This is by no means meant to disparage other Realtors, but when it comes to buying or selling a home, you are going to be much better served by selecting a local person. It’s not that agents on the Coastside know more, we just know this market and local conditions better than agents from other areas. And, yes, the same can be said for us not knowing other communities as well.
So, you ask, why can’t I have my longtime friend from Mountain View represent me in the purchase or sale of a home here on the coast? She’s a top agent in her office with a long list of Realtor designations, so she knows what she’s doing, right? That may be true and she is probably excellent in the service she renders. But where she will do a disservice to you is in her lack of knowledge regarding local neighborhoods.
What’s interesting about real estate and what sets it apart from other industries is that it’s local. The trends your agent friend sees in Mountain View are going to be different from what’s going on here — in terms of inventory, multiple offers, etc. Because homes there may get 10 to 20 offers doesn’t mean that’s the case here. So this agent is going to be understandably prejudiced by her experiences every day in her area. This affects you if she has you pay more for a home because that’s what’s happening in her area. I see this often and I tell my clients that we should be so lucky to get agents making an offer from hotter markets like Burlingame, San Carlos or Palo Alto, because they think our homes are a bargain by comparison. And they are. So agents jump on them to make sure they don’t get beat out or they overbid on the asking price and take a home in “as is” condition with no financing contingency.
On the listing side, the opposite can happen. The same agent will think homes are selling like hotcakes and overprice the house because she is accustomed to getting many offers from all the newly minted millionaires of Silicon Valley. So your home may end up being overpriced and sit for a while till price reductions bring it back to reality.
Recently, I wrote an article on appraisals, and Ron Gable, of Alain Pinel’s Half Moon Bay and San Mateo offices, shared his experiences with these markets: They were like night and day, with the Peninsula being much hotter than here and the type of contracts written being very different.
An out-of-area agent may not serve you as well as a local agent because of the sheer distance from your home. I observe this often on our weekly real estate tours as many can’t be bothered to show up to introduce the home to us and answer questions; instead they rely on the lockbox for entry. I must say I personally find this lack of service appalling when an agent can’t make the effort to come to the coast but expects a nice fee. How does that benefit you and the marketing of your home? And that goes for open houses, or, more likely, the lack thereof.
Unfamiliarity with local traditions also works to your disadvantage in small things such as who pays closing costs like title insurance, city transfer taxes or point of sale inspections. I’m sure you didn’t know this but closing costs vary throughout the state. Every county is different. So a lack of local knowledge can cost you plenty. In San Mateo County the buyer pays for title insurance, while in Santa Clara it’s split 50-50. So if you have a local agent here helping you move to San Jose, congratulations, your agent may cost you a few extra grand!
The best way to avoid hurting your dear longtime Realtor friend’s feelings or destroying a relationship is to have the friend refer you to a local experienced agent. This way your friend will get a nice fee and be involved in your transaction — and you will get excellent, knowledgeable service and not overpay. That’s a win-win scenario.