David Chaston sells a house for a relative and details his experience. What did he do right, what wrong? How would you have gone about it?

David Chaston sells a house for a relative and details his experience. What did he do right, what wrong? How would you have gone about it?

Recently I needed to sell a house for a relative who moved into rest home care.

The process was a new one for me.

This is how I did it. Readers should feel free to critique my process and experience. I will learn for the next time.

Do we need an agent?

Firstly, we looked at just listing it on Trade Me Property. The direct costs would be minimal.

But then we realised we would face some issues.

Firstly, we actually needed to come up with a listing price, or guidance range, and the only data we actually had was the Auckland Council CV.

We did check out 'priors' online, but we had a sense that the market was moving quite quickly, quite recently.

Next we would need to show it. The property is on Waiheke Island and the obligation to be available for showing would unstitch previous arrangements of mine and the other family members who were helping.

And we didn't know how to present the property. Should we empty it, or add some 'staging elements', or just leave it as-is. At the time, these seemed hard questions to answer.

So we decided to use a real estate agent.

But who?

Selecting an agent

I made a simple selection on a 'beauty contest' basis. One with the flashiest office in Oneroa, and one who seemed to have many listings based on a pamphlet you can pick up on the ferry. Both of these are franchises, one international (Ray White) and one national (Bayleys). We also added a very local-only office, Waiheke Real Estate, who had basic offices in town and basic branding and pamphlets.

Step one was to phone them and meet the agent who responded on a Sunday. Pot-luck. This was a rapid-fire affair; each showed up on time with a presentation pack. One even came with a 'personalised' bottle of olive oil.

Each only took 20 minutes to make their initial pitch and leave their paperwork.

Each was very professional. The presentation packs spoke of their 'marketing program' options and comparatives. They each suggested a listing price.

Overall there was not much to distinguish them, except that Waiheke Real Estate were the only ones to provide the REAA brochures. However one paragraph in their presentation particularly impressed me. It said "At the end of the day if a person wants to have a generous sea view, flat ridge top with useable gardens, quick access to both beaches and the ferry, there will be no other answers in this price range." To me that directly showed me they already knew how they would make our unremarkable property stand out with buyers.

So, to assess them on a fair and even basis, over the next week I sent them seven questions:

In no particular order I asked ...

1. Sales method proposed:
2. Expected selling price range:
3. Commission $ cost for the valuation at the bottom of that range. Please add any Admin fees or other such costs, if any.
4. Period of sole agency required (days):
5. Value of marketing spend by Agent (by item - included in the commission)
6. Cost of the necessary and/or recommended marketing spend for us (itemised):
7. What the property rent would be per week on a permanent basis if the property was not sold.

We agreed to meet with each the following Sunday. This time (and not by my request) each said they would show up with their 'sales manager'.

Two of us met each group and I mentioned to my sister that I wanted to ask a question that might put each on the spot. I wanted to see how they handled the pressure of a 'negotiation,' although I know it was a question they probably often get asked by many boomer-males-who-think-they-know-everything.

The Ray White team showed up first, agent and principal. They recommended using an auction, and suggested a listing price +27% above Council valuation.

The presentation pack was very professional, but at the time I didn't notice any standout aspects. This team suggested a substantial marketing cost budget they would 'invest', plus a smaller amount we as sellers would need to contribute.

Their commission was 4% for the first $500,000, and 2.5% for any price above that. Plus a $500 admin fee. Plus GST. In our case, that 15% would be a lot.

I then countered saying that if the market was not Waiheke Island, this is a house that would struggle to reach $500,000 and I suggested in that case they would still be keen to sell it and would do it professionally. That being the case, my counterproposal was that they sell it for a $20,000 flat fee, including GST.

The Ray White principal batted me back with a strong riposte. We were apparently getting one of the finest sales teams in the Auckland region and the benefits of that made the standard commission worth it. We would be the beneficiary of that, he assured me.

The second team was from Bayleys; the sales consultant plus their well-known and respected sales manager.

Their proposal was as flash as their earlier rival. They proposed a sales process 'by negotiation, with an indicative price +34% above Council valuation.

