How to pick the right real estate agent

Suzanne Winterflood
How to pick the right real estate agent

Home of your dreams or the stuff of nightmares? Choosing the right real estate agent can make all the difference.

Real estate agents: they help us make the biggest purchase of our lives, and yet many of us simply don’t trust them.

The Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Polls show that New Zealanders rate real estate agents at the bottom end of the scale, alongside car salespeople and politicians.

This is probably not a true reflection of the agents themselves, but rather an inevitable by-product of the high stakes, high pressure environment in which they operate.

Last year, a UK survey found that many people think buying or selling a property is more stressful than going through a divorce or becoming a parent for the first time.

Colleen Milne, CEO of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, agrees that the process can be overwhelming. “Especially when you consider the amount of paperwork and preparation involved with these transactions.” Not to mention the money, or the cutthroat competition in a hot property market.

Which is why selecting the right agent can make all the difference.

SEE ALSO: The greatest misconception in real estate?


Do your research

Have a look at what kinds of real estate the agents are selling. Check out their websites, TradeMe and

Do they sell a lot of properties in your area? Are some of those homes similar to the one you want to buy or sell? Compare sale prices, local property trends and values on


Ask for recommendations

Aucklanders, if not all New Zealanders, just love talking about property. So while you’re on the subject, ask your friends and acquaintances to recommend an estate agent. Find out how the agent helped them and what they achieved.


Check that the agent is licensed

“Vendors and purchasers are better protected when they go through a licensed real estate professional,” explains Colleen.

“Under the Real Estate Agents Act 2008, licensed real estate professionals must comply with strict requirements and professional standards. If problems do arise with a licensed agent, they can be fined or ordered to pay compensation.”

She also points out that REINZ members are bound by a strict code of ethics.

“They’re expected to develop and enhance the real estate industry by providing excellent customer care, and upholding standards of practice that are open, ethical, and honest.”


Buying? Remember who the agent works for.

Real estate agents want to make a sale, so will try to broker a satisfactory agreement between the vendor and prospective purchaser. But remember who’s boss.

“The real estate agent always works for the seller, not for you,” The Real Estate Agents Authority website advises buyers.

“Agents are required by law to treat buyers fairly, but no matter how friendly and helpful they are, be aware that they are working on behalf of the seller who will pay their commission when the property sells.”


Selling? Audition agents.

When listings are low and prices are high, agents will be even more motivated to sign you up.

Meet with your short list of candidates and show them around your home. Consider your chemistry; it’s important that you feel you can trust them.

Weigh their recommendations on price, selling method, any changes you should make to your home to make it more marketable, advertising and timeframe.  

Choose the agent who feels like they’re the best fit for you.


Where to get more advice

The Real Estate Agents Authority is the independent government agency that regulates the New Zealand real estate industry. The REAA website has expert tips on buying and selling, as well as guidelines for agents. has a resource section packed with advice, including the comprehensive Residential Buyers and Sellers Guides. 

SEE ALSO: The greatest misconception in real estate?


House Hunting?

Westpac has handy tips, info and mortgage calculators to help:


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