Many prospective home buyers, especially first-time buyers, enter into the real estate market with the preconceived notion that it's going to be an amazing experience with a great realtor agent who's going to find them the perfect home. However, in reality, great agents don't just appear; you need to research and interview before you can be assured your realtor is going to, not only work well for you, but with you.
In order to have the best experience and great results from buying a new home, you really need to find a realtor that you can work with effectively and efficiently. No matter what your friends and family tell you about their own experiences with their agent, you need to choose someone whose personality and communication style works well with yours.
Now, this isn't to say that you shouldn't ask your friends and family about their agents. Just don't hire the first realtor that your sibling suggests to you without an interview. Gathering a collection of referrals from people you know will give you a good basis to start with.
The next thing that you'll need to do is find out if any of the realtors on your list have specialties in line with what you're looking for in a home. For example, some agents may specialize in second homes or foreclosures and it can be advantageous to work with someone who's experienced with that type of housing. Others may have additional certifications or designations that require advanced education through significant classroom time and/or demonstration of success by meeting high standards of sales volume or transactions, etc. Most agents who hold additional accreditations beyond their license will happily provide a resume or personal biography if asked.
The next thing that you need to do once you've tailored your list, is take the time to interview your top choices. Get to know them. A realtor can look perfect on paper, but if you have conflicting personalities, working together on a home purchase might not work for either of you. Make sure you communicate openly so your expectations can be met and disappointment can be avoided. If you prefer correspondence by email, then make sure that is conveyed; if you prefer only to communicate by phone, make sure they can work within that request as well.
A new home purchase involves one of the largest financial investments most people experience in their lifetime. No matter what the market looks like, the search for your new home can be a great adventure or a trying experience. Make sure you have the right person on your team before you start!