The process of home buying. How did you go about finding, inspecting, financing, etc? I spend a lot of time messing around on Zillow and stuff, but I've never spoken to a realtor or anything.
I've bought three homes over the years. Realtor-wise, this is how it worked out:
1. Our first home in Fort Worth. We used a friend who was also a realtor. Unfortunately she was pretty new at it, so while she did everything correctly, she wasn't a very good adviser. I'd give her a C+. (After we settled, she mentioned that there were some things she learned during the process that could have saved us money if she'd known them earlier.)
2. Our home in Dearborn, MI. We lucked out and found a realtor that both really knew his stuff and didn't try to oversell to us. He bought his first rental property when he was 18 with money from his paper route. His primary income was originally rental property and he learned enough through buying and selling to go into real estate as well. He was a wealth of knowledge, both in terms of the little details of real estate transactions, and in terms of the neighborhood we were looking.... he knew streets and homes like the back of his hand. And like I said, even though we qualified for much more mortgage than we were comfortable with, he didn't push more house on us than we wanted. The only "up-sell" he did was that he steered us to a more desirable, and slightly more expensive (which he disclosed up front) neighborhood which really paid off when we sold that house. Almost 20 years since we sold that house and he still sends us a calendar here in Texas to keep in touch, just in case we ever move back.
3. Our second home in Fort Worth. Our old friend that was just starting out the first time had left the business, but referred us to another realtor she had worked with. The result, actually, was similar to the first home we bought: The transaction was processed okay, but we really didn't get the quality of advice we did from our Dearborn realtor.
So realtor-wise, I think the thing to do is to maybe go through word of mouth, and maybe go to some open houses. Get to know some realtors and see if you can find one who listens to you and does not rush you. Be wary of newer agents just starting out. Talk to a prospective agent about what you want in a house (everything, from the kind of location you want, how important schools are to you, whether you like new or old, how long you intend to keep the house, how you'll be financing it). Listen to their advice and see where they're leading you. If you feel a realtor is steering you to what he or she wants to sell versus what you want to buy, walk away and find another realtor. But if they have an uncanny knack of showing you homes that you really like, then you know you're good.