They proposed an equally generous marketing commitment, but with no requirement for us to spend matching amounts. The claim of their reach to international buyers (especially though NZ Herald ads) impressed me.

Their commission requirement was the same as for Ray White.

On the commission challenge they took a different approach. After some quick consultation they came back with a flat 2.5% over the whole price, plus GST. That was actually an unexpected outcome; I wasn't expecting them to budge either.

The third team was from Waiheke Real Estate.

They were less slick. Unlike the others, they both showed up in more modest cars. They had a more laid-back conversation style, almost laconic.

Their proposal did not have the presentation quality of the others but like the others they had answered each question fully.

And they made another tiny offering which I thought was as savvy as the micro-market observation in their first presentation. This time they had a photocopy of a map of every property in our micro-market, with each property coloured to present one which had been sold by the sales consultant, and those which had been sold by his manager. It was impressive - although it did cover many years. Still, they clearly knew the area very well.

Their marketing proposal was for an 'offers above" process (mock tender?) and they said they would like to list it at 41% above Council valuation.

They proposed to spend a modest amount on promotion; websites and their own brochure, plus a local ad in the Island papers.

Their commission basis was 3.95% up to $350,000 and 2% thereafter. No Admin fee. After the challenge they agreed quite readily to 2% flat, plus GST. I was very impressed with how easily that was revised.

Later that afternoon, we decided to offer the role to the Waiheke Real Estate team.

No agent had suggested making any tarting up before showing. It seemed it would sell 'as-is' just fine.

The sales process

After papers were signed, they got to work. It was formally listed on a Thursday.

I was due to walk the Milford Track on the Sunday, leaving for Queenstown on Saturday morning. I wondered if there would be any action while I was away, but was to be completely uncontactable until the following Friday.

However, before I left, I did receive a phone offer from another consultant at Waiheke Real Estate - for the listed price, no conditions. Heck, that put me on the spot. However I had committed to consult other family members before agreeing anything and they were not contactable before I left for my trip.

After that thrilling week away, I returned to an anxious salesperson, plus another offer also for list price. Impressively, neither agent knew of the other's offer even though they were from the same office. They handled this aspect with a very straight bat.

Two of us agreed to meet the agents on the Sunday to review their offers, but as both offers were essentially the same, I emailed both with this fact, suggesting they re-contacted their buyers.

On the day, we had three offers (after only about 10 days). It seemed too fast. Our choices were to accept one now, or wait for an even higher price.

We decided that as the listing price was way above our initial expectations anyway, and the goal was to sell, we would sell on the Sunday.

One offer was presented unchanged at the asking price, closing quickly with no conditions (other than due diligence).

The second offer was revised $500 higher than the asking price, also with no conditions and quick closing (and standard due diligence).

The third offer was for $2,000 above the asking price, no conditions and a much longer closing time, well into mid July.

The closing time did not concern us. Not only did we need a little extra time to clear the house, we as a family enjoy visiting the property with its fantastic views. But the house needs a lot done to it to bring it up to date.

We accepted the third offer. (The buyer was a local.)

This was an easy, respectful process, handled professionally by everyone involved. In theory we undoubtedly paid more in commission than if we had listed it ourselves just on Trade Me Property,. but frankly, we would have listed it there for only about +20% over Council valuation. I went with the agent's recommendation suspecting it was pitched far too high for this house. But I was wrong.

OK. Now tell me what we could have improved on.

And, yes I know, in a strong rising market 'anyone' could sell this house, basic as it may be. But I still think the agent provided reasonable value - and very good service.

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David you did exactly the right thing 100% - I have had many dealings over the last 20 years with Waiheke Real Estate and they have always been exceptional.

The WRE team are so well connected, they know the market inside out and proves you do not need flash real estate offices and glossy brochures to get an amazing result. Looks like they got you top dollar!
Good to hear that you were not influenced by all the gloss and the flash (leased?) cars of the competitors from Ray White and Bayleys.

