Selling Out of Area? Lost in the 'Burbs? When and Why I Accompany a Showing

Industry Observer with Swanepoel T3 Group

Is the buyer's agent who works "out of area" really out of his mind?. What about an agent working "out of her comfort zone"? Most buyers first pick an area and than pick a house while relying on their buyer's agent to help them learn about their different choices. What role does the listing agent play in a showing with an "out of area" agent?

Of course I agree with J. Philip Faranda that a listing agent shouldn't interfere with the buyer agent's relationship with his client. But what if the buyer's agent is, well, lost in our area?

I have listings in Wayne and on the east side of St. Charles where certain areas have been preserved as a semi-rural environment. Compared to a regular subdivision house at the same price just a couple of miles away, there is an inevitable trade-off between property size and the amenities of the house. Pricing and values are quite different from subdivisions, and substantially different compared to condos and townhouses in the city of Chicago.

Some of our listings must be "agent accompanied' because of dogs, horses, swans, water features or security concerns.

And then there are some showings I want to accompany, because I worry about whether the buyer's agent will be sufficiently knowledgeable to evaluate the property.

Why? Because of showings like one a couple of weeks ago at a lovely property on Curling Pond Road that generated these questions from the buyer's agent and her client.

Them: My goodness, are we out where Jesus lost his sandals?

Me: No, it just seems that way because your city agent (in her rental car) took you on a detour through Iowa.

Them: Isn't this really far out from the city?

Me: I don't know, how far is 40 miles to you?

Them: So what are the problems with well and septic?  

Me: Water comes out of the ground and the poop goes problems.

Them: Are the schools here any good?

Me: No, I moved here to ruin my children's lives.    

Them: Is there anywhere decent to eat out here?

Me: No, but we all gather for the noon meal during the daily barn-raisings. Like in the movie Witness.

Them: Is there anywhere to shop out here?

Me: No shopping, but we get everything we need from the Sear's Catalog.

Them: This property looks huge and there's a lot of unused space. Can we sell part of it off?

Me: This property can't be subdivided, this area is zoned for minimum four acre parcels

Them: Why?

Me: I don't know, maybe because horses can't live on a 10' x 15' patio.

Them: Is living near horses smelly? Are there lots of bugs?

Me: Of course not, I know the neighbors bathe and deodorize their horses every day.

Of course I wasn't this snippy, but I certainly wanted to be. Starting with the agent's 9:00 am request for a same day showing, I ended up clearing an entire day for these folks and their changing schedule. They were lost many times. They couldn't find anywhere they liked for lunch. The buyer was clearly aggravated and I didn't sense a deep relationship with the fact, they appeared not to be speaking to one another. By the time they got to me they were in no mood to enjoy my beautiful listing. Mr. Buyer said he wanted a peaceful, relaxing retreat from the stresses of the world, but Mrs. Buyer may never travel outside the Loop again.

Agents who don't know a property type or community should educate themselves, refer out the client, or be honest with me ahead of time. If I know what the agent wants me to cover (or not) I can he helpful to the agent and do a good job for my seller.

If you are thinking of buying a property in the western suburbs of Chicago including St. Charles, Geneva, Batvia, Wayne and Elburn please contact me and we'll schedule hassle free showings. I promise to be knowlegeable about our area, the amenities, the schools, the shopping and the recreational actvities. And I know many great places for lunch!


Comments (41)

Brian Madigan
RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto) - Toronto, ON
LL.B., Broker


I frequently act as a buyer's agent and quite often secure the services of another agent in the local area to assist. It makes a lot of sense.


Aug 22, 2010 09:31 AM
Ron Parise - Cape Coral, FL

In your example I dont think it made any difference that you were there or not. These folks werent buying. I suspect they want a place were we put poop in a pipe. and speaking of poop; it sounds like they would rather smell exhaust from the traffic, than horse poop.

but speaking as a buyers agent, I really appreciate the help of a listing agent if there is something unique about the property Im showing, or when im out of my comfort zone.

