There are ways to size up an agent’s record — and potential. Check out these seven ways to find a great real estate agent, whether you’re buying or selling a home.

Real-estate agents promote themselves with yard signs, online ads, direct-mail postcards and even sponsored public benches. So cutting through the advertising hype and finding the right agent can be tough.

“We don’t have the information (about real-estate agents) that we have about other service professionals,” says Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America.

Still, there are ways to size up an agent’s record — and potential. Check out these seven ways to find a great real-estate agent, whether you’re buying or selling a home.

1. Talk with agents’ recent clients

Ask agents to provide a list of what they’ve 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,” says William Poorvu, adjunct professor emeritus at Harvard Business School and 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 and other key features, Poorvu says. You want someone who specializes in what you’re selling.

Another good question for sellers to ask: How long were the homes on the market?

2. Check for license and disciplinary actions

The states license and discipline real-estate agents. Check with the Washington state Department of Licensing to find out whether an agent you’re considering is licensed or has any disciplinary actions or complaints.

3. Ask about professional awards

Peer-given awards count, says Ron Phipps, a past president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). One that really means something is “Realtor of the Year,” which is awarded by the state or local branch of the NAR.

“These agents are the best as judged by their peers,” Phipps says. “That’s a huge endorsement.”

4. Select an agent with the right credentials

Doctors have specialties, and so do real-estate agents, many of whom get additional training in particular areas. The alphabet soup after an agent’s name can indicate that the agent has taken classes in a certain area of real-estate sales. Some of the designations include:

• CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): Completed additional training in handling residential real estate.

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