Getting a recommendation from a friend or work colleague is an excellent way to find a good agent, whether you are a buyer or a seller. Be sure to ask if they would use the agent again.
You also can call the managers of reputable real estate firms and ask them for recommendations of agents who have worked in your neighborhood.
A good agent typically works full-time and has several years of experience at minimum.
If you are a buyer, you don't usually pay for your agent's services (in the form of a commission, or percentage of the sales price of the home). All agents in a transaction usually are paid by the seller from the sales proceeds. In many states, this means that your agent legally is acting as a subagent of the seller. But in some states, it's legal for an agent to represent the buyers exclusively in the transaction and be paid a commission by the sellers. You also can hire and pay for your own agent, known as buyer's brokers, whose legal obligation is exclusively to you.
If you are a seller, you should interview at least three agents, all of whom should make a sales presentation including a comparative market analysis of local home prices in your area. The best choice isn't always the agent with the highest asking price for your home. Be sure to evaluate all aspects of the agent's marketing plan and how well you think you can work with the individual.