A recent article on Bankrate.com offered home buyers and sellers help picking the best real estate agent for them — something that, according to Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, in Washington, D.C., isn’t so easy.

“We don’t have the information that we have about other service professionals,” Brobeck said in “7 tips for picking a great real estate agent,” by Dana Dratch.

Here is what Dratch and others recommended buyers and sellers do to choose a great real estate agent:

Talk to recent clients.
Ask for a list of homes the agent has sold in their last year, including information to contact clients, Ron Phipps, past president of the National Association of Realtors suggested. Buyers should find out what the asking prices and selling prices were. Sellers should ask if any of the homes were similar to theirs in price and location, among other things. Last, inquire about time on the market.

Look up the licensing.
Phipps suggested checking your state’s board to make sure the prospective agent is licensed and to check for any disciplinary complaints against them.

Pick a winner.
Pick an award-winning agent. “One that really means something is the “Realtor of the Year” designation awarded by the state or local branch of NAR,” Dratch wrote.

Select an agent with the right credentials.
Some real estate agents are certified in a particular specialty, which signifies they’ve had additional training beyond licensing.  An agent with CRS, for example, specializes in residential sales. A “Realtor” is a real estate agent who, as a member of NAR, “formerly pledges to support the code of ethics,” according to Phipps.

Research how long the agent has been in business. Once again, utilize your state’s licensing division to find out how long the agent has been in business. Or, you can just ask the agent outright.

Look at their current listings.
Good places to start are the agent’s website and sites like Realtor.com, Brobeck noted. Determine if the agent’s listings are similar to the property you want to buy or sell and are in the same geographical area and price range.

Ask about other houses for sale nearby.
Irwin suggested mentioning a house in your area that sold recently or is currently for sale.

“If the agent knows the property and can give you a few details, that means he or she really knows your area,” he said.