Though I am licensed to help people buy and sell real estate state-wide (California), I never would. I know my local area very well, I know the agents, and the common practices for the transactions. Getting out of my area, I lose my competitive advantage, and therefore can't represent my clients as well as they need. When someone comes to me, and needs help out of my area of expertise, I have contacts to refer this person to a qualified professional...someone who will represent these people as I would.
There are plenty of Realtors out there with the SFR (Short Sale Foreclosure Resource) certification, and many advertise their designations. That is a good start, but you need an expert. Finding a "Bank Owned" (foreclosure) specialist is all about track record. I would say that if at least 75% of their business comes from foreclosures, and they have exclusive ties to reputable lenders, you have found a true specialist. Start with a google search, then have a candid conversation asking the right questions. Or, if you have a Realtor that you trust, ask them to refer you to this kind of specialist.
That's going to depend on the market. Consider REO vs. Short Sale vs. equity sale. An REO agent could have a few hundred in a year. An agent only doing equity sales will most likely have less. On average, lower price points will equate to higher number of sales for top producers. Numbers can help you gauge an agent, but you have to put it into context. Today that is much easier by agent reviews and basic online exposure.
Your intuition on this is spot on. This is not right. This is unethical and unsafe for you the client, especially if these are vacant REOs.