Tomorrow Im showing million doller waterfront homes all over the county. Im good in Ft Myers and Cape Coral, but just a little uneasy on the Islands..Ft Myers Beach and Sanibel. I planned to make two appointments, one for me to preview, and another with my client, but that wasnt necessarry, All four agents offered to meet us at their  listings to help out.  Thanks guys

Aug 22, 2010 11:01 AM
Tracy Santrock
Santrock Realty Group Inc. , - Cary, NC
Raleigh - Cary Broker

Every day in real estate is a new day.  We always have so many stories to share.  This one is interesting as all out of area agent stories tend to be. 

Aug 22, 2010 12:11 PM
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons

Leslie: I really think it is important to have knowledge of an area you are trying to sell a house in....otherwise, why does a  buyer need any agent at all???I always refer out to another area that I am not sure about---and I insist that an outside agent allow me to show my own listings---it is doing a diservice to all if you  don't do that, IMHO!!!

Aug 22, 2010 12:35 PM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Paula: Good point -- otherwise the agent may become just a taxi driver. Some people disagree with us, it seems, but custom may differ from place to place.

Tracy: Non-real estate friends think we make this up.

Ron: Can I come carry your bag? I love waterfront properties!

Brian: Agreed!

Christine: That's what the party in my head needs, a mental goalie!

Nancy:6 acres with a large pond. Owner raised swans as a hobby. These are mostly horse properties here and people with horses have dogs. The neighborhood dogs dearly loved to go mess with the swans so the swans stayed on high alert at all times. Swans are big, very territorial and apparently don't like vistors.  The things we do!

Jenna: It just takes our judgment every day to work these things out.

Aug 22, 2010 01:12 PM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Jim: #19 and #20 I welcome disagreements, but it's kind of uncool to link away from the blog with a contradiction. Next time take the time to write out your opinion, please.

Cheryl: But I'll bet that you always know where you're going!

Bill: I choked on the apple juice when I read it. Really funny. Them Texans is tough!

Deborah:I continue to agree with J. Philip Faranda that the etiquette of agent interactions is critical, so I agree with you.

Aug 22, 2010 01:24 PM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Deborah: We just have some peculiarities here, no doubt about it. I really love my more unusual listings and I want to help find the right buyers. And to be honest, most days are dull as dirt. I look forward to the ups and downs, they keep me interested!

Aug 22, 2010 01:56 PM
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Leslie,

I think both posts had merit and neither is wrong given the context in which each was written.  Phil had a listing agent who was trying to steal a client and discredit him.  You had a buyer's agent who had no business selling in an area about which she knew nothing.

I've had issues with agents coming from so far afield that they didn't have a clue as to the area.  When they are the buyer's agent, you give them all the comps and hope for the best.  Some of them were actually listing and the wrong information was in the MLS.  But I don't necessarily think that all agents need to be "local."  They DO have to know the area .

In our area, LA's generally don't show listings - and as a rule, I think that's better.  But there are some instances where it is necessary and in some areas its the norm.

Aug 22, 2010 02:19 PM
Michael Bergin
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - ABR - SRES - Alexandria, VA
Northern Virginia Real Estate

Leslie -

Too bad the other agent didn't have the sense to engage you in helping her in the first place.


Aug 22, 2010 04:41 PM
Terry Chenier
Homelife Glenayre Realty - Mission, BC


I read the posy ny J. P. and I gave hime feedback that he agreed with. He was over his head on this one.

Aug 22, 2010 06:49 PM
Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

HA!  Agents our of their area are like fish out of the water.

Neither will last very long. 

Aug 22, 2010 11:35 PM
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY


That is hilarious, and I certainly appreciate the shout out. I think you make some good points, and the biggest one is that you aren't elbowing in and trying to build some sort of rapport with the buyers, you are trying to tell them about the property, and I guess their agent could't tell a horse shoe from a cowpie. 

I think Ruthmarie #29 has it right. Terry #31 is also correct in as much as I was not prepared for a piranha agent. The house we were standing in was about 8 miles from my own, it was the very first time I met my people in person, and I did not anticipate the overt flirtation from the lister. It won't happen again. 

I might also add that this is a very local phenomenon. Jane Peters in LA has written that accompanied showings are the norm there, and if you asked Eileen Hsu in Manhattan she'd say the same thing. Listing agents ought to play is straight, and in instances where the buyer agent is a doofus, the right thing to do is be proactive instead of reading a magazine in the kitchen. 