Ray White charging 4% on the first $500,000 is the highest commission rate I have ever heard of - robbery! I guess they need to charge high to fund the flash premises and they probably have an 8% fee to pay to the Ray White franchise group - a cost you would have had to bear, but with an experienced independent agency like WRE there is no franchise fee.

27% and 34% above CV quoted by Bayleys and Ray White versus 41% by WRE - looks like you would have left plenty of money on the table had you chosen Bayleys or Ray White!

I hope you gave the WRE team a glowing written reference and have told them about this item.

One question though - did you consider Mike Pero Real Estate with their 2.95% fee?

..the commission process is a crock. Ask yourself how much could you sell a house for without an agent, say on trade me? Thus if you use an agent, the commission paid is on that amount that 'might' be over an above trademe. So if he can get you $50k more, you might be paying 50% equivalent commisison - not 2.5% or whatever (but of course home owner happy as $25 k is $25k)

They should receive no commission on the first 80 - 90% of the sale price..the commission should be at the top end..

I take my hat off that this industry has managed convince house sellers that it serves any purpose. Brilliant skills in this area... but few elsewhere. Sums up the gullability of ppty persons i guess.

My initial assessment before I met any agents (and after looking at 'priors' online) was that this property would sell for +20% above Council valuation. I also talked to neighbours. Perhaps with more research I might have tried +30% above Council valuation if we listed it on Trade Me.

In the end, going with this agent's recommendation, after paying his commission, my relative has ended up $79,500 better off than if I had pushed ahead with a Trade Me Property listing at +30% over CV. Mind you, this is only applicable to our unique situation in this unique micro-market. Others might be better off via TMP.

...yes i get it. My point was more generic. That being, how this iindustry has continued to fool the public they are neccesary. So many businesses are being wiped out by the 'net', yet this, which is a prime candidiate continues. Maybe it's a reflection on the likes of trademe...perhaps they should throw some decent cash at this market...promote themselves, decent video views, downloadable legal docs and so on....It wil happen, but it's sure taking a while.

We had an interest in purchasing a house in Orewa where we knew the person who had power of attorney over the estate and also the owners. We had 1st offer based on values presented to the POA person by several RE cos. There was one we were not presented with by the POA guy, the others were about 50-80K more than we thought the property was worth. We chased up privately the missing valuation and the agent in question confirmed a lower price in the order of 75K and just laughed when we told him what his competitors said the property was worth. "They just want the listing" he said.
We walked away, the house went to auction and the best (conditional in the end - after the auction) offer was just under the missing valuation. The POA guy then re-offered the house to us at the missing valuation price.

The message I took from this is when selling your home don't blindly go with the agent that tells you the highest price. Also in my eyes that most agents are lower than whale manure.

David , as you noted the agents are jumping over one another for listings.A large amount of the available listings are multi agency. Sections are scarce , anything with an existing home that is flat or has a view on waiheke are scarcer than hens teeth. All up there are only 120 properties for sale , about 15 percent of what was available 4 years prior. Count the number of agencies and the agents, I believe you could have cut the commission further and possibly obtained a higher price. All said the best part of 1 million sums up the situation, without any hot money from various parts of the globe. Your relative will enjoy caviar and champagne baths for many years

Congrats on doing the milford, plenty more tracks down there just as good, dont be a stranger make sure you go back and explore
hope you met many people from all over the world while doing it, that is the best part meeting some really interesting people with interesting adventures from all over the world

Thanks. It was brilliant. In the past I have also done the Routeburn, the Kepler, and the Rees-Dart, all fantastic in their own way. Done others in the SI too, like the Heaphy. And you are right; most folks you meet on these tracks are not Kiwis, which is a bit of a shame.

They are all a truly amazing experience.

This time, for the first time, the forests were alive with birds. And that is all due to DOC's combo strategy with trapping and 1080. On all those other tramps, over the past five or so years, I have never heard or seen birds like in these Milford valleys. And apparently it is a very recent thing. It was like being on Tiritiri Matangi.

