People are often so focused on what it takes to buy a property the thought of selling it never occurs to them. Home ownership is embedded in New Zealanders' DNA, but most people experience changes in their circumstances that will make them want — or need — to move on.

It's important to take time to think about what you want from the sale.

"Many people find it hard to be objective about their first home, and this can have an impact on decision making when it comes to sale time," says Kevin Lampen-Smith, chief executive of the Real Estate Authority (REA).

"In this situation it can be helpful to look at it as an investment from which you want to get the best possible return."

A good way to start the process is to get an idea of the property's market value, either by using online tools, paying for a registered valuation, or getting a market appraisal (CMA) from a licensed estate agent.

Advertisement

While friends and family make good sounding-boards, you can't beat advice from trained professionals. "More than 90 per cent of residential properties in New Zealand are sold by licensed real estate agents," says Lampen-Smith.

"It's important to choose your agent well. Ask around for recommendations and feel free to 'interview' a few before you make your final decision.

"Don't forget that you can negotiate with them on the costs and the range of the service they will provide.

"You generally pay for what you get, you just need to decide what you want."

Some people rush into selling a property because they're dazzled by the thought of a nice big cheque at the end.

Talk to your bank or lender — you may need to spend money on preparing the property for sale, as well as paying legal fees, marketing and moving expenses.

Talk also to the estate agent before embarking on renovations — they will know what buyers in your area expect. Have you thought about where you'll live when the property is sold?

Could you cope if a buyer wanted a short settlement date?

Lampen-Smith says it's also crucial to remember your obligations.

"Whether you sell with an agent or privately, you must be upfront about any issues or information that could be relevant," he says. "If you're not sure, talk to your lawyer. The best rule of thumb is to imagine yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer.

"Think how you would feel if you discovered the seller had not been entirely truthful.

"If that's not enough motivation, consider that a buyer may have the right to cancel the sale or renegotiate a reduced price if you have misrepresented anything to them.

"They may even be able to take you to court and claim damages."

There's more information online at settled.govt.nz.