I have been pretty outspoken in opposing the publication of data from the multiple listing service and calling it “agent performance data,” or using it in any way to rate agents.

If someone could just give me an example of how other industries are doing this and how it works, I may change my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the town hall discussion about issues surrounding publication of agent data at the Real Estate Connect conference last week.

The discussion about publishing agent data got me to thinking about what I look for in a real estate agent.

Sometimes my clients want me to recommend an agent in another market. I can do that because I know people, but I generally cannot look up any kind of “performance data” or even MLS data outside of my market. Even if I had it, I would not know how to use that data to make a decision.

These are some of the criteria I use to choose an agent that I can recommend to my clients:

  • Experience. I cannot refer an agent who does not have experience. I look for at least five years in the business as a real estate agent as a starting point.
  • A full-time agent is better than a part-time agent, assuming he or she has experience.
  • Personality. Whenever possible, I try to play matchmaker and connect people who will like each other and work well together.
  • Interests. I look for agents who have hobbies or interests that are similar to those of my clients. Personal interests are often important when choosing a home or neighborhood.
  • Integrity. It comes down to trust. I cannot define or measure it, but I can feel it.

If there are any online reviews, I will read them. But all of the reviews I’ve seen look pretty much the same, and I’m not confident that they portray an accurate picture of an agent’s abilities.

These are some things I don’t take into consideration when recommending an agent:

  • Age.
  • Real estate company.
  • The brand of smartphone they use.
  • What their social media presence is like. Whether they have a solid Pinterest strategy.
  • How many transactions they’ve closed in the last year.

A few months ago, an agent from another market interviewed me. He wanted to send me a referral.

He asked me if I use Dropbox, Evernote and a bunch of other apps. I was able to say “yes.” But millions of people use those apps, and they would not be able to help someone relocate to St. Paul.

The whole interview seemed condescending and the questions mostly irrelevant. The agent wanted to make sure I could work with buyers who are relocating. If he’d asked me what kind of experience I have with out-of-state buyers, I could have told him, and also given him some references.

I want to be rated and graded on my problem-solving ability, negotiation skills, knowledge of the market, and the overall quality of my services.

My business model does not depend on leads from third-party websites or on drip email campaigns. It depends on recommendations from past clients, friends, neighbors, and from people who read my blog.

It isn’t my goal to work with everyone and anyone.

I am confident that in any market, there are several agents who can do a great job for any particular client.

There isn’t any magic number that can help me or help anyone else find the right real estate agent. It would be nice if it were that simple, but it isn’t.

No matter how much information people have, it will always be possible to choose the wrong agent.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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