The best way to go about purchasing investment properties with friends ... is Not investing with friends - (or family) ... the courts are flooded with "friends and family" property cases.
One of my best friends in the Florida court system used to say: "never trade dollars and never trade keys - this way you'll never see me .."
As for real estate agent, you should interview the agents and ask them questions about investment. Can they calculate Caps, GRM, etc. Do they know where to look for investment property and he or she can gives you plans on how and when you should sell your investment properties?
Having said that my brother in law invested with 10 partners and did very well with a well thought out, compete partnership agreement over 20 years.
Once those items have been figured out...see an attorney (a must) he/she will provide the appropriate documentation and advice to how to establish youâ€™re holding venue. Team up with a "full time" realtor who will work with you over the years and assist you in buying and selling the property. Real estate fees are significant thus interview a few agents who will provide maximum service with reasonable costs. Remember all fees are negotiable. Finally, since this is a business venture get together with a lending broker for loan guidance.
Good luck on your investment, I am sure if planned well it will be very profitable over time.
Buying with friends can be a great way to go! Less cash per person and spreads any downside risk out. It is possible to buy as "tenants in common" without an LLC. I agree with Matt, that any deal you put together between partners should have an agreement reviewed by an attorney though. One downside is the hassle of having to get everyone in the partnership to sign each document. Our company uses web based transaction management which would decrease the hassles of getting everyone together to sign the documents. Each partner would also need to submit a loan ap, income and credit verifications etc.