Would your clients say you have a great attitude? Expertise in the industry? Would they say you are accessible, responsive? Do your skills as a problem-solver stand out from the crowd? And how many of the issues most vital to the people you serve are you appropriately prioritizing?
More importantly, how would your clients say these things?
Analyzing just over 250 recent five-star reviews for real estate agents spread across all 50 states, RISMedia unpacked in granular detail exactly what characteristics people see as most memorable, most important, most powerful and most laudable in the people who help them buy or sell real estate. Examining not only the words and phrases they used, but also the specific context of their experience, some findings will certainly surprise you, while others will reflect information you didn’t even know you knew.
Here are the words, phrases and focuses of clients who really connected with and appreciated their agents or brokers—and the qualities and types of agent they describe.
Unsurprisingly to most, the No. 1 descriptor used in five-star REALTOR® reviews was about their expertise. “Knowledgeable” was the most common adjective (used in close to one-third of all reviews) along with descriptions of someone having “a wealth of knowledge” or “detailed knowledge.” Most reviewers referred to the local housing market, while a lesser number were impressed by their agent’s knowledge of vendors, specific home functions or the buying/selling process.
“Knowledgeable about the market, and the history of homes/areas of town,” wrote one North Dakota buyer. “She also provided invaluable insight into the homes we viewed, pointing out areas of concern as she didn’t just want to ‘sell’ us a home; she wanted us to buy the ‘right’ home!”
The second most common word referred to agents’ attitude. “Professional” or “professionalism” was used to describe 70 agents. This was often one of the first things people described noticing or being impressed by in their agent—at a listing appointment, in an office or with vendors. Most used the adjective broadly to describe their whole experience, but several mentioned that their REALTOR® maintained a professional relationship with the other party of the transaction or in stressful situations.
“We were nervous to purchase a home without seeing it in person first,” wrote one reviewer in Georgia, “but was extremely accommodating and professional, which made us feel comfortable throughout the entire process.”
Coming in third was a descriptor of agents’ accessibility. “Responsive” and “responds” along with descriptions of agents who “responded any time of the day or night” were in almost 50 reviews. For many consumers, the process of buying or selling a home is something they are almost constantly thinking about or working on, and clearly they expect their agent to dedicate the same time and energy.
“I loved her communication style,” wrote one New Mexico reviewer. “Always responding immediately no matter what day or time it was. You get a new understanding of real estate agents or brokers and realize they work 24/7.”
Fourth was highlighting agents’ problem-solving abilities. Describing things as “easy,” issues made “easier” or obstacles that were overcome “with ease” were mentioned 44 times. Consumers clearly understand that a real estate transaction is complicated, and are (at least sometimes) ready to recognize the agents that make the complex things simple and the difficult things effortless. As far as specifics, clients were split pretty closely between focusing on singular, technical parts of a transaction, and lauding agents for generally making the process easy.
“The entire selling process was smooth and easy,” wrote one Maryland reviewer. “She made sure we understood what was happening each step of the way.”
These top-level descriptors reveal what are essentially four distinct qualities that nearly every client expects their agent to have: expertise, the right attitude, accessibility and problem-solving skills. But what if we go deeper? What are the other words and phrases people use to describe the attitude of a good agent? Is empathy or negotiating mentioned more as an element of problem-solving? And what qualities that many assume are impressing clients barely mentioned, or not mentioned at all?
Besides “knowledgeable,” another thing most clients want is for their REALTOR® to answer their questions. This might seem mind-numbingly obvious, but nearly a fifth of reviewers were impressed enough simply by their agent’s appropriate, direct and prompt response to inquiries to mention it in their reviews.
“We had endless questions, but she was unbelievably understanding and responsive,” wrote one Nebraska reviewer. “She is our agent and friend as long as she’ll have us.”
Also mentioned by dozens was “detail-oriented” or “attention to detail.” While it is impossible to expect an agent to know everything about a home or market, clients were clearly impressed that smaller things didn’t get past their agents. Buyers mentioned agents who pointed out otherwise obscure aspects of neighborhoods or homes, while sellers often mentioned that their agent understood the nitty-gritty details of their home and neighborhood.
“Guide” or “guidance” and “advice” or “advisor” also came up a great deal—in about one-seventh of reviews. Many reviewers mentioned that they were grateful that their agent wasn’t “too pushy” and instead was “straightforward” and “down to earth.” This all supports the role of an agent as someone to offer suggestions, but who ultimately works for the client, and allows them to make their own decisions. Reviewers also mentioned many times feeling that their agent empowered them or gave them confidence that they were choosing a path with the best information available.
