Choosing a real estate agent is a bit like finding a business partner. You need to be able to trust them with your life — or at least your largest financial asset — and that means going on more than just gut feel that they will be able to do a good job.

When you're selling a property, the agent is working for you. They won't be paid for their work unless they successfully sell your property and receive the commission that you've agreed on in the agency agreement.

Before you sign the agreement, check whether the agent who has listed your property will be the one you will work with or whether a member of their team will be your point of contact.

"Either way, your working relationship with them is defined by the agency agreement that you and the agent signed at the start of this process," says Kevin Lampen-Smith, chief executive of the Real Estate Authority.

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"An agency agreement is a legal contract that sets out, for example, how the agent or agency will market and sell your property, what commission is expected to be paid and for how long you are contracting them for. By signing it, the agent is agreeing to act in your best interest," says Lampen-Smith.

"If you're not happy with your agent's performance to date, it's best to sit down and have a chat with them. Outline your concerns and ask them to explain how they can deal with them. It's far better to endure 10 minutes of potential awkwardness than years of disappointment."

If you are uncomfortable having this conversation directly, Lampen-Smith suggests you discuss your issues with the manager of the agency. If you're still unhappy, your agency agreement will contain information on how you can cancel it. But get advice from your lawyer first.

"If you have a sole agency agreement, you might not be able to cancel the agreement early unless the agency agrees," Lampen-Smith says.

"Make sure to get their agreement in writing. Sole agency agreements give the agency the exclusive right to market and sell your property. If the agency has already done work that helps to sell the property (such as introducing a prospective buyer who subsequently goes on to purchase it), you may still have to pay them a commission. Make sure you check with your new agency about the risk of paying two commissions."

If you have signed a sole agency agreement for a term of more than 90 days, you or the agent can end the agreement after 90 days.

In some agreements, the sole agency agreement becomes a general agency agreement on cancellation. If this is the case, you will also need to cancel the general agency agreement.

Another option is to withdraw your property from the market until the agreement expires.

• Supplied by the Real Estate Authority. See settled.govt.nz