As an investor, my experiece has been that many of Realtors seem to be no better than used car salesmen. All of them have taken the a licensing course which is admittedly a pretty solid course. Most offices require membership as a "Realtor" which is largely an ethics course, but I often wonder how many of them have the fortitude to put ethics over income.
There are however honest repectable agents out there.
Listen to a wise old man....
Take everything a sellers agent tells you with a grain of salt as the many of them will do whatever it takes to maximize thier commission...often without regard as to how thier actions may affect the
buyer or the seller.
Don't "show all your cards". I've had seller agent tell me both what other offers were and how low a seller was willing to go.
If it doesn't seem right it probably isn't. Ask for clarification and/or get it in writing
Don't sign anything you're not comfortable with..
Don't be afraid to put short deadlines on your contracts. Most sellers understand that you need to buy a house and that you can't have your money tied up for weeks. Keep in mind that the nice sellers agent will be searching for someone else to submit an offer and hopefully drive up the price and thier commission.
When the sellers agent try to push you for a decision because "someone else has put in an offer" keep in mind that this is a classic closing tactic. Ask some pointed questions and judge the response. In this market people aren't exactly standing in line to buy a house.,
Always always always have your own buyers agent. Make sure your buyer agent is savvy to the tricks listing agents will use like telling them " not to put the offer in tonight because you'll just get kicked out". Remember listing agents make more money when they don't have to split the commission with another office.
Try to find a buyers agent that likes the challenge more than the money. They'll look in places other than the local MLS. Tell them you'll pay a comission if they fine an appropriate private sale or bank owned property. The comission can be lumped into the selling price.
Remember you don't have to be nice. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Your comission speaks very loudly.
Make sure your agent will be present at all the showings and inspections. If yours is reluctant, find another agent. Your agent is working for YOU. You're paying them a very fat comission to find you a "ready willing and able" buyer at a fair price. Your agent should be at your house SELLING your propery whenver a potential buyer is there. Selling is more than signing the dislcosures and putting the property listing up on a couple of listing sites.
Don't sign anything you're not comfortable with.
Ask for references
Ask the references questions about what kind of problems were encoutered during the transaction.
Ask for regular status updates. Ask who and when.
Get the brokers name and number.
Hope this helps.