“She went above and beyond what was expected and even provided us with guidance for navigating our home purchase in another state,” gushed one reviewer in Michigan. “She gave us the confidence we needed during a hectic time. Not all agents are created equal—some are amazing!”
Others (about 30) mentioned “insight” or described conversations with their REALTOR® as “informative” and “elucidating.” This kind of language implies that consumers are distinguishing between substantive knowledge and information, and the kind of flashy showmanship that many critics associate with REALTORS®. Many reviewers described these conversations as “valuable” and emphasized that the information provided was relevant to the current stage of the selling or buying process—relevant as well as substantial.
One notable thing that was almost never directly mentioned in any of the 255 reviews—tech tools or tech savviness. Three reviewers mentioned being impressed by virtual showings and two mentioned drone photography, but there were no mentions of agents who utilized or provided unique or helpful software, or brought laser measures to showings. That does not mean these things are not important, only that they are currently not top of mind for clients when reflecting on what their REALTOR® did well.
While “professional” seems to be the consensus for what kind of attitude clients notice in their favorite agents, that is far from the whole story. Coming in close behind, mentioned in about 20% of reviews are words related to trust: “honest,” “integrity,” “trustworthy” and “truthful.” Consumers appear to be aware that agents have a lot of power, with much more knowledge about the home-buying and -selling process, and they are grateful for those who tell the truth and keep everything above-board.
“I have worked with some pretty low-quality REALTORS®, if that is what you want to call them, that I wouldn’t trust selling a dog house,” wrote one Montana reviewer. “ has renewed my trust in this area again…she will always keep you in the loop and NEVER do anything without first speaking to you.”
Another common descriptor, used in about 35 reviews, was “patient” or references to REALTORS® having a lot of patience. While every agent has had at least one client who has zero appreciation of the work that goes into buying or selling, and demands everything be explained and accomplished on impossible timeframes, many consumers clearly understand that it takes a steady hand and a lot of composure to help someone buy or sell a house.
A majority of the reviewers who lauded their REALTOR® for patience talked about a drawn-out buying process—viewing dozens of homes over the course of months. Nearly all were on the buy side as well—only four reviewers on the sell side mentioned patience.
“She was so attentive and patient with me as I searched for my new home,” wrote one Pennsylvania reviewer. “I didn’t really know the city well and she was informative and helpful every step of the way. While the loan process was a complete nightmare, she made sure I was taken care of and was a good advocate for my wants when communicating with the builder.”
Maybe surprisingly, words that describe an optimistic personality—”positive,” “friendly,” “kind,” “nice” or “sweet”—were only used in about 9% of reviews. While many people described broadly that their agent had the “right” kind of demeanor, simply being a positive person didn’t get nearly as many mentions as other qualities.
Slightly ahead of optimistic were references to perseverance, relentlessness and describing agents as “tireless,” “hardworking” or “persistent.” Unsurprisingly, these descriptors came often on the dual agency or seller’s side, where clients are more likely to see the work that goes into staging, marketing and negotiating. Many reviewers talked about agents available at all times of the day or night, or mentioned their situation was “challenging,” with several out-of-town or overseas sales.
“She works hard for it 24/7,” wrote one California seller. “Midnight paperwork? She is game. Around the clock, she is doing what she can to sell your house. For home sellers, if you don’t like or follow her advice, she will do as you ask, and she will continually calibrate to make what you want work.”
Words that were conspicuously missing from reviews were descriptions of assertiveness, firmness or toughness. While many folks both in and outside of the industry believe that consumers are looking for real estate agents who will represent them aggressively, it was not an aspect that they highlighted in their recommendations. “Passion” showed up in three reviews, while “zealous,” “bold,” and “aggressive” showed up one time each—otherwise, reviewers did not focus on these qualities.
After mentions of the general quality of responsiveness, the next most common descriptors of accessibility focused on timeliness. “Immediately,” “promptly,” “quickly,” “fast” and various other references to expeditiousness showed up in about 18% of reviews. Close to a majority of these were in reference to REALTORS® who answered calls, texts, emails and other inquiries swiftly, while many other reviewers spoke about being able to view a home they saw within hours.
“She showed up to every appointment, responded quickly to every text and gave us some amazing referrals and tips,” said another Montana reviewer. “I truly believe that’s why we just closed on our home. She originally gave us some valuations of our properties…and then sent us our literal dream home via text and set up an appointment immediately! I hope everyone else has the experience we did because it was truly amazing!”
