Agents promote themselves with yard signs, online ads, and even sponsored public benches. So cutting through the hype and finding the right person can be tough. Check out these tips to land the right one for you:

Talk with agents’ recent clients

Ask agents to provide a list of what they have listed and sold in the past year, with contact information. With past clients, “I’d like to know what the asking price was and then what the sales price was,” said William Poorvu, co-author of “The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide to Decision-Making and Investment.” If you’re selling, ask whether the previous properties were similar to yours in price, location, etc.

Check for license and disciplinary actions

The states license and discipline real estate agents. Check with your state’s regulatory body to find out whether an agent you are considering is licensed and or has any disciplinary actions or complaints. That information may be posted online.

Select an agent with the right credentials

Many agents get additional training in particular areas, including ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative) and SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist.) If the agent calls herself a Realtor, that means she is a member of the NAR. “The most important thing you get [by hiring a Realtor] is an agent who formally pledges to support the code of ethics,” said Ron Phipps, a past president of the National Association of Realtors.

Find out how experienced an agent is

A state licensing authority often can tell you how long an agent has been in business. Or, you can ask the agent directly. “If they haven’t been in business five years, they’re learning on you and that’s not good,” said Robert Irwin, author of “Tips & Traps for Negotiating Real Estate.”

Ultimately, what you want is someone who is actively engaged in a particular area and price range.

Look at the agent’s current listings

Check out an agent’s listings online. Places to look include the real estate agency’s website and sites such as, which offer a searchable online database of properties in the multiple listing service.

Most buyers start their search online, and you want an agent who uses that tool effectively. Look at how closely the agent’s listings mirror the property you want to buy or sell.