The myth of the neighborhood expert

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Robin Rogers, Silverbridge Realty, San Antonio, Texas 398351

The Alamo - my real estate farm is San AntonioMany sellers think it's important to find an agent who is a neighborhood expert to list their home for sale in San Antonio. Agents who farm particular areas tend to encourage that belief.

But how important is it to be an expert on a particular neighborhood when listing a home for sale there?

Twenty years ago, agents were the go-to sources of information on neighborhoods because there were few ways to get it other than walking around talking to residents. Agents would farm the neighborhoods they lived in or near and could pride themselves on selling several houses in the same community. Buyers would drive around and call the numbers on for-sale signs, and listing agents would be the gatekeepers of information about the neighborhoods.

But now anybody can become a neighborhood expert in a couple of hours. There are websites, blogs, Facebook groups, and discussion boards devoted to neighborhood, school, and homeowner association topics. Public websites abound with detailed data on crime statistics, toxic waste dumps, scheduled highway improvements, and upcoming bond issues that might affect communities.

It's a lot harder and takes much longer to become an expert at what I believe are more important skills for an effective listing agent to acquire. Research consistently shows that sellers hire agents to help them with these key aspects of selling their property:

  • Determining the right price to sell quickly and for the highest amount
  • Marketing it attractively to appeal to the largest number of potential buyers
  • Negotiating contracts, inspections, and repairs

And over the years, I've found that my clients really want to be kept up to date on the progress of their sale. The most common complaint I have heard from their experiences working with previous agents is that they weren't kept in the loop—not that their agent wasn't familiar with their neighborhood.

It won't come as a surprise that I believe an effective listing agent should be able to market and sell a home in any neighborhood.

What do you think?

Posted by


Robin Rogers, REALTOR, Broker-owner, TRC, MRP, CRS

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Comments (30)

Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Public wants to see your sold signs in your neighborhood. Sold stats etc..

If they know you that is another story.......

Jun 20, 2015 01:42 AM
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Being a neighborhood expert is more important to an agents marketing than selling a home. 

Jun 20, 2015 02:27 AM
Richard Arnold
Keller Williams Realty East Valley - Tempe, AZ
Realtor - Tempe, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix

I think any agent can be competent to sell a house anywhere and do sufficient research to address common concerns, yet I would hestitate to use the 'expert' label unless an agent had sold 5 or more houses within a mile.  

The 'expert' of which I speak has probably walked up and down many of the local streets, knows the alleys, how the trash is collected, the general traffic patterns, and a few local events that happen each year.  These details may not be on display in a listing, but would come out if the LA spoke to any consumer directly.  

I don't think 'expert'  is a term to be tossed about lightly.

Jun 20, 2015 02:35 AM
Sonja Patterson
Keller Williams - BV - College Station, TX
Texas Monthly 5-Star Realtor Recipient for the Hou

Hi Robin!  Yes, often the general public looks for the "big-name" realtor.  In fact, when we sold our first home in 1998 and our second home in 2006-- we used two different "top producers".  The first agent communicated very little and was not looking out for our best interest.  It was our first home sale, and there was no agent with us at closing (kind of scary when you are 20-something).  The second agent was better...but his team member assigned to us knew the mother of the buyer, and again...she was not looking out for our best interest.  Both great learning experiences for me of what NOT to do as a realtor.  :)

Jun 20, 2015 03:08 AM
Paula McDonald, Ph.D.
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

It all boils down to personal relationships that are built and the trust that is developed.  Relationships over transactions is my motto.

Jun 20, 2015 03:27 AM
Gerhard Ade
RSVP Real Estate - Seattle, WA
What sets me apart, will set you apart.

Robin Rogers  - Agreed. Also, millions of buyers are neighborhood experts online (you know where), so why can't we, who do this for a living, be the same?

Jun 20, 2015 03:46 AM
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566

I think our reach or our market place has extended dramatically. We take our tool set with us to each market. 

Jun 20, 2015 04:49 AM
Martin Kalisker
Greater Boston Association of REALTORS - Boston, MA
Professional Standards & Legal Assistant

With designated agency, the responsibility of the listing agent to properly market the home is of utmost import.  The "soft" skils of being the "neighborhood expert" and knowing all the neighborhood demographics are a lot harder for a list agent to demonstrate because of fair housing.  They need to stick to the facts - pricing, community, transport, amenities, and pricing (competition).  The buyer's agent, on the other hand, does need to become the neighborhood expert.  With exclusive agency, the buyer's agent has additional contractual duties to be on the lookout for listings and opportunities that may not yet be on the MLS.  They need to know about the things that could impact a prospective buyer's decision to purchase a property and be aware of upcoming zoning changes, new construction, development, building, demoloition, etc. So the tables have turned, definitely.

