Buying or selling a home is no small feat, and it’s one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. That’s why finding Rockford realtors with experience to guide you through the process is key.

There’s no shortage of real estate agents vying for the job via online ads, postcards and yard signs, but with so many professionals to choose from, finding the right one can feel overwhelming.

Follow these tips on how to find a real estate agent to make sure you hire the perfect pro:

Talk to a lender before you hire Rockford realtors. Sometimes home shoppers hire a real estate agent and dive into their home search before they ever talk to a lender. Most experts recommend that you talk to a lender first to learn how much how you can afford.

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will provide you with the maximum amount you can borrow and identify issues that need to be worked on early in the process. This helps you stick to homes in the right price range, and it will show potential Realtors (and sellers) that you’re a serious buyer. In competitive markets, you’ll need a pre-approval letter in order for buyers to consider your offer.

Get referrals from your network. Ask friends and family members if they can recommend a real estate agent with whom they’ve had a good experience. Ideally, you’ll want someone with experience working with clients who are similar to you. The needs of first-time buyers, for example, are different than those of repeat buyers or homeowners who are looking to downsize.

Look for a real estate agent who is a member of Rockford Realtors. That means they’re a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and have formally agreed to abide by the group’s code of ethics. Some Realtors also have certifications to show that they’ve completed training in a certain area of real estate.

Research potential candidates. Start by examining their online presence. Check their websites and active social media accounts they use to promote their listings. Take a look at their online reviews as well. Don’t worry about one or two negative reviews, but more than that could be a red flag.

Check with your state’s real estate regulator to find out whether an agent you’re considering is licensed or has any disciplinary actions. Vet candidates you’re interviewing on your local Better Business Bureau’s website to see if they’ve received any complaints.

Interview at least three real estate agents. This is your opportunity to get a sense of the real estate agent’s style as well as their experience. Ultimately, you’re looking for a Realtor who is familiar with a particular area and understands your budget needs.

“See how polished and professional their proposal is,” says Katherine Hutt, a spokesperson with the Better Business Bureau. “The more effort they put into a presentation for you, the more effort they’ll put into presentations when they’re working for you. You want someone who is really savvy.”