No, I moved here to ruin my children's lives. Awesome! ;-)

Aug 23, 2010 12:25 AM
Stephanie Reynolds
Integrity First Financial Group, Inc. - Santee, CA
East County San Diego Homes 619-838-4408

Another great example why if you do not know the area REFER REFER REFER!

Aug 23, 2010 07:20 AM
Mitchell J Hall
Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Leslie, Very funny! Great answers. I am a city agent and I won't even go to Brooklyn with a buyer yet alone the suburbs. Brooklyn has really become a hot area. Brooklyn neighborhoods are competing with Manhattan neighborhoods. Most Manhattan agents are now working Brooklyn too. A couple of years ago a buyer insisted that I show them homes in Brooklyn rather than letting me refer them to a local specialist. I agreed thinking I could learn something and it would be an adventure for me. We got lost and were late for appointments. I've never been back to Brooklyn. Maybe I'm missing a piece of the pie but I tend to be more successful when I specialize and focus.

I also feel the same way about my listings. The buyer's agent should do a little home work before showing - they should know if they are showing a coop or a condo. An agent during a recent showing kept calling my coop listing a condo. Big difference. When I told them it was a coop, the buyer immediately said "my husband would never buy a coop". I was furious at the buyer agent for totally wasting my time.

I just read Phil's post. During showings of my listings I usually only answer direct questions. I usually let the buyer's agent set the tone of the showing. I've been with buyers when the blabbing listing agent wouldn't shut up and gave out too much information. Like telling me and the buyer they can get a good deal because of the seller's nasty divorce. As soon as we left my buyer couple, not yet married, said "forget it! Too much negative energy. Bad apartment karma!"


Aug 23, 2010 07:43 AM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Mitchell: The coop vs. condo is a perfect example. Just like the some people will never buy a condo, some people will never buy a house on well and septic. In each case, maybe too (sorry, couldn't resist).

Phil's post was spot on. Showing off can pretty quickly stray into poaching, whether overtly or out of lack of manners.

Thanks for commenting. I've subscribed to your blog and look forward to following someone from The Corcoran Group...and despite yesterday's comment, I am usually not quite so long winded. And I don't know if you struggled though to the end, but I agree with you!

Aug 23, 2010 03:31 PM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Stephanie: in a tough market, sometime it's hard to , but you're right!

Phil: Love it: Piranha agent. Will definitely use that tomorrow in the office! And like LA and Manhatten, our listings in downtown Chicago are almost always "LA must accompany" as many buildings don't allow lock boxes. In the suburbs, though, the practice is more confined to the upper end or houses with unusual settings. And thanks for the inspiration, it lets me make a point that is to our competitive advantage, since we will agree to take these sorts of listings. 

Lenn: Once again, you say in few words (in this case 18) what takes me several hundred. Wish I'd thought of the analogy, would have made a great photo.

Terry: the more we reasonably share, the better we all do.

Michael: Yeah, I felt bad for her, but I wasted time so I felt a little bad for me, too.

Aug 23, 2010 03:43 PM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Ruthmarie: you make the case perfectly. Maybe the right way to think of this is to put the buyer first. The buyer deserves to have information provided to him. An agent unfamiliar with an areas or property type can learn a great deal through researching to provide valuable information to the client.

Aug 23, 2010 03:50 PM
Judy Greenberg
Compass - Long Grove, IL
Compass- Long Grove -Buffalo Grove

Leslie,  I just couldn't stop laughing.  This was a great post to start the morning.

Aug 24, 2010 04:35 AM
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

Here in San Diego it's possible to drive 60 miles and still be in the City of San Diego. It's basically a long, narrow city.

Aug 25, 2010 03:23 PM
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Judy: Thanks....and I'll bet that you know what I'm talking about. Mink jackets and silk suits to show acerage properties....and nothing says "I want to go home'" like their stilettos getting stuck in a gravel driveway!

Jim: I think what I've learned in the past few days is the importance of agent knowledge, along with his or her willingness and ability to research information for a buyer client. Thanks.  

Aug 25, 2010 06:17 PM