I know 1080 is controversial. But it is making a huge difference. Introducing the predators was a cataclysmic mistake. Sadly, getting rid of them to regenerate the local fauna unfortunately needs an equally strong response. It is lucky we have it. All power to DOC for withstanding the pressures.

If I recall correctly I think we pay agents in NZ about twice the commission they ask for in the UK. I have dealt with literally hundreds of them while working as a professional and what struck me was the fact that they were generally uneducated people (from a tertiary point of view) who often were failures in other working careers. And to think that many of them earn more than medical doctors and specialists who train hard and work hard to keep us well and alive. You entrust them with a key, you pay for them to advertise your home, in Auckland it pretty well sells itself currently as in other key areas of New Zealand and they give you back the key with a big bill to be paid. How hard is that? Is it worth being paid more than 95 to 99% of other earners in NZ?

You say that REAs are often failures in other careers. Are you sure about that? For ex, I know an ex-carpenter in Northland who's doing well, yet he probably only spent about 7-8 years on the hammer. I also know another REA, an ex-DJ and record store manager, who is doing extremely well in Auckland (won't give too much away about his identity). Furthermore, a colleague I went to school with is trained as a lawyer and sells real estate for a living. I'm aware of another lawyer in the Ponsonby area selling real estate.

I have worked as a professional in Asia and currently working as a strategy consultant for MNCs and large-scale companies in South East Asia. I'm not on salary, and if I don't sell, I don't get paid. To be in this position, you cannot be a paycheck-to-paycheck kind of person. That is quite similar to REAs and they have my respect.

You are in a minority JC. The majority of New Zealanders do not trust or respect agents. They are a necessary evil for many. My nephew in Auckland who currently has a complaint in with the REINZ Complaints Authority could tell you a few stories. Commission is in the agents favour as they do not gain much for obtaining the last few thousand or so. I would love a dollar for each time I heard the words, "I will get your client the property for that price." And the vendor is paying them a commission for that kind of service.

Sure I'm sure that there more that a few unprofessional REAs. However, considering that the industry is a national obsession, I'm sure that emotion is a key driver of negative perception of REAs.

Far more than a few. Have a look at the number of complaints the RE Complaints Authority receives and the decisions it makes. When you attach commissions to house sales you certainly attract bad behaviour.

Exactly real estate agents are immoral and servants to mammon and banks only - manipulating price hype to Vendors and their interest (hence their existence value) privy/control negotiations through persuasive language and media turning a basic need into a speculative asset, causing price to be out of whack with the real wage economy. Central Government must fund/increase housing supply in key employment areas and remove the unnecessary and exorbitant middle man cost.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST - when ones lively hoods reliant on commission :(

Yes one of the biggest improvements to making a better sale is to reduce the Real Estate Agents commission when its a Sellers market and there's a limited number of property listings as there was in your case for that area.

Though I'm still shocked with just how much the Real Estate Agents charge here in NZ. I sold my UK house a while back for 1% commission including marketing and I got 6 offers with the first open home. So it sold very quickly above the asking price. If the market here continues to get more restrictive i.e less properties on the Auckland market you can expect Real Estate Agents to get more competitive so it pays to strongly negotiate with them and let them know that you're going for quotes from other Agents.

Though on a personal note; I would opt for a private sale and not bother with Real Estate Agents and just make sure it's listed on TradeMe as all potential buyers look there. That would save you thousands and you could pass some of the saved benefit on to the sale price which would attract more offers and probably better offers.

Selling privately is a mugs game and very dangerous as well.
Much as you may dislike paying commission the average person is not trained to negotiate, prepare the paper work or close the deal. Likewise many potential buyers have no idea how to make and offer, what their rights and obligations are and how to read any information that may be available. Having a "middle-man" to close a deal, write up the agreement correctly, deal with legal issues, communicate with the lawyers in a professional manner, arrange inspections, make appointments, and deal with any sitting tenants etc is not for amateurs.
And then there are auctions. Running an auction is illegal for someone else for starters.
And while you are at it, how do you handle a deposit if someone does make an offer? Most buyers would strongly resist handing over the cash without proper safeguards
Selling privately sounds like a good money making idea, but be assured that only trained negotiators (i.e. real estate agents ) can and should be used for the job.
The only other alternative is getting your lawyer to handle the job, or an independent financial advisor but their fees will be just as hefty.
In summary if you are going to do a job do it right, do it legally and remember what's at stake,


