A North Shore real estate agent sent cold-calling condolences to a grieving widow - then offered to sell her house.

Tip Spooner, licensee of Milford's Prestige Real Estate International, breached the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 by engaging in unsatisfactory conduct, a watchdog has ruled.

Ms Spooner is the first agent to be judged under a new Government system that has taken over the regulatory functions of the Real Estate Institute and the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board.

Jo Hughson, chairwoman of a complaints assessment committee - part of the new Real Estate Agents Authority - said the condolence card had with it a property summary report with the rating valuations, title and ownership details of the widow's Castor Bay property.

Janet McDougall, the widow's daughter and a property manager with Harcourts real estate at Mangawhai Heads, complained, saying her mother was very disturbed and the family - who asked that their mother not be named - were deeply hurt.

The complaint was laid with Prestige's branch manager. Prestige was asked to ensure Ms Spooner was made aware of the concerns and that no further contact be made.

Ms Spooner apologised "wholeheartedly" to the complainant and her family for any distress caused.

The committee said Ms Spooner said in her defence that she had no history of complaints and had a well-earned reputation among her clients, customers and peers as an honest, reliable and caring saleswoman.

She provided nine written references in her support.

She told the committee she was unhappy the complainant had taken the story to the media.

Ms Spooner said she was "named and judged" without being able to respond personally or publicly.

The widow's neighbour had "apparently suggested to Spooner on two occasions that she offer her services because she [the neighbour] believed [the widow] would not be able to cope with her property and its grounds on her own and might have to move", the committee's decision said.

Ms Spooner's actions had fallen short of the standard expected by the public.

She had broken the law in sending the condolence card to the complainant's recently bereaved mother, and that amounted to the unsolicited canvassing of property and real estate agency work.

The agent had caused significant distress to a widow and her family at a time of great sadness.

Ms Spooner was not fined but the committee censured her.

Janet McDougall said agents who cruised death notices and acted on that information should be censured.

Her mother had been in her home for 35 years, and had no previous contact with Prestige or any of its staff.

"My mother wanted it to be known that this is unacceptable behaviour, and that's what we wanted recognised," she said.

"We certainly were not out there looking for a fine.

"No one should have an agent accosting them like this."

What she wrote:

"Dear X,

I am so sorry to hear of your sad loss from some of your caring neighbours. If at any time in the future you would like to discuss your options or just ask for advice regarding your property and the market please don't hesitate to call me. Tip"

Source: Complaints Assessment Committee, Real Estate Agents Authority