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I DON'T need to know the area to be your Real Estate Agent!

Real Estate Sales Representative

After my last post here is a comment I received from a Realtor.

I like to think that it's less about the area that I know but the fact that I know negotiation and contracts very well.  On top of it, my clients are usually tech savvy and want someone that communicates in the way that they do.  Having come from a technology background I am able to do just that.  The majority of my business is in King County, but I also work in north Pierce County and south Snohomish.

This is EXACTLY what I have been talking about, the average real estate agent specializes in making the commission not serving their clients.  Every real estate agent had better know the contracts and how to negotiate, that is a given.  But to say that you don't need to know the area to best serve your clients is false.

I often hear that the value of a home (or any asset for that matter) is whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it.  Real Estate Agents often use this to rationalize not knowing the area they are working in.

"If my buyers are willing to pay X for this property then that is what it is worth."  NO, that is how the listing agent is supposed to think, Not the agent representing the buyer.  A Salesperson has this definition of value, not an agent.  And agent is someone who represents the interests of their principle, not a salesperson.

Are appraisers supposed to set the value of a home at whatever price an individual will pay for it?  No, just because someone is willing to pay 500k for a 200k home doesn't mean that appraiser will value the home at 500k.  Ok, sure there are appraisers who are just as unscrupulous as some realtors and lenders, but let's stick to what they are supposed to do.  The value is what the home will sell for in a specific market not to a specific individual.

How can a real estate agent who hasn't walked the last 20 similar homes that have sold recently know what the value is?  They can't!  Sure they can come up with lots of great rational why they can: look at the MLS history, tax assessed value ratio, neighborhood analysis, Zillow, experience, technology, and of course the best "It is worth whatever their buyer is willing to pay."

Agents like this are a part(just a part) of the reason we are in the financial trouble we are in right now.  They don't represent their clients, they just sell them what ever they can and for whatever price they will pay.

I refer people to agents who specialize in an area.  Sure they may work with people outside of that area, but that is the exception not the norm.  Buyers and Sellers need agents who know the local market and have walked the homes that have sold.  It is the only way they can really understand the value of a home.

I know and work with local agents who specialize in an area and act like an agent is supposed to, they represent their principle YOU!  If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Western Washington, let me help you find the right agent for you and the area you are looking in.  Guide to Seattle Real Estate.

Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Jonathan - Unfortunately, as consumers educate themselves more via the internet about properties and areas, I think you'll see more of this.  I'm not saying that's a good thing.  I've noticed a lot more calls and emails revolving around "I found this house...can you tell me more/show it to me/help me purchase it," instead of "we want to buy a house...what's available?"  Because of the shift in consumer thinking, more agents will think they can be "experts" in any area.  Knowing contracts and negotiations?  Sure, you ought to know them.  No, strike that.  You better know them.  But having an intimate knowledge of an area benefits your clients more than that ever will.  Not just for pricing reasons, but for knowledge of upcoming events that could affect how they feel about the home they want to purchase.  "Oh, you mean they're going to be double decking the freeway in the next year?"  Imagine how that would affect a client's view of a home.  Great post and glad to hear not everyone thinks they can be a quality agent anywhere.  Imagine if I told everyone I could sell them a house anywhere in Texas.

Nov 26, 2008 02:31 AM
Ellie McIntire
Ellicott City Clarksville Howard County Maryland Real Estate - Ellicott City, MD
Luxury service in Central Maryland

In Howard County house prices are driven significantly by the school districts. An agent can research the info, but do they?

Nov 26, 2008 02:34 AM
Martin E. Kalisker, Esq.
Natick, MA
Real Estate Law From A Practical Perspective

Many of the attributes of a home are homogeneous, that is a good buyer's agent will be able to advise his client on the style, systems and appearance of the home - in any location.  A qualified home inspector can judge a home whether it is in Tacoma or in Bellevue.  I disagree that a trusted buyer's agent can't do a good job with their clients in a part of town that they themselves are unfamiliar with.  Hopefully, in addition to the buyer clients, the realtor will also have done his/her research on properties in the community and have some idea about the quality of life in that town.  In fact, I work with a lot of buyers and sellers who don't want to ue a local realtor because a) the local realtors have a bad reputation for being self-serving, b) the local realtors only want to show their own listings, c) the local realtors "talk" and/or d) the local realtors are not objective in finding the "best home" for the buyer if they don't also help their clients look in comparable towns for them to make the decision.

Of course, we do refer buyers to other affiliates when the need arises.  But our buyers trust us and our business skills.  They can and do perform their own research about the communities.  They actually can do more than a realtor is ethically allowed to do - we cannot comment on schools, demographics in terms of race, religion, etc. and to be honest, "desirable" in the eyes of one person is "on the other side of the tracks" for the other.  So we just stay away from those discussions and urge our clients to read the local papers, blogs, go in on a Sunday and see what activities there are around the lake, the park, the breakfast joints, etc.  Every realtor that I know lies about traffic.  A "commuter's dream" is often a misnomer for "traffic hell".  So before you make an offer on a home, try to drive to your office from the new location and see for yourself. 

This sort of advise is usually present when dealing with clients who are looking outside of your normal service area.  This doesn't make you a bad buyer's agent.  It just says that you need the buyer to check this stuff out for himself.


Nov 26, 2008 02:36 AM
Dormanekia (Alex) Walker
Exit All Seasons Realty - Queens Village, NY
Realtor - Queens Village And Saint Albans NY

Jonathan You have made some very valid points but to use your terminology there are more salespeople than agents. I believe that that today many Realtors are so focused on the bottom line they forget that houses are just our products and people are our business. I just want to encourage you to stay the course and continue to fight the good fight you are not alone

Best wishes Alex 

Nov 26, 2008 02:47 AM
Li Read
Sea to Sky Premier Properties (Salt Spring) - Salt Spring Island, BC
Caring expertise...knowledge for you!

