Selling guide

How to Choose a Real Estate Agent - Selling guide

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 to sell your home?”

This is a crucial decision that can make or lose you tens of thousands of dollars so you need to conduct the selection process with due care. Your home is probably your biggest financial asset so you want to get this right and sell at the optimum price. 

So how do you find the best agent for this important transaction, what skills should they have?

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 going to be the person who thinks most like 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’re going to see a lot of each other but I don’t have to be your best friend, I need to be a professional.”

Some important signs of professionalism as you start interviewing agents include, are they good at:

  • Communication: are they clear and engaged when answering your queries?
  • Being personable: do they make an effort in their interactions? How a real estate agent treats 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. Their networks and database

Does the agent have a well-monitored database of active buyers dying to get into your area, people they can contact the minute you give them the business. “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 Tommy’s Real Estate agent Alice O’Styke.

The best agent will also have excellent relationships with agents in their firm and with competitors who’ll bring their buyers to properties.

3. Their sales track record in your area

An agent may have a good brand presence in your suburb but what’s their sales record actually like? Check out how many properties they’ve sold, and how much these homes went for. How did they respond when a home was harder to sell? Do they have experience of tougher selling markets? Ideally, you’ll be looking at agents who’ve sold properties similar to yours and have buyers waiting in the wings...

Attend open homes in your area to spot agent talent

A great way to begin your search is by attending open homes in the area to get a look at different agents and to see how they operate. Emma Duncan from Anne Duncan Real Estate in Mt Albert suggests looking on Trade Me and seeing who’s selling a lot in your area. Pick five agents and attend their open homes and see how they present themselves, she says. Do they make call backs afterwards –and not every agent does–how do they measure up on this? Do they have a team or are they working on their own and fronting all the open homes themselves? 

Open homes are a good opportunity to see the energy and passion of an agent, says Emma. “You want to choose someone who’s going to stand in the home and make buyers feel comfortable and welcome,” she explains. Agents create that experience of how you feel in a home, it’s an important part of what they do, says Emma. As well as calling after the open home, 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 clear 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 drawn up a shortlist 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 a minimum of two agents 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 bust, 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:

  • Can I see your sales track record?
  • Are you licensed?
  • 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 you know my neighbourhood and how would you describe it to buyers?
  • What are the schools and transport links in the area?
  • How many markets do you cover?
  • Yes, I see you have brought local market reports, how are they relevant for my home?
  • What were the average days on market (DOM)  for your recent sales?
  • How would you describe my home to buyers? What are its best features?
  • Is there anything you’d advise to substantially add value prior to a sale?
  • How will you use digital media to market my home?
  • Will you use social media to promote my home?
  • How have you handled challenges like a sale falling through or receiving fewer bids than expected?
  • What costs should I anticipate (such as commission, marketing costs and other fees)?

We’d also highly recommend checking agents’ references, checking reviews, past clients and looking at their social media presence. Also ask if you can talk to homeowners they’re currently selling homes for.

“These can be very revealing,” says Harcourts’ Erin Rush. It may emerge the vendor hasn’t heard from the agent much or their sale has been relegated to someone more junior which is 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

Any agent will be able to talk you through the various methods of sale from auction, by negotiation, deadline sale, tender and asking price. Methods of sale can vary depending on the state of the market. Ask them how many they have sold by the various options and how well they’ve 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. Ask them if their fees vary depending on the method of sale.

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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