I am often the agent whom clients choose to represent them after they’ve endured a vexing experience with another broker:

“The agent kept pushing us to write offers on everything, even houses that we didn’t particularly like.”

“He told us to list the house ‘yesterday,’ and instantly dismissed the idea of waiting until spring.”

“She presumed to know exactly what was best for our family, even though it was clear to us that she wasn’t listening to anything we said. ”

When selling or buying real estate in San Francisco, you have to be bold and brave. The stakes are high and the pressure is fierce. It doesn’t help to have an agent whose default is to shout, “Jump!” as you ponder taking the leap.

It’s like a challenging hike I did in Patagonia. After 7 miles of steady elevation gain, rock-scrabbling and stream-fording, we arrived at a place where the trail was broken by a 3-foot chasm. The gap was narrow enough that I could probably jump it no problem. But it was wide enough to stop me as dead in my tracks as a bear-sighting.

If my companion had yelled, “Go!” the hike would have ended right there. Instead, he stopped. We surveyed the gap together and confirmed that it was the only way across. He pointed to where the footing was firmest. He reminded me that I’d made bigger jumps in more harrowing spots on previous hikes. He said, with conviction, that if I didn’t want to continue, he’d happily turn around. And then he hopped across and back to a) demonstrate how easy it was and b) reassure me that he wouldn’t abandon me.

Maybe the comparison isn’t perfect, but the best real estate agents are those who are like good hiking companions. They understand that it’s serious business out in the wilderness. They are with you and they want you to be safe and happy. They are your guide and they are guided by you.

The problem is that real estate opportunities and challenges arise without notice, and people are caught without a Realtor in their circle of professional allies.

With personal liquidity events like divorce or death, having a relationship with a trusted agent makes all the difference. You know that your agent is looking out for you, because your relationship doesn’t depend on this one particular transaction that just happens to be happening when you are at your most vulnerable.

Or there’s the scenario where a renter wanders into an open house and realizes this is his/her dream home. If you don’t already have an agent you know among your contacts, how do you find someone you can trust? You don’t go to the seller’s agent since he, after all, is the seller’s agent! And you don’t look on Yelp, because we all know that numerous good reviews are mainly the result of being good at collecting Yelp reviews. And you don’t go to the Yellow Pages because, well, nobody does that anymore.

Better to get to know an agent ahead of time, just as you would get to know a CPA, a wealth manager, an insurance agent and a primary physician.

Look – for an agent – before you leap.

Cynthia Cummins is a Top Producer and Partner at McGuire. For info on SF real estate visit http://CynthiaCummins.com. This article was re-posted at McGuire.com.