plan to have a detailed conversation with each prospective listing agent. Just as you’re looking to see if they’re a good fit for you and your home, they’ll be seeking the same about you. Expect to spend the better part of an hour getting to know each one before you make a decision.

    Here are some things to ask and consider:

    What’s Their Deal History and Experience? 

    The top agents we spoke with agreed that experience is the most critical quality in a listing agent. “Your home is your main asset, so this is a big deal,” says Bizzarro. 

    Every Expert Match agent shown to you will have a track record that makes them ideal for your property, such as:

    • Having done numerous deals in your very building
    • An excellent deal history in your neighborhood
    • Specialized experience with your property type (co-op, condo, townhouse, etc.)

    Kirsten Jordan, StreetEasy Expert and agent with Douglas Elliman, adds: “You don’t necessarily need someone who has done deals in your building. If they’re a good agent, they’ll be able to get you a good price and have a positive process and a transaction.”

    What’s Their Selling Style, and Does It Fit With Yours? 

    When it comes to how to choose a real estate agent for selling, the agent’s personality and way of doing business can be just as important as their experience, according to Jordan. “People can do a bunch of deals, but it doesn’t make them the perfect broker for you,” she says.

    Some things to consider:

    • Do you have things in common? 
    • Are they a “type A” personality, while you’re more type B? 
    • Will you be comfortable — and trusting — if they have to deliver bad news? 
    • How will you feel about handing this person the keys to your home, to show it to potential buyers?

    Doug Perlson, StreetEasy’s VP of Real Estate Strategy and Operations and a seasoned NYC broker, says: “You want to feel good about that relationship, not frustrated or contentious. You want to pick someone who has a personality that you will like working with.”

    How Much Can a Listing Agent Sell Your Home For?

    Getting the most money for your home is a big concern —  but it shouldn’t be the only deciding factor for choosing an agent. If an agent comes back with a price estimate that’s far higher than your StreetEasy Valuation, that may not be a good thing.

    “Sometimes, unfortunately, brokers give a high number because they want to get the listing. But then they’re not able to sell at that price,” says Liza Nematnejad, a broker with Douglas Elliman who specializes in luxury Manhattan properties. “That, I think, is the biggest trap for a seller.” In fact, the false hope it gives can delay a deal by months or even years.

    What should a good broker bring to the table? A competitive market analysis explicitly prepared for your property, says Perlson. It’ll show you what homes they think are comparable to yours, and how much those homes sold for recently.

    More useful tips:

    • Review the agent’s deal history on their StreetEasy profile page. If many of the agent’s listings enter the market for lofty prices but then sell for much lower, that could be a red flag, Nematnejad says. (You can see the price history of any StreetEasy listing toward the bottom of any listing page.) 
    • Find out your home’s value using the StreetEasy Valuation tool. It is a great place to start for a data-driven, realistic price estimate. 

    How Do They Plan to Market Your Home? 

    A real estate agent’s marketing strategy is vital for selling success. “Anybody can hire a professional photographer and put the listing on StreetEasy,” says Bizzarro. “But are they going the extra mile?”

    Here’s what to know or ask about marketing a home:

    • Listings posted through Expert Match are automatically eligible to be featured on StreetEasy, meaning they could appear in the top two slots of search results pages.
    • Social media is a big part of marketing a home to sell. Ask agents about their social strategy and whether they plan to use rich media like video and 3D tours.
    • Staging is crucial, so ask if the agent plans to do it in the physical space or virtually.
    • Events, open houses, and virtual tours are beneficial when promoting high price point listings.
    • Networking and reach are also significant factors, so ask an agent how they plan to tap into their network to find potential buyers.
    • Experience with your home type is essential. For example, if your home is an HDFC unitcondo, co-op, or is in a land-leased building, you’ll want an agent with expertise in these types of properties.

    Don’t forget to ask the agent if they have great people in place to manage your transaction. Ideally, they’ll have a team or a network of referrals for real estate attorneys, home appraisers, stagers, photographers, and other professionals needed to sell a home.

    What Kind of Commission Do They Expect? 

    It may be tempting to consider the broker’s commission as a critical factor when searching for or choosing an agent. But actually, Perlson advises thinking of it the other way around. “The first thing you want to do is establish whether this is a business relationship you want to be in,” he says. “Then, just like hiring anyone else, you’ll talk about fees.”

    Here’s what to consider:

    • A typical commission for selling a home is 5-6%, split between the listing agent and partner agent. But it’s negotiable, and it’s common for agents even at major brokerages to accept less. They may also throw in extras you’d usually be on the hook for — like home staging — to sweeten the deal.
    • The commission is partly an incentive for partner agents to bring their clients to view your property, so going too low on it has risks. “Going under 5%, I don’t see how you’re getting enough engagement from the outside brokerage community to sell the home,” says Jordan. “Unless it’s a huge price point.”

    If your listing agent finds a buyer who isn’t represented by an agent — meaning your listing agent will get the entire commission — they may accept a smaller percentage.

    What If I Don’t Like My Listing Agent?

    NYC home sellers usually sign a contract with an agent giving that agent the exclusive right to represent their home on the market for a given period. Typically that period is six months, though it can be negotiable. After the contract expires, sellers are free to find another agent to work with if the home has not sold. 

    If you haven’t signed an exclusivity agreement with an agent yet, remember that StreetEasy’s Expert Match will recommend up to three top agents whose experience makes them an ideal choice to sell your home. Access Expert Match on your Owner Dashboard, or contact the StreetEasy Concierge for sellers. If you aren’t satisfied with the options you’ve been presented with, simply submit another inquiry, and StreetEasy will find you a new set of candidates.

    Contact the StreetEasy Concierge for sellers


    Disclaimers: StreetEasy is an assumed name of Zillow, Inc. which has a real estate brokerage license in all 50 states and D.C. See real estate licenses. StreetEasy Concierge team members are real estate licensees, however they are not your agents or providing real estate brokerage services on your behalf. StreetEasy does not intend to interfere with any agency agreement you may have with a real estate professional or solicit your business if you are already under contract to purchase or sell property.

    For FSBO postings, the StreetEasy Concierge is meant to provide insight to improve your posting performance on StreetEasy and may refer you to a real estate professional based on your specific needs.

    StreetEasy earns a referral fee from successful Experts’ transactions, at no cost to the buyer or seller. Experts must meet StreetEasy’s standards of service and market expertise. Agents in our Experts Network have closed deals on homes similar to the seller’s or similar to homes the buyer is searching for. We measure their performance to make sure buyers and sellers get top-notch service.

    StreetEasy Valuation is our estimate for a home’s market value and is not an appraisal. Use it as a starting point to determine your home value and monthly rental price.