Selling guide

What to look for when choosing a real estate agent

It's all about asking the right questions when it comes to choosing the right agent for you.

“How do you choose a real estate agent?”. This is a question you’ll likely find yourself asking if you’re looking to sell a home in New Zealand, especially if this is your first sale.

It’s crucial you take the time to find the right agent – your home is probably your biggest financial asset so you want to get the best deal possible. 

So how do you find a good real estate agent? Let’s explore what to look out for, and the questions you should be asking.

How to choose a real estate agent: what to look for

1.They need to be professional

The best real estate agent isn’t necessarily the person who thinks most similarly to you. You want your agent to be able to relate to a wide range of buyers, not just you and your family.

As Harcourt’s agent Erin Rush puts it: “We are going to see a lot of each other but I don’t have to be your best friend, I need to be a professional.”

Good gauges of professionalism in the early stages of choosing a real estate agent include:

  • Communication: are they prompt, clear and engaged when answering your queries and arranging meetings?
  • Personability: do they make an effort in meetings? How a real estate agent interacts with people will impact buyers’ perceptions of your property and enjoyment of viewings.
  • Punctuality: are they showing up to meetings (virtual or otherwise) on time? If not, might they treat buyers equally poorly?

You need a professional real estate agent who you can trust to get the best deal.

2. They need to be well connected

You’ll want to know your agent has a healthy database of buyers dying to get into your area who they can contact immediately. The best agent will also have an excellent relationship with agents in their office, and with competitors who’ll bring their buyers to properties.

“You want to know your agent is excellent at relating to buyers, that they provide them with all the relevant information to make due diligence really easy for them,” says Ray White’s Alice O’Styke.

3. They need a track record

Professional histories should be among the most important guiding factors in choosing your real estate agent. Anyone can talk a good game, but do they have the selling record to back it up?

Check out how many properties they’ve sold, and how much these homes went for. Ideally, you’ll be looking at agents who’ve sold properties similar to yours, and produced great results for previous clients.

Finding an agent top tip: do some secret shopping

A great way to begin your search is by attending open homes in the area run by different agents. Don’t tell them you’re hoping to sell your home soon, say that you’re in the early stages of looking to buy.

By doing this, you’ll not only get an idea of how the agent talks to prospective buyers in person, but also whether (and how) they follow up after the open home is finished. Do you receive any messages of thanks for attending? Does the agent keep you in the loop about the property you saw? If they don’t hear from you, do they give you notifications about similar homes coming onto the market?

All of this will give you a pretty firm idea of the level of effort and engagement you could expect from each agent, if you chose them to represent your property.

Doing some mystery shopping will help you find an agent who goes above and beyond for buyers.

Good questions to ask real estate agents when selling your home

Once you’ve narrowed down your pool of preferred agents, it’s time for some meetings. Jennifer Temm Munns, an agent with Unlimited Potential (UP) Herne Bay, says it’s important to interview two agents minimum who are active in your area.

At the first meeting they’ll provide you with an appraisal of the property, based on how much homes have been selling for in the area, normally as a range from low to high.

“Don’t be swayed by the agent who tells you they can sell your home for the most money,” she warns.

An agent who can explain to buyers anything that might come up in the building or LIM report and can manage that process, and who has seen a number of different markets, from booming to depressed, will be the one who can offer real value, she adds.

Your first meeting with a prospective agent should resemble a job interview. You want to know what their track record is, and also get an idea of how they’d approach selling your home.

Good interview questions to start with:

  • Are you a member of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ)?
  • Can I see your sales track record?
  • How have your listings done in the last 6 months?
  • Have you sold any homes in my area recently? If not, have you been following recent sales and can you explain why homes sold for the prices they did?
  • How well do they know my neighbourhood and how would you describe it to buyers?
  • How many markets do you cover?
  • Yes, I see you have brought local market reports, how are they relevant for my home?
  • What was the average days on market (DOM) record for your recent listings?
  • How would you describe my home to buyers? What are its best features?
  • What could I do to substantially add value prior to a sale?
  • How will you use digital media to market my home?
  • How do you handle challenges, such as a sale falling through or receiving fewer bids than expected?
  • What costs will I incur (such as commission, marketing costs and other fees)?

We’d also highly recommend checking agents’ references, i.e. their past and current clients. Ask if you can talk to homeowners who they’re currently selling homes for and find out what they’re like to work with.

“These can be very revealing,” says Ms Rush. It may emerge the vendor hasn’t heard from the agent much or their sale has been relegated to someone more junior. All useful information. Find out from the beginning who in their office will be helping with the marketing of your home, who will be at the open homes, who will be taking buyers through.

Browse our Agent Directory to find local real estate agents operating in your area.

Treat your first meeting with the agent like a job interview, and have some questions prepared.

Methods of selling

A service-oriented agent will be able to talk you through the various methods of sale from auction, by negotiation, deadline sale, tender and asking price. Ask them how many they have sold by the various options and how well they performed.

A good agent will ask the vendor what their preference of sale is and they may give their recommendation based on the market, style and price range of the house.

Check your agent’s record

The Real Estate Authority recommends that vendors visit its public register to check that their licensed agents have no complaints (upheld) against them in the last three years.

Click here to view the REA public register.


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