Selecting an agent is like picking a business partner

You can only sell your house once; so the pressure to get the best price by hiring the right agent can feel immense. The trick is to take the selection process slowly and not rush into signing up an agency before you are confident they are the right one for you.

Kevin Lampen-Smith, CEO of government agency the Real Estate Authority, says in addition to doing research and asking the agent lots of questions, sellers should trust their instincts when choosing an agent. Consider getting recommendations from friends, family and work colleagues.

“If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, perhaps consider choosing someone else,” he says. “Speaking to more than one agent or agency is also a good idea as they may have different marketing packages or commission rates to offer you – it can pay to shop around.”

Before an agent can ask you to sign a contract of engagement they have to provide prospective clients with a written appraisal of the property to be sold. The appraisal must be provided in writing,  reflect current market conditions, and be supported by comparable information on sales of similar properties. You don’t have to agree with their appraisal, but one has to be provided.

Lampen-Smith also says some agents are known for selling certain types of real estate; so pick one with the right experience.

“It is good to find someone that has experience in selling the sort of property you have, for example apartments or a lifestyle block, etc.”

The vendor-agent relationship can fall into one of two areas – strictly business or personal relationship.

“Choosing the type of relationship you want with your real estate agent is down to personal preference,” says Lampen-Smith. “Some sellers want a more friendly, personal relationship, others feel it is important to have a business relationship.”

While it’s all fine to be friendly; don’t be swayed by the friendship when making decisions about your home.

However, if the relationship turns sour you may be able to work with a different agent without breaking the contract you have signed.


“Your agreement will usually be with an agency, rather than a particular individual agent,” says Lampen-Smith. “If you feel like you’ve chosen the wrong agent to sell your house, you can ask to work with another agent from the agency.”

You’d do this by letting the agent know and speaking with the agency manager.

“Sole agency agreements can only be broken by agreement between the vendor and the agency, so it shouldn’t be assumed that it can be broken,” says Lampen-Smith.

“Thinking about this in advance might mean that an agency agreement for a shorter period of time is entered into. The 90-day default term for residential agency agreements isn’t mandatory and a vendor should select a term that suits their circumstances.

“Even without breaking an agency agreement, a vendor could ask the agency to stop actively marketing the property until the end date of the contract. This does, however, mean you are not necessarily free to list with another agent or agency until the  agreement ends and may expose you to the risk of owing more than one commission.”

Some vendors have been caught out when swapping agencies and find they have to pay sales commission to both agencies when a buyer is introduced to the property by the first one but buys via the second.

The issue of commission is always a hot topic with plenty of sellers not seeing the value a good agent can offer.

Lampen-Smith says: “Many of the conditions in agency agreements can be negotiated. Some agencies offer fixed fees, but other commission arrangements are negotiable.

“Before signing an agency agreement, it’s wise to seek legal advice so you clearly understand what you are agreeing to. If a special agreement is reached in regard to commission or any other fees that may be paid to the agency, this should be included (in writing) in the agency agreement to avoid any confusion or disputes arising.”

Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a specialist freelance writer covering all aspects of real estate.

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a specialist freelance writer covering all aspects of real estate.

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