How to Verify a Real Estate Agent (and Why It's Important)

When you’re either buying or selling a home, you quickly become bombarded with real estate agents and brokers wanting your business—but how do you know they’re legit?


Verified.org
Updated 25 January 2022
How to Verify a Real Estate Agent (and Why It's Important)

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Sections on this page
  1. How to Verify a Real Estate License
  2. Verify a Real Estate Agent's Sales History
  3. Verify an Agent Using Client Reviews
  4. Frequently Asked Questions

Verifying a real estate agent isn't just about checking their real estate license and ensuring it's valid. To really ensure you're picking the right agent for your needs, you need to look at their history, sales record, past client reviews, and the types of homes they've sold in the past. 

(Verifying a realtor is just one step to ensuring a safe real estate transaction.)

How to Verify a Real Estate License

Verifying a real estate agent's or broker's license is relatively straightforward. You'll need their license number and name. Most, if not all, agents/brokers will have their real estate license number on their:

  • Business card
  • Website
  • Social media profiles

If you can't find their license number easily, ask them directly for it. If they don't give you their license number for any reason, this is a red flag, and you should find a new agent. 

Once you have their license number, you can search their license online, using a real estate license database like Arello or by checking your state's database (see table below). You'll want to verify that the:

  • License number exists
  • License number is registered to their name
  • License is still valid (i.e., hasn't expired)

You'll also be able to dig a little deeper into the agent's history and find out more information, for example:

  • If they are registered under more than one broker
  • When their real estate license was issued
  • When their license expires
  • The type of license they have
  • Whether the license has restrictions or not

Real Estate Agent/Broker License Lookup by State

State Real Estate License Database
Alabama Alabama Real Estate Commission
Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
Arizona Arizona Department of Real Estate Public Database
Arkansas Arkansas Real Estate Commission
California California Department of Real Estate
Colorado Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies
Connecticut Connecticut eLicense
District of Columbia DC Real Estate Commission
Delaware Delaware License Look-Up
Florida Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation
Georgia Georgia Real Estate Commission
Hawaii Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs
Idaho Idaho Real Estate Commission
Illinois Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation
Indiana Indiana Professional Licensing Agency
Iowa Iowa Professional Licensing
Kansas Kansas Real Estate Commission
Kentucky Kentucky Department of Professional Licensing
Louisiana Louisiana Real Estate Commission
Maine Maine Professional & Financial Regulation
Maryland Maryland Department of Labor
Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
Minnesota Minnesota Commerce Department
Mississippi Mississippi Real Estate Commission
Missouri Missouri Division of Professional Registration
Montana Montana Department of Labor & Industry
Nebraska Nebraska Real Estate Commission
Nevada Nevada Real Estate Division
New Hampshire New Hampshire Online Licensing
New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance
New Mexico New Mexico Regulation & Licensing Department
New York AccessNY Occupational Licensing Management System
North Carolina North Carolina Real Estate Commission
North Dakota North Dakota Real Estate Commission
Ohio Ohio Department of Commerce
Oklahoma Oklahoma Real Estate Commission
Oregon Oregon Real Estate Agency
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Licensing System Verification
Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation
South Carolina South Carolina Real Estate Commission
South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation
Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance
Texas Texas Real Estate Commission
Utah Real Estate Division License Renewal System
Vermont Vermont Office of Professional Regulation
Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
Washington Washington State Department of Licensing
West Virginia Arello Real Estate Licensee Verification Database
Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
Wyoming Wyoming Real Estate Commission

Verify a Real Estate Agent's Sales History

Verifying an agent or broker's sales history sometimes may not be as simple as looking up a license number—there may not be a single database where you can see every home that your potential agent has closed. However, most real estate agents have a website, or their broker has a website that will show past homes that they have sold. 

Find Past Sales on Zillow

Use Zillow's Agent Finder to see the homes that the agent or broker has closed and properties they currently have listed for sale. You'll be able to see a full table of each property and whether the agent represented the buyer or seller (or both). (Note that not all properties may be listed.)

You can also ask the agent to provide you with a list of homes they have closed. Be as specific as possible in your request. For example, you can ask for all homes within your price range that they've sold in the past 12 months. 

Ideally, you'll want to find an agent that has experience with homes:

  • In your area
  • Similar to the one you're selling or looking for
  • In a similar price range

Verify a real estate agent on Zillow
Use a third-party site like Zillow to read client reviews and view the agent's sales history.

Buyer or Seller's Agent?

In addition to looking at the types of homes the agent has closed in the past, look at whether they've predominantly represented buyers or sellers.

  • Buyer's agent: Getting a buyer's agent is the best option if you're buying a house. They are legally bound to help buyers and will help you throughout the entire real estate transaction, from finding homes for sale, recommending mortgage brokers and escrow agents, negotiating offers, and getting the home inspected to ensuring all documents are completed appropriately.
  • Seller's agent (listing agent): A seller's agent represents you when you're selling your property and will negotiate offers with potential buyers on your behalf. They will list your property, organize showings and open houses, and try to get you the best price. 

While real estate agents can generally be either a buyer's or seller's agent, some agents can specialize in one or the other. 

When an Agent Represents Both the Buyer and Seller

In some cases, a single agent can represent both the buyer and seller, known as dual agency. Although this can be beneficial in some ways, you may not be getting the best deal possible as the buyer/seller since you have one agent trying to get the best price for both parties. 

Verify an Agent Using Client Reviews

When verifying a real estate agent, it's also a good idea to look at past client reviews. The agent's website will likely give you biased reviews, so it's best to look at a third-party website like Zillow.

On Zillow, you'll be able to search for agents by:

  • Location
  • Name
  • Specialties
  • Languages

Once you find the agent or broker you're looking for,  you'll be able to see:

  • Their star rating (out of five) based on previous client reviews
  • Their license number
  • The name of their brokerage
  • Contact information
  • The properties they've closed (including the closing price, who they represented, and the date closed)
  • Their listings on Zillow (that are sold, for sale, or for rent)

If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you'll see client reviews where they're rated out of five on their:

  • Local knowledge
  • Process expertise
  • Responsiveness
  • Negotiation skills

Red Flags to Look Out For

When reading client reviews, you'll want to pay close attention to:

  • The overall star rating: You'll obviously want an agent with a rating as close to 5/5 as possible. 
  • Unfavorable reviews: Read through why the client had a negative experience and see if the agent responded. Remember, there are two sides to every story. 
  • Positive reviews: Are their past clients happy with aspects that you're most concerned about? For example, if you want someone who can negotiate a good price for you, you'll want to look for reviews from people who are happy with their negotiation skills.

Request References

For additional peace of mind, you can ask your potential real estate brokers or agents to provide references so you can speak to someone one-on-one about their experience. This works very much like a reference you would give for a job application. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if a real estate agent is legit?

When verifying whether a real estate agent is legit or not, the first thing you should do is look up their license number on your state’s real estate licensing database. Ensure that they have a license and that it’s not expired. 

Do all real estate agents need to be licensed?

Yes, to be a real estate agent in the U.S., you need to be licensed by the specific state that you wish to operate in. Each state has its own requirements. 

What’s the difference between a real estate agent, broker, and realtor?

A real estate agent works for a broker or real estate brokerage firm and has a license to help sell and buy real estate. Brokers are also real estate agents, but they have had extra training and have additional licensing so they can work independently and/or hire real estate agents to work under them. 

Real estate agents and real estate brokers can both be Realtors. A Realtor is licensed by the state as a real estate agent/broker and is also a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

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