Selling a home is a big life decision, financially and emotionally, which is why finding a licensed real estate agent you feel comfortable with is so important.

"You're looking for the person who you're going to trust to sell what's likely to be your biggest asset," says Kevin Lampen-Smith, chief executive of the Real Estate Authority.

"The trick is to find the one best for your situation.

"If you're going to get the best out of your real estate agent you need to put the work in before you sign with anyone. Base your decision on more than gut feel or the fact that their office was easy to park outside," he says.

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You need someone who understands what it takes to sell a property like yours and a proven track record. And if you don't find them pleasant to deal with, buyers may not enjoy the experience either. If you're not sure how to get the ball rolling, ask the agent these questions:

• How are sales in this area and who is buying?
• Do you work independently or with other agents?
• What kind of advertising or marketing do you use — and what will work for my property?
• What extra marketing costs will I have to pay?
• What are your commission rates?
• Are you open to negotiation?
• Do you have testimonials or references from people whose properties you have sold?
• What do you recommend I do to prepare my home for sale?
• Why should I hire you?

This helps you form a picture of the agent's experience, knowledge and how they structure their business.

"These days you'd expect an agent's marketing plan to have an online focus. Find out what the plan will cost and ask them to explain their rationale," says Lampen-Smith.

Check your agent out on the Real Estate Authority's online public register, which will tell you if they hold a current licence.

If you deal with an unlicensed person the REA will be unable to help you if things go wrong.

• settled.govt.nzvt.nz