Almost as important as speed was skill, and communication that was proactive. Words like “attentive” and “understanding,” or descriptions of agents as good communicators, showed up in 39 reviews. Ten of these referenced listening, specifically lauding agents who took the time to let them speak and made them feel heard. The majority referred to communication broadly, though several talked about how agents proved themselves as good communicators at initial meetings or listing appointments.
“When we first met, she sat down with me and explained everything in a manner that I understood,” wrote one Massachusetts seller. “There was no pressure from her for me to even sign a contract with her company. She wanted to make sure I understood how the whole process worked and to think about it. After listening to her, she had made me feel so at ease I made up my mind right then and signed the contract.”
With mentions in about 33 reviews, phrases or descriptions like “every step of the way” or “from start to finish” seemed to describe REALTORS® who put in the extra effort to be there for parts of the process that clients might not expect. A few reviewers mentioned agents who showed up for closings, photography, meetings with builders, and being present with other parties and ancillary services. But in-person presence seemed less important than simply being involved and proactively checking in on every portion of the process.
“She kept in contact with us every step of the way, was invaluable during our virtual walkthrough, advocated on our behalf, and went above and beyond to help us find our forever home,” wrote one Tennessee buyer.
In terms of what methods of communication clients referred to, text and email were mentioned roughly equally and in tandem, with reviewers saying they appreciated agents who both picked up the phone right away and kept in touch via text. There were 21 reviewers who said they appreciated that their agent stayed in touch via phone, and 17 who said the same about text. Five mentioned prompt or consistent email communication.
Besides wanting everything to be generally easy (not a surprise), the types of words clients use to describe agents who overcome obstacles and spearhead a buying or selling experience mostly fall along these same lines—people simply want everything to be broadly easy and straightforward, without pointing at any particular process or approach.
“Smooth” or “smoothly” and variations of “stress-free” or references to avoiding or removing stress weighed in with mentions in 40 reviews, about 15% of the total. There was a tacit understanding from reviewers that stress was (almost) inevitable when buying or selling a house, and a strong appreciation when that stress was below their expectations.
When clients mentioned what their agents did that removed stress, they nearly always referred to either communication or a calm attitude. Agents who increased their communication when their clients were stressed, or kept their cool (with reviewers using words like “calm,” “peaceful” and “encouraging”), were seen as exemplary.
“I knew the home-buying process could be overwhelming, stressful and lengthy. In my case, that was true, but thankfully I had an agent who made the experience a lot better for me and my family,” wrote one Wisconsin buyer. “He was always available when I had questions or wanted to view properties. He was patient and understanding in what I was looking for and I never felt pressured during the process.”
One common phrase that appeared an outsized number of times was “above and beyond,” in over 10% of reviews. That description, while vague, seemed to be associated in clients’ minds with unusual situations—purchasing from out of state, complicated loans, issues with new builds and schedules that required agents to be available at odd hours. Many reviewers also mentioned getting more information than they asked for, describing agents who came back with more details on houses or neighborhoods and answered questions in more detail than expected.
“We were house hunting from the other side of the U.S. and he reserved a day for us, sent us information, responded to all texts and phone calls promptly,” wrote a Florida buyer. “When things got a little frustrating (as things do in the market), he was focused, persistent and solution oriented…he easily became part of the family as we searched for our home, and now as a Tampa resident, our first Tampa friend!”
Maybe surprising to some, references to negotiations or negotiation skills showed up in less than 5% of all reviews. Only a handful—seven to be exact—referred to their agent as an “advocate” or thanked them for advocating on their behalf. Again, this does not mean this role or skill is not appreciated by clients, but could mean it is simply not visible to them.
Finally, words that could also be interpreted to describe an agent’s personality—but also their actions in many cases—included ”dedicated,” “thorough” and “efficient.” These showed up in about 9% of reviews. Though these words were used broadly, the theme seemed to be agents who understood their clients’ goals or needs, and independently leveraged their own skills and knowledge to achieve them. Clients talked about agents who spent extra time getting to know them and put extra energy into finding specific amenities for buyers or polishing a fixer-upper for sellers.
Even though these words were not hugely represented in these reviews, clients who spoke about these qualities got into more detail about their experience and seemed to describe a more personal connection with their agents—the kind of connection they really wanted to share with friends and family.
“My fiancé and I really enjoyed working with her to buy our first home. She dedicated 2 hours to our initial consultation, getting to know us and teaching us about the real estate market before we had even signed on with her. She really cares about her clients and finding a great home that really works for them, and not just about making a quick sale,” wrote a Kentucky reviewer. “Would highly recommend to anyone who’s looking to buy or sell a home!”
Editor’s note: Reviews used for this story were gathered from a sampling of Google reviews posted within the last year, and were lightly edited for spelling, grammar and clarity.