Neighborhood Expertise: The Killer USP for Real Estate Agents & What We REALLY Sell

Real Estate Agent with 595507

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 the details at:


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.  

Comments (37)

Sheila Cox - Katy, TX
Katy & Sugar Land Real Estate Agent

Hey Andrew...I'm just now learning about the RTZ. If you can point me in a good direction for doing so, I will appreciate it! Sounds like your doing quite a bit of internet marketing like me. 

Silvia...gracious "Thank You!" I am passionate about what I have learned here at AR...being the neighborhood expert has MADE my business.




Jan 31, 2014 10:08 PM
Sheila Cox - Katy, TX
Katy & Sugar Land Real Estate Agent

Hey Corinne, I used Google's keyword planner for the keyword analysis. The pageview stats are from Google Analytics. Then I screen-capture them with a tool I just could not live without: SnagIt by Techsmith. I have been using it for years. It is great for getting data to clients via email too.

Hi Carla...those are my stats from Dec 30, 2013 to Jan 31, 2014...for one month. 

Lynn...Thanks! I truly believe that if an agent creates a neighborhood based website, it will attract a lot of buyer leads because it's info they want to know.

Praful...glad you see it too!

Pam...I only do internet marketing as my lead gen method of preference. No prospecting, farming, or networking. People who sign up for my relo guide get on an informative (not generic) drip campaign, and then they call or email me when they are ready to buy. It's fantastic for a solo agent like me! When I get too many leads, I pass them on to other agents for a referral fee. 

Jan 31, 2014 10:19 PM
Sheila Cox - Katy, TX
Katy & Sugar Land Real Estate Agent

Nina...Right?! Sounds like me and several other commenters here have those experiences as well.

Michael...I agree! A house is attached to land which is located in a neighborhood located in a city/town/suburb/rural area. So we don't just sell houses...we sell the local area. 

Jan 31, 2014 10:23 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Finding someone you can trust and using fiduciary as a glue works in Real Estate

Jan 31, 2014 10:47 PM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

People do read what on the Internet and if you appear often enough they will call as you are considered the expert. How could you not be is you are so frequently on the Internet

Jan 31, 2014 11:40 PM
Michelle Francis
Tim Francis Realty LLC - Atlanta, GA
Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease


Excellent post.  Being a true expert in neighborhoods and the overall city is criticall.  Since we are in a wide spread metropolitan area, we start with where the folks work and other places they need to go during a day.  TRAFFIC is a major issue, then we focus on best neighborhoods that are better because of their location to work and where they need to go during the day.

All the best, Michelle

Feb 01, 2014 01:46 AM
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

Sheila - I know that some streets in the same neighborhood are better than others!  I know all the little nuances that make one area more desirable than another.  Most good agents do know this stuff - that why we are indisputably neighborhood experts.

Feb 01, 2014 06:07 AM
Jimmy Faulkner
Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage - Wantagh, NY
The Best Of St. Augustine

Knowing the neighborhood is critical in any sale. I have never sold a home but I have sold LOCATION because that is what it is all about.

Feb 01, 2014 12:18 PM
Hank Miller
Harry Norman Realtors - Alpharetta, GA
Associate Broker & Certified Appraiser

The point is that the idea that a "neighborhood expert" has an opinion that overrides the data is doing the client a disservice. Here's a snippett from a "lake expert" on a deal I'm currently trying to get done - from her to her client:

When I sent your counter offer this morning, I got a call from the agent/appraiser who argued the value again.  I told him he should let the buyer offer what theywant and let the appraiser for the lender decide the value.

This after begging her to send me something substantiating her list price (steadily decling since last summer). Her last response to that request:

I ran a new CMA last night and, in my professional opinion, the property value is higher than the seller’s counter offer of $785,000.  I believe the buyers really want this property and it is too bad they are being told it won’t appraise.