What a good definition of the difference between an agent and a salesperson.    Great post!

Nov 26, 2008 03:10 AM
Jonathan Martin
Seattle, WA
Real Estate Agent - Seattle

Matt- Your right technology is great for searching but not living.  I actually live in my house, how I feel about the area and neighborhood is more important than the bones.
Weichert- I smell smoke.  Stay tuned for a price this house test...
Alex- Thanks for the encouragement, but I am going to refer out all of my business from now on.  That way I get a referral fee and my clients get a great specialized agent, win win!
Li- Thanks

Nov 26, 2008 03:22 AM
AJ Heidmann ~ CRS
McEnearney Associates, Inc. - Alexandria, VA
YOUR Alexandria & Arlington, VA Real Estate Expert

Jonathan, we agree with you completely, there are far too many generalists that want to write a contract on anything; land, luxury home, condos, vacation homes, or distant jurisdictions.  Instead, to better serve buyer clients it makes sense for a buyers agent to really get to know an area well and it's sales history.

To disagree with Weichert when he says "Hopefully, in addition to the buyer clients, the realtor will also have done his/her research on properties in the community and have some idea about the quality of life in that town."  My assumption is that the research is looking up past MLS listings, active and sold to gain an idea of the area.  It makes a huge difference when you know the recent sold comps and can knowingly state that Property X without photos was a true pit, while Property Y was an estate sale, and Property Z was over-improved for the area, etc.  There is more to researching an area than doing a CMA!

Just our $.02

Nov 26, 2008 03:50 AM
none anymore
Las Vegas, NV

Well, I've lived near Seattle.  I can tell you there's a huge difference between Mill Creek and Mukilteo, between Bothell and Ballard. Here in Vegas, there's a world of difference between Henderson and Summerlin, Peccole Ranch vs Silverado Ranch.  There's a lot of "knowing the area" you can fake, and some you just can't. 

Sure, it isn't as big a deal when your clients live just across town, but what about when they live in another state?  What do you say when they ask where the nearest grocery store is, or about the public library?  Schools you can (and should) refer to the school district's site or to someplace like GreatSchools.net. When they ask where the nearest park is, you'd better have a better answer than "let's see what Google Maps says!"

Nov 26, 2008 04:24 AM
Reba Haas
Team Reba of RE/MAX Metro Eastside www.TeamReba.com - Bellevue, WA
Team Reba, CDPE

Jonathon, as the agent who sent you that note that you chose to use for this post, I think it's appropriate that I get to respond.  You try to bully the point when you assume that I don't do a lot of homework on an area for a client when they do identify an area they are interested in.  I've lived in King County for 20 years, I'm on 2 committees with the local REALTOR Association where I learn a lot of what is going on in various municipalities and districts ahead of my colleagues, half of my business is focused on investors who care more about the financial aspects of a purchase than if a property is in a school district for their own kids, etc, etc.  I could go on and on.

Of course Bothell and Ballard are quite different and I am able to give some of those definitions to our clients, but it is also up to them to go and figure out what they want.  Most people know by the time they contact an agent what is that they are in need of, and for those that aren't that is where good questions and listening skills come in.  A Microsoft relocation client might not want the local relo person only giving them Bellevue and Redmond as options, especially if their budget is less than $500,000.  So, if you don't have a working sense of what else is out there as possibilities, what else would you do?  Well, I talk to them about what they really want and discuss the points of many of these cities - many which I know well enough from having been a field sales rep in tech for years and calling on the businesses within them.

My point when I wrote my comment to you prior post had a lot more to do with noting that this business has a lot more to do with being educated not just on the pretty and fun parts of the business but in the cold hard business aspects.  When I was just a consumer I didn't expect my agent to fill me on all aspects of an area because it is my job to know where I'm moving.  I expect the agent to be knowledgeable on the details of the business and that is how most of my clients are too.  There will always be someone out there that needs a different kind of hand holding but I can tell you that you will find some very satisfied clients in our pool of customers, and many of them are repeat clients.

You admit that you weren't able to make it in the business, so I find it hard to believe that you should feel so justified to point a finger and try to make a spectacle of someone who is still in the business and doing well.  I'm sorry you weren't able to make it work better for you, but what I'm really sorry for is that rather than try to learn more about my business and what I do, you chose to turn things sour.  I'd sent you a kind offer and a supportive note originally - but perhaps this reaction is one reason you weren't able to make it.

Regardless, I wish you the best for the future.

Dec 03, 2008 06:26 PM
Reba Haas
Team Reba of RE/MAX Metro Eastside www.TeamReba.com - Bellevue, WA
Team Reba, CDPE

Oh, and if you'd like to see some of the fabulous things our clients have to say about us you can check it out at the following links:

Team Reba site testimonials

Judy's Book testimonials

And, if you are on LinkedIn then you can read many stellar comments about us there as well under my profile.  You can see a list of education requirements, and then some, noted on my website as well that will show that education is a major foundation which is then used to provide excellent service to clients.

I'm sure a few will say "the lady doth protest too much" because of my 2 responses, but I do not think that I can protest enough when someone skews a view of comment and didn't spend the time to actually get to know me.  In regular business I would say that this would be the fault of lazy follow up and following the path of least resistence.  No matter.  Let the people read and make up their own minds.


Dec 03, 2008 06:34 PM