As a buyer also be careful around being misled or deceived by the seller. When buying through a RE company you are covered by a lot of legislation including Fair Trading Act, Real Estate Act etc. If you are misled or deceived (leaky home etc) by a real estate company you can sue for damages, if you buy privately you are on your own! Doesn't mean you shouldn't consider private sales, just be careful and ensure you do your due diligence.

That's why you should always get a builders report before purchasing a property - especially for NZ considering the generally shoddy build quality. Again I wouldn't even consider buying a property without checking over the build to make sure it is structurally sound.

And I'm still amazed that a lot of banks will provide a mortgage without a builders report considering NZ track record of leaky homes.

Re BigDaddy: Spoken like a true Estate Agent. And I do think your suggestion of selling privately is mugs game and very dangerous is absurd, and only and Estate Agent would make such a silly statement!

Having bought and sold - all the legal side should be left to a good Solicitor, I would never in a million years let and Real Estate Agent handle anything else other than the sales form which is a fairly basic document and should be looked over by a Solicitor before signing.

As for the Auction side of things, it is possible to hire a an Auctioneer to stage an private on site auction, I have seen these taking place quite successfully. Plus you don't have to sell at Auction to achieve a good property price.

I am NOT a real estate agent.
Think before you rush into print.
It may be a new experience.

Only too reasons to use an agent. Getting the price right. Your time in hustling about.
Even then, can you be sure agents are getting the price right, especially in a heated market.
Interesting abut the 2.5% percent commission. Maybe insiders know this, but it needs to be known widely.
Thanks for this DC. (and such good news about the bird song.)

ever considered using the e-valuation service from QV.co.nz or getting a professional appraiser to do an appraisal? I suspect that the appraisal cost even when added to the trade me listing fee would have been lower than the agent's fees.

E valuer is so out of whack it's more than useless.

There is one area you have all missed that has left a big hole in the Estates pocket.
All buyers offered the asking price initially. that tells me that even the highest appraisal was short by a margin. The guys who were talking Auction may well have paid handsomely for there additional commission.

I know what you are saying and it is likely somewhat right but it wasn't an 'asking price' but 'offers above'. What this piece has shown me is that 'offers above' is most likely synonymous with 'asking price'. I guess it could be construed as minimum price, don't bother offering less.
This piece also confirms for me and it has generally been my experience that if you want a place just offer the asking price. I have often been disappointed when I thought I would be clever and come in a bit low. Once I scorned all friends and lawyers advice and just offered what they wanted and it was a good experience.

Auctions seem to be most useful to the agent, not the seller. A device to lock up the seller, and then at the end apply the usual manipulations and demand decisions that must be made 'now'

Declaring first my involvement in the trade(and University qualified),I enjoyed your comments David,but moreso Munes in regards to the obligations these days through the REAA and Fair Trading Act etc.My biggest concern at the moment however where I`m from is the P contaminated homes coming back on the market after Agencys are disclosing this and buyers are walking and now these homes appear on Trademe and my kids are telling me there friends are looking at these homes and nothings being mentioned.Commisions are one part of the service and deal these days of the protection sellers and buyers need in this new world

Do your own diligence check. I am a cynic.May cost, but the benefits will outweigh other outcomes.

Sold the fathers house this time last year when he went into a rest home. The market was so hot I had a number of potential buyers before it was even advertised. Decided to sell it myself and put it over to a solicitor that specialises in property our family have used in the past. Saved about $27K in agency fees as they wanted to auction. Didn't need to advertise it, SOLD for $80K over the CV and they got a good deal.

Last house we bought was initially advertised privately. After viewings and discussions, it was difficult to negotiate. Waited til the house was listed with an agent. Was then able to negotiate, make offers, and gained concessions helped by the agent. So in most cases, such a large purchase, charged with emotion, needs a 3rd party.

