Historically speaking fraud has been rampant in Real Estate, thus the statute of frauds in 1677 and the deliberately inefficient system of property recordation that arose over the centuries. It will never go away, there is fraud wherever there is money. As to honesty, that is a matter of character. Most agents I deal with are more honest than the run of the mill, some are not. And word gets around. As to ethics, the NAR has a wonderful code of ethics that is not enforced, again it is a matter of individual character and there is a spectrum that ranges from extremely ethical behaviour to truely sociopathic behaviour. I had a conversation with an agent from a different brokerage the other day and we agreed there were no really bad apples in Sebastopol, it’s too small a town to hide who you are. He mentioned that he could name a few names, I brought one up and he laughed. Why don’t I mention the names of agents or brokerages with a bad reputation? Because the rule against bad mouthing another agent or brokerage IS enforced, drastically. If I had incontrovertible proof of really bad behaviour I am supposed to bring it before the local ethics committee, if I made public charges I would be disciplined no matter whether the charges were accurate or not. If an agent says ” I am not entirely comfortable dealing with so and so”, pay attention. Agents do share their experiences with each other when trust is established, and word does get around. A good reputation takes years to establish and can be destroyed in one day.