We trust them most with our most valuable assets, placing our hopes and dreams in their hands.
But can you really trust that friendly, smiling real estate agent who puts those "just sold" flyers in the letter box, encouraging you to call them for a no-obligation appraisal?
Two state organisations - the Real Estate Agents Authority and the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal - are kept busy, investigating then hearing cases against agents, many who later appeal against decisions.
This new system began in 2009 after the Real Estate Institute and Real Estate Agents Licensing Board, working under outdated law and low penalties of $750, were found to be failing.
So who are New Zealand's worst real estate agents? We asked the authority to supply us with the most serious cases but chief executive Kevin Lampen-Smith emphasised the results should be kept in perspective.
"The majority of property transactions happen without any issues and only a small percentage of agents have been found to have breached the rules - approximately 2 per cent. However if they do breach the rules we take this very seriously and there will be consequences," he said.
One senior investigator says by far the worst case was The Professionals' Patrick William Walker, who stole more than $160,000 from elderly Edith South of Reefton. He was banned from the sector, found guilty of "flagrant and dishonest breach of his obligations".
He and Mrs South became close after her husband died in 2000 when she was 71 and he got power of attorney when she suffered a stroke a year later.
Even some top agents working in the big smoke take tumbles. High-flying Bayleys agent Margaret Adams, known as "Million-dollar Marnie", was fined the largest amount, $15,000 in total. She also had her licence suspended in February after admitting she listed and sold a Mission Bay mansion without disclosing she had helped to buy it.
Agents/ agencies with multiple ratings against them
David Randall, Century 21, Christchurch - five rulings, more than any other agent.
* Did not communicate with the vendors or provide the property information.
* Failed to inform the complainant that an offer submitted by him was one of a number of multiple offers.
* Did not engage with the complainant and did not present the complainant's offer to the vendor.
* Misled the complainant by telling her and her solicitor that the property was still on the market when it had already been sold.
* Failed to submit to his client all written offers for a sale and engaged in a course of conduct which did not fairly represent the property.
Debbie Lovegrove, /Lovegrove Realty, trading as The Professionals Manurewa: three rulings, second highest with three rulings:
* Breached the vendor's privacy and security by using photos of a property without permission.
* Sought to excluded prospective buyers from using a specific company for pre-purchase building inspection reports.
* Did not have a listing agreement before showing a property to buyers and did not complete a written appraisal of the property.
Mark Ferguson, principal, Mark Ferguson Real Estate trading as Ray White Taranaki.
* Did not act in the client's best interests by asking them to sign a document authorising early deposit release, not advising them of the implications of doing that or that he would be taking his commission at the same time while denying them the opportunity to seek legal advice.
* Got the complainant to sign a listing agreement when they were not the property owner, claimed commission based on an invalid listing agreement.
Struck-off agents: licences cancelled
Patrick Walker, The Professionals.
Obtained a cheque from the Reefton complainant under the false pretence he would use the money to buy a property for her but instead used the widow's money for his own benefit, while holding power of attorney.
Sofia Khan, Ray White Goodwin Realty, Auckland.
Sold the vendor's property to her nephew without revealing that fact and created evidence of deposits and money in bank accounts to deceive the lender into believing the buyer had sufficient money for a deposit.
Delawer Hoosain Kumandan, Harcourts Howick.
Forged a signature on a settlement notice to show that a sale had taken place when it had not.
Longest imposed periods of suspension
Lindsay James Dodd who once worked at Harveys and L.J. Hooker, Christchurch.
Forgery of the signature and initials on bank loan documents and loan application form, suspended 12 months.
David Randall, Century 21, Christchurch.
Failed to submit all written offers and did not fairly represent the property, suspended nine months.
Ying He, Queen Street Realty, Auckland.
Advertised eight apartments for sale without the owner's authorisation, suspended six months.
Margaret (Marnie) Adams, Bayleys Real Estate, Auckland.
Wilful and reckless contravention of rules of professional conduct and client care by acquiring an interest in a property belonging to clients who she was acting for, without telling them or getting their consent, suspended six months.
Shane Ross, Pelorus Real Estate, Wellington.
Wilfully retained part of a deposit incorrectly paid into his personal bank account with the effect that only part of it was paid to the agency's trust account. Suspended three months.
Top fines against agents
Margaret (Marnie) Adams, Bayleys Real Estate, Auckland: Fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $5000 costs to the Real Estate Agents Authority (see case above).
David Randall, Century 21, Christchurch: fined $7500 (see case above).
Andrea Quin, Tauranga: Fined $7000. Misrepresented a property boundary and failed to provide information about an accessway.
Valma Oliver, MH Realty, division of Bayleys Real Estate, Whangamata: fined $5000. Put a vendor at risk of paying two commissions by assuming the sole agent would co-operate in sharing commissions.
Ailsa Greenwood, Dianne Quinn Real Estate, Paihia: Fined $5000. Allowed the refund of a deposit paid by a buyer without the vendor's agreement, knowing there would be an objection by the vendor.
Agents ordered to pay biggest compensation/costs to victims
Andrea Quin, Re/Max Tauranga: $40,000 (see case above).
Agent's name suppressed, $25,000 for not disclosing potentially leaky building.
Simone Du Bernard-Ripa, Premium Albany, Country Life Real Estate: $7251.85. Placed undue pressure on vendor to sign agreement.
Maryke van Iersel, Waiheke First National, $5343. Did not disclose cellphone antennas were to be erected on buildings across the road from a property a complainant was negotiating to buy.
Oceana Maree Clarke, Re/Max Latitude 36, Albany: $5000. Sending an offensive email saying "I will sort her out ... [she] has no reason to be sitting there smug ... she'll only be setting herself ... up for a huge let down. I know how the Asians work!"
Full cases and penalties can be searched by entering the agents' names into www.reaa.govt.nz, under the complaint decisions section.By Anne Gibson @Anne Gibson Email Anne