Realtors (members of the Realtor trade association) are almost synonymous with the term real estate licensee (holds a government issue real estate license) because the Realtor Association only gives Multiple Listing Service (MLS) access to its Realtor members. It is almost impossible to conduct a real estate brokerage business without the MLS. In other words, almost all practicing licensees are Realtors.
The Realtor Associations throughout the United States have been so thoroughly successful in getting laws passed that favor it's very large corporate members (often to the exclusion of its individual members), that there are now more Realtors than there is business. It is a viscious cycle. The more members the Realtor Association has, the more dues it can collect and the easier they can make it for Realtors to obtain a license to sell real estate. As a result, no matter how skilled a Realtor may be, it is very difficult for Realtors to command enough business to make a living - there are just too many of them.
Being a Realtor in today's market is a harsh business. Commissions are often split four ways in a terribly inefficient system that often results in individual Realtors being under paid despite absurd amounts of commissions being collected. There are few protections for the individual Realtor. Realtors have no minimum wage protections and are considered independent contractors for tax purposes through a special IRS statute. That means that large firms get the benefit of "free" employees whom they can control and often exploit through their supervisory role. Finding a good Realtor is not just about finding a Realtor whom your friends and relatives recommend. It is not just about finding a Realtor who is experienced.
Finding a good Realtor begins with first finding a good SMALL FIRM. It does not matter how good an agent may be, because if they are with a big firm they will not be able to use their skills to help and represent you. Small firms have a smaller chance of exposing you to the situation where they represent both the buyer and seller (dual agency or designated agency). And firms that only represent buyers or sellers, if they exist in your area, are an even better choice.
Once you have located the small firms in your area, then start your search for a highly qualified agent. And when you do, make sure they understand that you will not agree to dual or designated agency. Some agents are also willing to negotiate their fees too...