When you are working with an agent for the very first time, there are some keys questions you should be asking. You would be surprised how many of my clients through the years simply didn't make these critical enquiries.
If you are a seller looking for an agent to work with you should ask how long they have been with their agency. If they say two month you might enquire why they left their previous agency. If they say "they got rid of me because I was so useless" or "they caught me stealing from show houses" then that is pretty valuable information.
Another way you can establish suitability is by asking how many properties they have sold in your area in the past three months. If they say "well none - but I did sell one last year" then that also tells you a lot. Ask if they have any previous clients you could contact. Why not, after all you are entrusting them with your most valuable asset. Ask how long they have been in the industry - loads of experience creates great agents. Remember we are in a very tough market and you need to work with professionals with good track records.
Now if you are a buyer being taken to see houses by an agent you need to ask the following questions upon arrival at the property. The most important question is "why are they selling?" Just about everything flows from this one. If the agent says "because the ghosts have become quite troubling" or "they have been robbed too many times" or "the shebeen next door is getting quite noisy" then that information will dramatically affect your buying decision.
If they are selling because of emigration or divorce that is also important because it implies they could be far more flexible on pricing. You need to ask how long the sellers have occupied the house. Longevity is often a good indication of owner contentment.
So remember to ask key questions and your selling or buying experience will be all that much better.