Good job on interviewing the agents. We sold privately about 2 years ago. Had an agents idea of the price and a family friend who was an agent for further advice. Listed on trademe, sourced our own signage (cheap!). We undoubtedly took longer to sell but sold for the maximum that any agent said they could get. Saved us about 20k. Saying that, a lot of the buyers were suspicious of private sales and felt there must be something to hide - I kind of saw it as a trust an agent and put your head in the sand mentality. Very odd!

Bigdaddy is on the button with the number of things that can go wrong. Going private , the legal pros are very happy to pick up the pieces ,something that isn't in the Reaa stats. Sure there are some useless agents just like other professions. If you think you have saved by not using a agent then you haven't considered that maybe you haven't taken in the cost of undervaluing your property,

Got given a valuation on the property and what it sold for privately + the fees that the agency would have charged put it at the top end of the valuation. Yes you can get into trouble but it also depends on what your selling, an older brick and tile home built before the leaky home era in North Shores most expensive suburb in the golden triangle of the school zoning in a hot market is not a hard sell. Have found it harder to sell a car.

Well done MiniMe, good call. Yes one day the Real Estate Agents here will have to get more competitive and lower their commission rates. I do think charging on average $20k + to sell a house is a rip off!

And I have noticed more private sales being listed over the last few months since there has been a bit of a downturn in the Auckland market since October last year. Obviously people have realised that it's better to save their selling costs, rather than to push for unrealistic prices in an over heated market.

A lot of people complain about the high commission rates but the market should theoretically sort that out. Sellers are not flocking to an agency that offers lower rates and there was that new Real Estate company that started a few years ago offering low rates that didn't last very long. Now that house prices have risen so high is there another opportunity for someone to give it a go?
Commission rates possibly contribute to price inflation more than you would expect as buyers expect the house price to inflate in the first year to cover the commission.

Hey Zach I've decided to sell one of my rentals. CV around $1.6m DGZ and on a quiet street. Who do you recommend I use to sell above the CV? Thanks in advance.

I tend to be very conservative and loyal and I have always used the local Barfoot & Thompson. What I would do now is manage the marketing a lot more actively. By that I mean sit down with the agent and tell him what things to emphasise. For instance if it had its own driveway really push that feature or if it has Body Corp push the fact that it has maintenance funds in the bank that a buyer inherits and that the fee covers insurance. I wouldn't pay for extra marketing but I would stage the property.

Would you recommend a funny video clip like some of the agents do to maximise the marketing impact?

I don't think I would recommend it as it seems like trying too hard but that may just be me. I don't recall having ever viewed one.

Sounds revolting.

What I find a lot more interesting: how was the Milford track? Can we see photos?

In this market it is hard to do a lot wrong. Interesting how it is clear from the onset of your tale that you would opt for no-nonsense Waiheke Real Estate. I am sure it would have made no difference if you had taken any other agent, but dont we all love the underdog.

What's depressing is that the majority happily pay these amounts to have a RE agent involved for a few weeks while they wouldn't dream of paying a similar amount to have a decent designer do a decent job of designing their house over a few years. Construction projects are the biggest capital spend they ever make yet they choose designers based on whose willing to do the cheapest job with the least thought (whereas they'll spend a huge premium on a car because it's had some thought put into its design).

Whenever I want to buy a house most are so badly designed (for sun, so furniture fits, for liveability) that the amount of money required to reconfigure them makes it a waste of time.

Also how long did you have to book ahead to get on the Milford? - or was it out of season?

I went with my daughter; she did the booking in October for a March trip.

did you do doc huts or ultimate hikes?
doc huts book out very early so you have to go way ahead. i was doing the routeburn and greenstone about the same time and heard from some fellow hikers that had just come off the milford that they got caught in bad rain and doc closed for two days, glad to here you got the good weather

For the first time, we used Ultimate Hikes. Expensive, but they were great. Apart from luxury accoms each night (and a drying room!), the tramping was the same. The two groups before us had to either abandon or get helicoptered over swollen sections. We got very wet but did get through - and the McK Pass crossing was a stunningly clear day. It packed in after that. But I quite like walking in the rain.

