Despite the downturn in housing values and sales last year, figures have shown that New Zealand house values have risen over one percent in the last twelve months, according to QV Valuations. An optimistic future is predicted for 2010, with the early months of January and February anticipated to experience increased activity in housing sales, leading to a more balanced marketplace. Consumer confidence is matching the market trends, with the November ASB confidence survey which showed that New Zealanders’ are increasingly optimistic about the housing market with the majority of respondents indicating that now was a good time to buy a house.With the popularity of online auction sites such as Trademe, the appeal of listing and purchasing your property independently seems to be on the rise. However, statistics illustrate that there are many benefits to using a reputable real estate agent when buying and selling. Buying real estate is one of the most important decisions that individuals and families will make in their lifetimes, and all care and due diligence should be taken when going through the complex process, which can involve many legal loopholes.An accredited and experienced realtor will be able to assist with the whole process, from setting a price to negotiating and closing the sale. As realtors are aware of the market trends in housing, along with recent sales that may have occurred in the area of interest, they will be able to advise you on a suitable and fair price for the property, avoiding any costly agreements that may be overpriced. Additionally, the knowledge of the neighbourhood can provide important information to base your decision upon, including noise levels, shopping, demographics and schooling.With a purchase of this scale, agents have injected some much needed objectivity into the process, providing an unemotional view of the home, highlighting the potential drawbacks and flaws of a home, something an owner has little incentive to do. Agents possess the skills required to draft contracts, with the knowledge of what information must be included in the documents, including any stipulations that should be made on the contract.The process of negotiation can be time consuming and stressful. With acquired skills in the art of selling, agents can effectively and efficiently accept or modify an offer or counter-offer. Once the offer has been accepted, many real estate professionals will also be able to provide advice on inspection, finance, title searches, real estate lawyers and ensure that any stipulations in the contract are fulfilled before the purchase and possession is complete.There is no doubt that rising consumer optimism coupled with increasing sales figures in New Zealand will result in increasing demand for real estate in 2010 and beyond. As one of the biggest decisions of your life, ensure that you utilise the services of a professional real estate agency to get the best value for money in the market, while providing sound advice and support through the whole process.