Local is as local does – are agents overdoing it with the “local expert” mantra?

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Map of Westchester NYThis is a tough topic for  me to address objectively.  However, I have seen many blogs recently from agents touting their expertise as “local experts”.  Meanwhile, I’m also seeing quite  a number of other agents bragging about the number of listings that they have.  Most of these agents can not possibly accumulate the raw numbers by being local. Many of these agents have listings that are scattered far and wide – sometimes in more than one state or at least in several counties.

Real estate agents that expand their territories generally  have more transactions under their belts:

When you think about it,  each model has  its own set of benefits and red flags for the consumer.  In this slow market an agent that covers a lot of ground has more closings under their belt and is used to dealing with everything that that could possibly be thrown at them.  These days,  transactions are fraught with peril from the negotiating the price and terms, to dealing with lenders and the bank in the event of a short sale.  Agents that have stayed very local and are doing fewer deals have less experience with this market.  Bottom line, unless a very, very local agent is in the top 1-2%  in terms of sales volume – they are NOT closing a significant number of transactions these days.   Truth be told, even top producers in this market are having a very tough time making ends meet.  If an agent in this situation is NOT trying to expand their territory, then I would be concerned that they aren’t truly professional and are actually “doing” real estate as a sideline.

Agents who focus locally generally have more local knowledge and better insight into specific neighborhoods:

The statement above  is the flip side of the coin.  This  may seem obvious to some,  but in a world of Zillow and Trulia  the public doesn’t always see it that way.  This is particularly true of young people.  Be warned if you think “just anyone will do” even if they live 50 miles away.   The public needs to rethink how much Trulia, Zillow and all of the other so called national “real estate portals” can possibly know about a particular area.   The fact is that both of these portals are so far off the mark with respect to their “zestimates” or “guesstimates” that it is truly pathetic.  Further, many of the so-called local experts featured on this site know nothing about the area in question.  Most are paying big bucks to these portals to try to put themselves out there as an area specialist.  But the ability to flex the plastic does not a local expert make.  It does take “boots on the ground” to determine value.  Real estate IS a local business.   Its  a question of HOW local.

Further, not knowing the details of an area intimately  can be a big problem.  What about that nice golf course that abuts the property?  If the agent doesn’t know that the property was recently sold to a developer who is trying to build a huge school on what was bucolic open space – it can mean their buyer will overpay and not get what they thought they were getting.  Instead of peace and quiet – they could find themselves with a playground or ball field literally in their back yard.   (This is actually happening in one neighborhood that I cover.)  Will an agent covering several counties have enough knowledge of a very local neighborhood to KNOW that type of detailed information?  Probably not.  Those who are expanding beyond their ability to drink in the local issues including zoning disputes  may find themselves without sufficient knowledge to properly represent the interests of their clients.

Personally – I’m suspicious of both extremes – and have plotted a course straight down the middle:

An agent that is spread too thin can have difficulty managing their inventory (if they are listing agents) and may not have enough specific knowledge of an area to guide their buyers.  This can have serious consequences if they are unaware of plans to build a major highway through an area, or of a builders plans to build track housing in what is currently an exclusive and quite area.  If an agent is marketing large quantities of listings over a wide geography – how much can they “put into”  a given listing?  Having the ability to focus advertising to a relatively narrow geographic range has benefits – particularly online.   Some are throwing stuff up against a wall and whatever sticks, sticks.  That’s fine for the agent, but what about the client?

On the other hand, agents who chronically harp on being “local experts” have often used and abused that statement and beaten it to a pulp because they really don’t have that much else to offer.  Some are trying to keep competition OUT so they can have the lions share of what may be one of the more lucrative pockets in the immediate area.  Since sales are on the rocks in some locations and doing well  in others – the pockets with decent volume will find themselves under increasing pressure from area agents a town or two away who will want and need to partake in part of the action of an active area.   The bottom line for the consumer is whether or not that “local agent” is truly offering “more”.  If they keep harping on the “local expert” mantra over and over again – there may not be that much “out-of-the-box” thinking going on.   To my mind – the competition is a good thing as sellers and buyers alike should have more options than one or two main brokerages that offer the same-old, same-old because they haven’t been pushed to do more.

For me – it was a matter of survival.  My area has had very little movement and even the tippy top of the top producers are breaking into new territory.  I’ve done so in a deliberate and viable way that offers sellers an alternative with some out of the box ideas  and buyers one-stop shopping if they are examining more than one municipality.  I certainly don’t cover 10 counties, but I do cover several towns, villages and cities.

© 2011 – Ruthmarie G. Hicks – https://thewestchesterview.com – All rights reserved.

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