WARNING: I am a little riled up after reading, "The fallacy of the agent as ‘neighborhood expert’" by Hank Miller on Inman News...
Consumers don't really need us to find a house to buy any more. Thanks to the Big 4, homes are listed all over the Internet. But what we, as real estate agents, still have to offer the consumer in a real estate transaction is local market knowledge and expertise. It is one of our few remaining competitive advantages!
I agree that just living in a neighborhood doesn't make you an expert. And sure, there is plenty of data available on the Internet, but a lot of it is unreliable. However, it takes someone like a local real estate expert to know that some of the data on the Internet is incorrect and not to be trusted. You can't know a "fact" is wrong unless you are expert enough to know the facts! And I know for a fact that you can't trust the stats reported on Redfin, Neighborhoodscout, city-data (eek!), Trulia, Zillow, etc. about my area!
I'll show you...read the details at: http://www.sugarlandtxhome.com/articles/beware_internet_real_estate_stats.htm
And while just living in a neighborhood (or town, or suburb, or city) does not make you an expert...pricing and selling a lot of houses in an area, and finding answers to all the hundreds of questions that pop-up during the process, is a sure-fire way to become the local expert. No one knows a local area better than an experienced real estate agent!
Having The Data Doesn't Make You A Pricing Expert
Paying the right price on a home is critical, as Hank pointed out, but I live in a non-disclose state. So the only reliable pricing information is on the MLS...which you have to be a member of to access. Not only that, home sellers and buyers don't know how to properly price a home even if the did have all the data...he should know that as an appraiser. Heck, many long-time agents don't know how to price homes correctly!
Consumers Don't WANT To Find & Analyze All That Data
Even though there is a lot of data on the Internet as Hank pointed out, home buyers don't want to spend hours and hours trying to find it, read it, analyze it, and understand it. They will do all that research if they have to, but they would rather we do it for them. They want to hire an agent they can trust who already knows all that information, as a neighborhood expert. Plus, there are some things a local expert just knows from experience; information that is not based on hard data and is not available on the Internet. Like why a particular neighborhood has a seriously high distressed rate...because its location is difficult to access during evening drive times, and it takes 30 mins to get into the neighborhood from the Interstate, so no one wants to live there. Or why some neighborhoods may not be good investments because of declining school performance, home values, and popularity.
Keyword Analysis Proves Consumers Want Neighborhood Expertise
If you do a keyword analysis to understand the type of information consumers are searching on the Internet as it relates to real estate, "neighborhoods" is almost always in the top five most frequently searched terms, right after "homes for sale" and "real estate." As we ActiveRain members know: Consumers crave neighborhood expertise! In Hank Miller's own, Atlanta GA, "Atlanta neighborhoods" ranks second only to "homes for sale in Atlanta GA" when analyzing the most popular real estate keyword phrases.
I know this from experience because my website's Neighborhoods page gets 3.5X times more pageviews in a month than my next highest viewed page! Four out of my top 10 most frequently viewed pages are specifically about local neighborhoods. And my number one item of value--to get people to sign up and give me their contact info--is by far my local relocation guide which consolidates all the city, neighborhood, and school data for my area into one handy report.
Clients call me and hire me because they can see from my website that I am the neighborhood expert in my area. (Websites and blogs are a great way to demonstrate knowledge and expertise before someone hires you!)
Our Best Unique Selling Proposition: Neighborhood Expertise
When a consumer is moving to a large metro area like Atlanta, GA, or Houston, TX, they have hundreds of suburbs and neighborhoods to choose from...where should they even start?! An experienced real estate agent, with local knowledge, can find out what the consumer's needs are and narrow the focus to the top two or three places to consider within minutes. It could take months for a person relocating to a new area to figure that all out by surfing the Internet. But if they easily found your website when they start that process, then you have an incredible opportunity to build credibility and rapport with them until they hire you as their agent!
Huge Opportunity for Real Estate Agents
The problem with our industry is that there are not enough real estate agents who are actually neighborhood experts...and maybe that was Hank's real point. Demonstrating that you are the neighborhood expert on your website is one of the fastest ways to attract prospects to your website and then convert them into clients. It is THE KILLER unique selling proposition that real estate agents have to offer and a hugely untapped opportunity for most agents (because hardly any agents offer in-depth neighborhood information on their websites!). Even new agents can level the playing field by researching and learning the local area and then writing and blogging about it. Become the local expert and you will become a successful agent.
I know this is over-simplifying it a bit, but if everything else was considered equal (house size, condition, price, etc.)...
But how do you know which are the great neighborhoods in a new area?
You need a local real estate expert!
If you think about it, we don't really sell houses...we sell the neighborhood.