Every year in January, real estate firms announce and congratulate their “Top Producers.” Press releases are issued. Articles are posted. Advertisements are placed. Rows of head shots sprout up like marigolds in a planter box.

And every year a client asks me “What exactly is a Top Producer?” (One customer/friend confided that the term brought to her mind the image of a prolific dairy cow. I assured her that daily appointments with a milking machine are not part of my job description.)

Still. To put it simply, Top Producers are the folks who earn the most MOO-la in a year. (Pun intended.) Yet that’s a fairly crude gauge for assessing an agent’s performance.

An agent can provide stellar service (or not) whether she or he sells two or two dozen properties a year. If I harvest a healthy number of sales during the year and/or if a more modest crop of sales hits a relatively high price level, then I’m a top producer. But Top Producer status is only an indicator of the quality of my work.

In other words, the Top Producer designation is meaningful in that it tells you an agent is probably doing something right much of the time. But it doesn’t tell you anything about that agent’s proverbial bedside manner.

If you are “shopping” for an agent, be sure to check references as well as sales data. Look for sincerity and attentiveness as well as razzle-dazzle. Years in the business or neighborhood presence or where an agent fits in their company’s starry firmament shouldn’t be your chief concerns.

Have faith in your intuition! If an agent feels like an ally, they probably will be your ally. If you’d trust them to mind your child or your pet, you can probably count on them to guard your money and property. If you like her or him as a person, you’ll probably like her or him as an agent.

There are as many ways to be a successful real estate agent in San Francisco as there are licensed agents in San Francisco. (Thousands, in case you’re wondering.) Do your homework and find an agent who feels like the right fit for you.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit

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