That's an idiotic answer - 

  • the counter was virtually list. If it's "worth more" then why have we failed to see it along with two other buyers? Is the market not speaking to her? Are three buyers less accurate than her?
  • Once again I asked her to give me some idea of the data she sees to support her "opinion" - once again she dances around the request. I've been appraising and selling since '89, if it's there I usually find it.
  • As for the "appraise" part, as I told her I brief my clients with a likely value range based upon comps, the market and the listing history of the subject. They draw they're own conclusions.
  • Her ridicuolus assertion of being a "lake exepert" is costing her seller a third opportunity to sell this home - with a cash buyer at 96% of list.

This is what I'm talking about - this "expert" has 28 years of opinion backed with nothing but an ego. Her expertise consists of four sale in two years, her posture is all about protecting her image - nothing more.

The key point I'm making is that transparancy is good - the more everyone knows the better as it makes for wise decisions.

However - if you claim to be an "expert" in a micro market then have the data to back it up and use that expertise to benefit all parties. There is nothing better than cooping with an agent that's firmly in charge of the situation - that's the definition of an expert, not some agent that makes it all about them.

Feb 01, 2014 08:27 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Wherever I go and whatever I buy, if I find someone who can assist me that knows what they are talking helps to make the experience go smoother and compliments my warm and fuzzy requirements....which translate into personal value...priceless

Feb 01, 2014 10:12 PM
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Las Vegas, NV

Great post Shelia and I don't think I could have said it better ...


Feb 02, 2014 12:50 AM
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Sheila - "No one knows a local area better than an experienced real estate agent!". The problem is to find one. How do you know who is the expert and who is not? It really is very difficult.

After all, there are not that many experts, and there are a lot of those, who pose as such
Feb 02, 2014 10:43 AM
Lynn B. Friedman CRS Atlanta, GA 404-939-2727
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty - Love our Great City - Love our Clients! Buckhead - Midtown - Westside - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Dear Sheila,

I applaude you for speaking your mind. To decry "local experts" because of one anecdotal experience is illological. But AR allows all opinions - right?

Have a happy day -

Feb 02, 2014 12:46 PM
Sheila Cox - Katy, TX
Katy & Sugar Land Real Estate Agent

Richie...So true...if only all agents took their fiduciary responsibility seriously!

Ed...Sounds like you get it! That's why I think neighborhood expertise is the killer USP to set yourself apart from the other agents in your area. We have 4000 agents in my county! But my website is what pops up with you search "sugar land neighborhoods"!

Michelle...thanks! You make an excellent point about traffic and commute times. Very important issue in Houston as well.

Richie...Thanks for reminded us that expertise isn't the entire package. "Warm and fuzzy" is the sizzle that sells the steak.

Vegas Bob...Thanks for the encouragement!

Jon...You are right! Finding the expert who is REALLY an expert is challenging. IMO nothing proves local expertise to prospects like the written word. If you have a website/blog that has deep information about the local area and neighborhoods, it shows people that you at least know all that you have written or how else could you have written it? But of course, knowing basic demographics and stats doesn't make you a real expert. Only experience can do that.

Lynn...Thanks! Yes...the wonderful thing about AR is the varying opinions. I'm glad to have an opportunity to post mine from time to time. 

Feb 02, 2014 10:46 PM
Sheila Cox - Katy, TX
Katy & Sugar Land Real Estate Agent

Dear Hank,

I applaud you for looking out for your buyer clients and taking your fiduciary duty seriously to get them the right price. I wish more agents did that!

And you are absolutely right, the neighborhood expert should have the data to back up their professional opinion. Ego should not be a party to the price. If she did a new CMA, why doesn't she provide it to you so you can be on the same page? But if her sellers are forcing the issue with price, she really has no choice but to do what they instruct...maybe she is using a new CMA as a valid excuse for sticking to price?

