As an industry observer and previous real estate professional, my perspective has changed somewhat. In the last week, a couple folks contacted me after being referred by previous clients, and I had a hard time giving suggestions about where to find a good representative.
Finding the right agent/broker has some similarities to finding a life partner. There is a perfect match somewhere, and there are some acceptable matches somewhere. But, how do you find that match? You could use the Internet and try to believe everything you read with predictable results. You could do the honey bee method, moving from prospective agent to prospective agent until you are either exhausted or you have found enough nectar to make a decision. You could go to a bar and tell the person next to you that you're looking for a real estate agent. Chances are pretty good that he/she is an agent, or an agent will overhear the conversation and kidnap you. You could ask a friend or relative who represented them and if they would recommend that person. But, given the perennial turnover in this business, there is a good chance that they will recommend someone who is now selling used cars or insurance.
That brings me to a suggestion for referral chasers out there. It may not hurt to prospect among the no-longer-licensed folks who have had at least one transaction prior to pushing the eject button. Not only will they be possible buyers/sellers in the future, but there's a good chance that someone will call and ask them to represent them. They can answer, "I'm selling cars now and can't help you," or they could say that they are no longer in the business but know a well-qualified agent who may be a good match for them. Keep in touch with people who have left the business and you may be surprised at the results.