The Greenstone (or Grand Traverse) is on our list. How was it? Then only the Hollyford to do of the majors in Fiordland. Might be getting a bit long in the tooth to try any others. (The Rees-Dart in dodgy weather was our big test.)

Greenstone with ultimate is very much like doc huts , bunks and no drying room first night cold shower, second night much better hut warm showers and a kind of drying room food was good.
then when you get on the routeburn lodges are very up market last two are not very old and drying rooms great for dry clothes
if lucky you will come across a mohua near the end of the track as well as plenty of kea, tomtits, riflemen and robins, lots of bird noise in the bush which was great
best part if you do the grand traverse group is small we only had 12 all up and 1/2 were kiwis on my trip and so of the overseas guest had some real good adventure stories
i cant hike any other way now not having to lug 20+ kgs and eat freeze dried food and not have dry boots in the morning

3 bidders after a week might have seen an auction getting you a better price (or not) I'd say you could not have done better, waiheke real estate are solid and get the job done...

Many people use agents because they are not sure about the price. this is so wrong! You can hire a professional valuator like Prendos for under $1,000 to do this for you. They will do a very detailed and objective report with a price range you can expect. Makes no sense to pay agent 20K for this service!

Presenting the property is fairly trivial. You tidy up the place, maybe fix a few obvious things and take some photos. Very often you see agent listed properties online and the photos are very poor quality. Sometimes they forget to rotate the photos, so they are facing the wrong way! Or they are taken on a cloudy day and are too dark. A well motivated amateur will often do a better job than a rushed professional. You can take your time and take photos over several days, choosing a sunny day and the right time of the day for the best effect. No agent will do this, they will come when it suits them and shoot a few quick snaps.
Selling the property yourself is the easiest money you will ever make...

This debate over whether to use a Real estate agent or sell privately has been going on for years. In a hot market selling privately can work. I was talking to a friend of mine who is in the industry he said that 80% of people who come into Real Estate are gone in 12 months its no cake walk. He also said that 10 - 15% of agents are doing 80% of the business. He makes very good money but he does a job not many others can do. A "good" agent is worth his salt. Its supply and demand if it was an easy job the cost would be lower.

Your statement that it was an easy job the cost would be lower just doesn't stand up to scrutiny. When I sold our house in Scotland in 2003 before moving here, the Estate Agent got !% of the selling price. When I sold my previous property in 1981, the agent got 2%, but competition pushed the price down. The market therefore worked as it should, but it certainly doesn't work here.
Agents are grossly overpaid and I can't understand why Kiwis are stupid enough to keep paying them. My son sold a house in Mt Maunganui last year through Trademe in just a couple of weeks, saving around $17,000 in commission.

I heard of a situation the other day of a guy selling his property privately. He was letting everybody know that he saved himself $20,000 by not going through an agent. But did he? How did he calculate that? Did he take the eventual sale price he achieved and take off the commission he would have been charged.
Would an agent have achieved the same price given his marketing and database of buyers? How would you calculate the price the agent would have achieved. You see the person who purchased the property could have been quite a clever negotiator he may like private sales. He may make a habit of walking around and pointing out all the issues the house has. Then he may say to the owner, "well you are not paying any commission so you can afford to sell it cheaper". He may own quite a few houses.

I would have thought it sensible to obtain a valuation from a valuer experienced in the Waiheke market. Not just a figure but a good market commentary as well, with an objective discussion around the market, its sensitivities, the latest transactions, expectations and so on. Forget EValuer; it's a myth based on spurious comparisons chosen by a computer, not someone on the ground with local knowledge. Even if you hadn't listed on TM, at least you would have had the comfort of a rational, disinterested (and that's very difficult to find from a real estate agent when they are hunting for a listing !) opinion.

$20k for about 10 days?? Waiting by the phone for a buyer to call with an offer and a few other calls?? Easy money.

It doesn't work like that. Also there's a difference between a seller's agent and a buyer's agent.