To me, the situation that you are describing does not mean that it is not important to be a local expert or that real local experts don't know what they are doing. You are trying to get the best price for your clients and the listing agent is trying to get the highest price for hers. If the listing agent isn't paying attention to declining numbers and time on market, then she is doing her clients a disservice. Being the local expert does not mean that you are always right on the price. 

However, it is also possible that you are being too conservative with the numbers (which I have a tendancy to do myself for my buyer clients). So her point of letting the lender's appraiser get involved may not be a bad idea.

Your point that transparancy is good is true but data by itself does not necessarily equate to wise decisions. Accurate data, effectively analyzed and applied correctly to the current situation, taking all the relative factors into consideration, makes for wise decisions in real estate.

Best regards,


Feb 02, 2014 11:06 PM
Hank Miller
Harry Norman Realtors - Alpharetta, GA
Associate Broker & Certified Appraiser

Hi Sheila -

This isn't a "one off" event and I know others around the country have had this happen. The specific problem that is consistently heard from agents like thi particular one are comments like "I live and sell here 30 years...Where do you work....You don' know the market....This area is this and that....Data doesn't mean that much..."

I always give a wide berth to this type of agent and let them establish their credentials - but in the end, I always ask them for something tangible to suport their position.

Often there is nothing but more speeches or they'll open up with "comps" they use. That's when it becomes comical for all the wrong reasons. In the exmple above, ONE reanable comp was provide (which was already in the mix) below her "value". I was then sent homes with 3 additional bedrooms, some 4000SF larger, all much newer, all more elaborately designed of much better quality, all on finished basements and all with at least two car garages.

Lost in this were the comps below where she wants to be - all of which we far more reasonable to use and will be used by an appraiser. When I reviewed appraisal adjustments guidelines (10% line, 15% net, 25% gross) and showed her that some of these comps will nuke these, she went right back to the soap box

In fact, I asked her if the market was speaking to her; three offers at about the same price and 95% of list...those deals don't get done? She maintains the home is worth more than list - which begs to ask then why did you have three offers in such a tight range and why don't you raise price to follow your logic? And the answer is "you must not be familiar with this market".....and the cycle starts back up.

We'll agree to disagree but the point is it's fine to trumpet yourself as anything you want - just have a foot in reality and if/when something is challenged have the professional courtesy to bring legitimate support to the table. "Expert" means something...Our business has way too many variables to say any number is right - but we can certainly get a range on things.

So again - data by itself is not "it"; obviously a skilled agent to interpret it is required. As I said in the post - walking through a stocked kitchen doesn't make you a chef.



Feb 03, 2014 10:22 PM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Thanks Sheila for a thought provoker. Being the local expert, requires a lot of hard work. It is more than looking at a few stats. I think you have to see inside homes in the area, know whats going on in the area, what the trends are, what the city's future plans are. So many things go into making an "Expert". But if you take the time it will really make you stand out.

Feb 03, 2014 10:58 PM
David Spencer
Keller Williams Northland - Kansas City, MO
Show Me real estate in Kansas City

Nine out of ten inquiries from clients and customers that found a property on the internet are for properties that are no longer available. An agent saves people a lot time and grief if they talk to an agent first.

Feb 04, 2014 09:06 AM
Sheila Cox - Katy, TX
Katy & Sugar Land Real Estate Agent

John...You are is hard work! But it does make you stand out and get you a lot of clients.

David...I guess that depends on the IDX they are using. The Big 4 are notorious for showing inactive listings too long. I think that is our second best USP: We have MLS access to the real set of Active listings. Plus our MLS property searches can be a lot more focused. I have a video at that encourages people to contact me to get a custom search set up. That's my second best set of leads.

Feb 04, 2014 10:37 PM
Marco Giancola
Beachfront Realty - Miami Beach, FL
Realtor (305)608-1922, Miami Beach Florida

Hi Sheila-I take great pride in being the "neighborhood expert". There is no one else that does it as well as I do, end of story

Feb 04, 2014 11:41 PM