The key to success in an agent/client relationship? Take the time to research and interview some real estate agents before choosing the one who’s right for you.

Consider the real estate process: there’s time spent researching neighborhoods, searching for homes that match your budget (and your lifestyle), negotiations on price and repairs, the commitment level of making one of the biggest purchases of your life. Does going it alone sound scarier than entering a haunted house at midnight?

Fear not: homebuying doesn’t have to be. A great real estate agent can help you navigate every step, with advice and connections to make getting to the closing table that much easier. And especially in hot real estate markets like Boston, MA, and San Francisco, CA, experienced agents can help you beat out the competition to buy or sell a home, and even save you money in the process. The trickiest part is finding that trustworthy agent, which is why we polled some of the top agents on Trulia about their top tips to find and choose an agent who will match your personal needs.

Advice from top agents on finding a real estate agent

Consider chemistry

Most importantly, buyers and sellers need to be able to trust their real estate agent. If you feel a personal connection with your agent, you’ve probably found your match. BJ Ray, an agent with The BJ Ray Team at Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty in Boston, MA, believes agents should see their clients as team members. “No transaction is without bumps, hurdles, and obstacles,” says Ray. “It’s important to remember that your own client is part of your team and, when a challenges arises, may also have a much-needed outsider’s perspective.”

Analyze their answers

Your agent will (thankfully!) take the lead and guide you through the process once you’ve signed on, but the initial interview with an agent is your time to take the lead. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions — it’ll help you get a sense of how they’ll handle tough situations down the road, and your agent will most likely appreciate your thorough approach. Anna Kahn, a real estate agent with Halstead Property in New York, NY, suggests using this time to check in on an agent’s dedication. She recommends asking how long an agent has worked in your location, plus: “Is this their full-time occupation, or are they a yoga teacher or struggling actor who sells real estate for a few hours a week? This is a big decision, and the agent should be a full-time, dedicated, and extremely experienced professional.”

Ask how they handle high-stress situations

Fact: The way an agent handles themselves during negotiations can make or break a deal. If you feel that your agent is confident enough to turn down a deal that they believe isn’t in your best interest, that’s a great sign. “A good agent knows how to understand the parties’ needs and how to bring a deal together without getting in the way,” says Amanda Jones, real estate agent with Compass in San Francisco, CA. “I also think that a good agent will help a buyer to walk away when it gets too heated. Sometimes silence is a great negotiation tactic.”

Check those references

While your initial interview with your real estate agent should be thorough, a lot can be inferred from the way their references answer one simple question. John May, a real estate agent with Austin Properties Group in Austin, TX, suggests clients ask references the following question: “Would you be willing to work with that agent on your next home purchase or sale?” If the answer is yes, you’re most likely in the clear. Any hesitation? It’s probably a good idea to ask why and dig a bit deeper to check the agent’s history.

Don’t skip any steps

Remember, your real estate agent will be with you for weeks or even months. “Go to their office and meet with them,” says Kahn. “This is a six-month to sometimes a year or more relationship. You will be in touch many times each day throughout the process. This is a big decision.”

Plus, if you find an agent who ends up being your secret fairy godparent, you can always call on them to help in your next transaction. “If you purchased a home with an agent and felt a connection/fit with that agent, it completely makes sense to call that agent in for a listing appointment,” says Jones.