A lot of the above answers have truth to them - although you should interview multiple Realtors, a good referral (someone who KNOWS you and LIKES you) from a friend who is boasting an EXCELLENT experience is worth more than a "high rating"
Ratings are great and they can give you an independent opinion of someone's work. Unfortunately, all reviews and ratings aren't always true or informative.
As Joe noted, you should feel immediately comfortable with the person you are hiring. Buying or Selling a home takes a little while and you are putting your trust in and spending time with this person. The relationship and communication you have with your Realtor is an investment - that will hopefully work out well for both of you in the end.
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You've gotten lots of good answers and I'm sure your head is probably swimming. In my opinion, both are important considerations. Just make sure that whatever criteria is being used for the "highly rated" as well as why your friend is recommending a particular person (not just because it's a family member, etc.) make sense to you. You have to have confidence in whomever you choose to represent your best interests. :)
There are websites that people can rate Realtors, but I don't think they are particularly accurate.
If I were you, maybe you can hold a series of interviews with some people who reply on here to your question AND the referral from your friend so you can see whom you have the best level of comfort with.
Buying a home is a very personal experience and you want to connect closely with your Realtor. Take a few moments and conduct a thorough search of a few agents locally who are well-connected, in tune with your community of choice and timely with reply. Also, check our profile pages and past answers and see whom you think may be a good fit.
If you want more info or need help, feel free to let me know. We're in Plymouth :)
I would strongly recomend that you interview your good friends referral. I would also suggest that you select another Realtor to interview who specializes in working with buyers such as an Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR), link below for more information. In the end, you'll want a Realtor on your side who has the experience and knowledge to negoiate the best price and terms for your new home. Good Luck!
I would tend to recommend you interview the agent your friend recommend. A "highly rated Realtor" could be anyone. If they work with foreclosure listings they may be highly rated but they don't tend to work with buyers. Whoever you choose you should be comfortable with and able to build a rapport with. This is one of the biggest financial decisions you'll make and you need to be comfortable with the agent your working with.
Karen Paytas, GRI, CMS
Real Living Kee Realty
Your friend made a recommendation based on a need you expressed. You may have actually asked your friend for a recommendation. Your choice is to dismiss your friend or respect your friend.
Highly rated? More data needed.
Maureen basically confirmed my thoughts. What does 'Highly Rated" mean ? The Realtor with the most listings is not necessarily the best. So, do your due diligence and interview your friends Realtor and another 2 other Realtors. You are looking for a Buyers Agent who will take the time to listen to your needs. You can access my web site below to look at homes in Canton currently on the market. Thanks. Happy House Hunting , Steve