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What to Look For in a Realtor®: Must-Know Tips from Local Agent Steven Cozza

Buying a home isn’t a small purchase, and self-guided house shopping typically isn’t your best bet. While you can spend time searching on MLS databases or visiting open houses, it’s not the most effective way to find your new home. 

In fact, a DIY approach to homebuying often works against you.

Instead, hiring a qualified Realtor® or real estate agent is key to finding your ideal house and successfully closing on it. 

But how do you find the right agent? 

We recently sat down with Steven Cozza, local Sonoma County Realtor® with the Cozza Team, to learn more about what to consider and what the client-agent relationship looks like. Here are his expert insights.

SOMO Village: What role does a Realtor® play in the homebuying process? 

Realtor handing keys to a clientSteven Cozza: Ultimately, a Realtor’s job is to help you find the right home in the right place at the right price.

I hear a lot of people asking what the secret is to buying a home right now, how they can find off-market listings, and how they can get the inside track.

And yet people are sometimes hesitant to work with a realtor to buy a home. 

There’s often a misconception that hiring a realtor when buying a house means having to pay them a big commission. 

So, rather than working with a Realtor, they go out and cruise through open houses looking for the right place for them.

But there are a few pitfalls with this: 

  • In the homebuying equation, the buyer doesn’t pay commissions to realtors—the sellers are responsible for that. So, it doesn’t actually cost you any fees to buy a home.
  • The Realtor® holding an open house has a fiduciary responsibility towards the seller—they represent the seller and can’t represent the buyer as well. It is technically legal in California, but it’s not ideal and has ended up in lawsuits before. 
  • You’re inconveniencing yourself by spending time at all these open houses. It’s a poor use of time because you can’t possibly see or know everything available on the market. 

So, buyers really benefit from hiring a Realtor®. 

Because the seller has an agent with fiduciary responsibility towards them, you also need your own agent with a responsibility towards you. Plus, your agent can put in the work to see everything available on the market that aligns with your interests and goals. 

What are key things to look for in a Realtor®? 

Two professionals shaking handsThe most important thing you can do is find a Realtor® or agent that you trust and has a good reputation. Here are some things to look out for:


You want someone who works as a Realtor® for their full-time job—they’re committed to it. If they’re full-time, this is their only source of income, so they don’t want to mess it up! You can feel confident that they’re all in—they’re going to work hard to be successful. 

Local Knowledge

It’s essential to work with someone who knows the local area you want to buy in well. This is the only way to have access to great deals or opportunities. Agents make relationships in the area that are helpful to get the real deal about what’s happening in the area.   

Even if your friend refers an agent in another area, you don’t want to necessarily use them—find someone local instead. You can ask the person you know to refer you to a local agent, so they will actually get a 25% referral fee, too.

Google Reviews

Check out what others have to say about the agent via online Google reviews. Some agents don’t have an online presence or reviews page, which I don’t think is a great sign. A good agent won’t be afraid of the potential of bad reviews and they will want to share what people are saying about them. 

References and Referrals

You can also ask for references from past clients and talk to them directly about their experience with the agent. This is a great way to gauge the realtor’s reputation in the community. 


Another area to look at is the support they have through the brokerage they work for. This is important because it tells you if they work alone or with a team. While it’s not bad to work alone, agents with teams may be able to help you out more. 

The brokerage is also important to look at because it speaks to their network and what’s available. I work under Compass, which has the largest market share in the area and helps us more easily connect buyers and sellers from this big pool. 

You can also see if your Realtor® has any guarantees. For example, we have a guarantee for buyers that if in the first year of owning a home they don’t like it, we’ll sell it for free. They have to repurchase by using us again, but we’ll sell at no cost to them. 

This is because we’re not in the business of pressuring people to buy stuff—if it takes a few years to help you find the home you want, so be it. We want our clients to get what they want with no pressure on them. 

Is there anything that’s not important to consider? 

I would say don’t be too afraid of an agent who’s new—we all have to start somewhere. But you should make sure that they’re committed. They’ve got to be all-in. If they’re working on the side somewhere else, that’s going to be a drawback to you as their client. 

You can still look at their track record and see how many homes they’ve sold. You can also inquire about how many buyers they’re working with, as there’s a potential conflict of interest if they’re representing a ton of buyers in the same area. 

Most importantly, you want to be excited to work with someone and trust them through the process.

What should buyers know about the client-Realtor® relationship?

I always say that you need to show your Realtor® that you’re committed to them because then they will be committed to you! As agents, we only have so much time and energy to spend, so we want to work with buyers who are committed and serious in the process. 

You want the agent to know you’re not just going to trade them in for someone else if you go to an open house or something. Instead, stick with them and they’ll work hard for you. And this all goes back to trusting them and doing the work to choose a good Realtor®. 

If you want to learn more about Steven’s work, visit his website at or contact his team directly. You can also check out their comprehensive first-time homebuyer webinar and learn details about getting into the real estate market. 

Learn more about Sonoma County’s best presale homebuying opportunity. 

If you’d like to learn about presale homes in Sonoma County, download our project brief to find out why SOMO Village might be the perfect community for you. 

Steven Cozza, realtor in Sonoma CountyAbout Steven Cozza 

Steven spent nearly a decade racing bikes professionally in Europe. As a former elite professional cyclist, Steven has the mental stamina, tenacity and brilliance to make the buying and selling process an attainable reality for his clients. Steven excels in the local market with buyers and sellers and surpasses the yearly sales average of Sonoma and Marin County Realtors. Native to the area, he is a valuable resource. With his never-give-up attitude paired with the Compass go-above-and-beyond standards, Steven gives his clients 120% of his efforts. From urban condos to countryside estates, Steven treats each property with premium marketing services and a precisely focused strategy.

Clients have shared that they chose Steven to help with their real estate needs because of his real estate knowledge, cutting-edge marketing strategies, his passion to give back to the community, and most of all, his genuine character.

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