Jun 20, 2015 05:23 AM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

There's a few old timers that have niched a neighborhood.  But, for an agent that just stays in one tiny farm, they will reap what they sow! 

Jun 20, 2015 06:08 AM
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

I agree that with some research, an agent can list a house just about anywhere. But that doesn't mean they should.  

I don't have a "farm" but I market to around 5-6 communities known here as the North Shore.  I might go one suburb past my area, but not more.  Research won't help with specific questions that buyers have that I couldn't answer and I don't want the seller or me to be in that position.

Jun 20, 2015 09:08 AM
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, CRB, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ

Robin the 'neighborhood expert' isn't a big deal anymore here in Phoenix Area.  Years ago, as you mentioned it was the buzz of the day.  One very important thing that many 'experts' forget to do monthly is knowing the current market and market trends.  Knowing the neighorhood benefits etc isn't enough anymore.....knowledge is power for our clients.  Excellent post!

Jun 20, 2015 09:51 AM
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Alliance 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Alliance Cincinnati & Dayton suburbs

Robin, As you mention, the amount of readily available information has made a huge difference in determining if we're comfortable helping a buyer or seller or still feel the need to refer the client to someone else.  And sometimes because of the soft skills and the comfort a client has with us, they'll request that we still help them even KNOWING that we're a bit further from our normal turf than usual.

Jun 20, 2015 10:10 AM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

I've had something like this in draft for quite a while but I didn't write it and you did. You made some fine points.

Jun 20, 2015 11:47 AM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

So glad to see this post.  I think the neighborhood expert is definately a myth.  These factors are the key:


  • Determining the right price to sell quickly and for the highest amount
  • Marketing it attractively to appeal to the largest number of potential buyers
  • Negotiating contracts, inspections, and repairs
Jun 20, 2015 01:09 PM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

The advantage of the neighborhood expert has definitely lessened with so much information available, but the agent who takes the time to really know and work in the neighborhood will be rewarded with a steady flow of business.

Jun 20, 2015 02:33 PM
Frank Castaldini
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Realtor - Homes for Sale in San Francisco

I don't agree that you can become an expert in a neighborhood in a couple of hours.  Knowing the differences in houses in only gained by seeing them which can only happen over a long period of time.  I am a neighborhood expert in Bernal Heights, Noe Valley, Glen Park and Pacific Heights because I go see all the houses that go on the market and find our as much as I can about who the buyers are and what is changing in a neighborhood.  When somethins has sold I have a good idea about who it went down.  You don't find what I know by searching the internet.

As you your point about being able to sell in any neighborhood, you are dead on correct that great marketing skills  are essential and I believe can blow the neighborhood expert out of the water if he or she does not continue to evolve and improve.  Lastly I don't believe anyone get known as the neighborhood expert who does not possess a dept of skills.

Jun 20, 2015 09:44 PM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

I know what you are saying , but only partially agree.  I am pretty much a suburban Realtor . When competing in Lancaster CITY , the small 2-4 agent City offices are far more expert in the City(and how to market there) and connected to a CITY SOI  (to reach out to) than we suburbanites !

Jun 22, 2015 12:06 AM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Robin, I think you make a great point.  It's more important to be the marketing and negotiating expert.  The rest we can learn pretty quicky.

Jun 22, 2015 11:20 AM
Robin Rogers
Robin Rogers, Silverbridge Realty, San Antonio, Texas - San Antonio, TX
CRS, TRC, MRP - Real Estate Investment Adviser

Thanks for your comments, everyone! There are lots of different points of view expressed here, from different experiences and markets. It's always interesting to find out what others in the AR community think!

Jun 22, 2015 10:51 PM
Raymond Denton
Homesmart / Evergreen Realty - Laguna Beach, CA
Laguna Beach Realtor

I disagree.  In 55+ communities, there's a lot of unique and special stuff particular to each community, and you can't learn everything you need to know from the internet, quickly.  It takes a while to learn each neighborhood.

Jun 23, 2015 06:44 AM