Firstly, let's be clear. Going to teach overseas, particularly going somewhere with stark cultural differences to your home country, is always going to be a 'roll of the dice' to a certain extent. You need to do your research and choose carefully the people or organisations that are going to be in your corner long after contracts have been signed.
I've had a fair amount of experience with recruiters, both positive and negative (mostly the latter), and I sympathise with those who are keen to just bypass the process completely and go for the direct hire positions. However, if you had the experience I did with New Life, you wouldn't ever consider going it alone again. Good recruiters are rare, but they do exist. You've just found one.
Now, I want to stress that I'm not some fresh-faced graduate straight out of university. I'm a well-qualified linguist. I'm also a skeptic, if not a cynic. My standards are high and I like to give credit when they are met so comprehensively. Believe me, if the opposite was the case, I'd be equally vocal.
Brendan did a great job of tailoring the opportunities he provided to my needs. He didn't try and railroad me down a particular path that was convenient for his workload at the time of my application. This is something you'll develop a sixth sense for when dealing with most other recruiters. Unfortunately, you often have to expect not to be treated as an individual. Let's be frank - in a market as vast as this, you're likely seen as just another warm body with a degree (maybe just a warm body.. maybe just a body, who know?). Not so with New Life. Not in my experience, at least. They listened and applied zero pressure. I honestly got the impression that if they had nothing on their books that they felt was suitable for me as a candidate, they'd have told me so.
They were also able to put me directly in touch with an experienced teacher currently working at the school I am now at, a teacher who was nothing but honest and generous with his time when it came to answering my many questions. This was a teacher who had trod the same path I was about to, not a shill employed to promote the school. All of this I found very encouraging. In hindsight I was right to feel that way.
My accommodation is absolutely fine. Not much more to say. It's not a flat/block owned by the school that all foreign teachers are shoehorned into. It was rented for the purpose, and we (me+girlfriend) had some input into what was being arranged. It's paid for by my employers and is both quiet and spacious. I live less that five minutes walk from my school. My work/life balance and overall quality of life is pretty high in the grand scheme of things.
Our branch principal handles much of our day-to-day needs/requests/queries/confusions. She has been beyond excellent. If all such schools had someone like her at the helm, English teaching would be a lot more popular. Problems, sometimes quite serious ones, were sorted within a matter hours. Pay is never late. Our teaching schedules are generally not messed around with with little or no notice. Perhaps most importantly (for me, anyway), we're allowed to plan our classes off the premises and office hours are absolutely minimal. I'm waiting for some sort of sting in the tail, but it's been many months now, so I can only assume it's not coming.
So, I've no hesitation in recommending New Life. I can't vouch for their work across the board, but I can tell you that my experience has been an overwhelmingly positive one. If we do choose to move on at the end of our contracts, it won't be due to any deficiencies in the school or the recruiters. I can say, however, that New Life will be a likely first port-of-call as and when we next seek employment. If you're in that boat right now, whether just starting out or having been 'around the block' a few times, give these guys a try.
Whoever you go with, I hope you have the best time. Good luck!