Ginny…Is it best to list with a local real estate agent (in the immediate area) who knows your community rather than one in another part of the metro area? I’m in the Royal Oaks area of Detroit and have been listed with an agent in the area for five months, and it doesn’t seem to be working out. I would love to hear your thoughts. — Nate, Detroit, MI
Nate…I’m a proponent of listing with an agent with as deep a local knowledge and relationship base as possible. With buying, things can be a little bit different — especially if you are relocating and looking at a wide range of areas.
Unless you’re house hunting in a super-specialized neighborhood or for a unique property type, like a Manhattan co-op, any buyer’s agent from the general area can get familiar with a neighborhood in that region pretty quickly if he or she is up to speed on the basics of doing deals in an area.
When it comes to selling, though, it’s quite a bit tougher, especially on today’s tough-to-sell market where pricing and marketing nuances (along with vendor, lender and inspector relationships, and contacts with buyer’s brokers and buyers themselves) are crucial to get homes sold.
Before we get into the details of what a local specialist has that another agent might not, though, I do want to say this: I don’t know your local market, but in many areas of the country even the most local, smartest, most aggressive, best-marketing listing agent might not be able to move a home in five months or less. Frankly, the best agent cannot move an overpriced or poorly prepared home.
And the fact is that nonlocal, specialist agents do provide sound advice on pricing, preparation, marketing and strategy to sellers every single day across the country. So, while a local-area specialist might have a leg up on another agent based on relationships and insider knowledge, that is no guarantee that he or she will be superior to the agent you have right now.
So, before you go through the upheaval of finding another agent, ask yourself:
Do the challenges you have with your current agent actually have anything to do with her relative “outsider-dom”?
Has your current agent given you any advice on getting your home sold that you have failed to follow (i.e., cut the price, clear the clutter, hire a stager, etc.)?
If you are not following your current agent’s advice, then you should think twice before firing her because your home hasn’t sold. Hiring another agent will not resolve your problem if your home is still overpriced or underprepared.
So, assuming you are willing to do everything within your power to price and prepare your home fairly, here are some of the considerations that tilt my general opinion in favor of a local listing agent vs. an agent from outside the area:
1. Local agents may have insider marketing knowledge. In certain neighborhoods in my town, for example, the standard practice is to:
List a home midweek.
Hold it open for brokers only on Thursday — and advertise those on agent-only fliers.
Not allow it to be shown otherwise until the Sunday open house.
Hold it open for two Sundays.
Take offers the Tuesday or Wednesday following the second open house.
Agents from surrounding areas could probably guess at some but not all of these things, but often they don’t. And that lack of insider knowledge might actually prevent out-of-the-area agents from getting the fullest exposure for their listings.
For example, if you just took the first offer that came in, you might forgo the offer of a local buyer who was expecting to have two weekends to get to the place.
2. Local agents may have relationships outsiders don’t. They may know the other agents in town, and be able to market the property to them casually, as they run into them in the grocery store or at local meetings, in a way that (a) works and (b) an agent from outside the area cannot. They also will have the built-in marketing channel of being able to market to agents inside their own office — not to mention the buyers they represent.
Finally, local agents might know the inspectors, appraisers, even lenders (i.e., all the pros who have to work together to close a deal) and have a relationship of trust with them that a stranger does not.
And that includes being able to find contractors or other vendors who will do repair work at better prices or on better terms than they would offer to a stranger.
3. Local agents might have a leg up on pricing. Possibly the strongest argument for working with a local listing agent is that they know what local buyers want, care about and deprioritize. That means they understand local pricing nuances better, having worked with local buyers, and having viewed and/or sold recent homes nearby.
You don’t have to have been in the market long to understand that photos can be misleading and that location nuances weigh heavily on the prices that buyers are willing to pay, so the history of having actually been to and inside the comparable sold listings — rather than just having seen them online, can be critically important to understanding how comparable they are to your home, and how your home should be priced accordingly.
Homebuyers may be attracted to the big bargains that foreclosures and preforeclosures can offer. But distressed properties can involve tricky, lengthy transactions, and there’s a lot to think about before jumping in.