It's baseball season, which in my house is no small thing. Cliff is a die-hard Yankee's fan (he comes by it honestly having grown up in NYC), I favor the SF Giants, and both our boys participated in the "great American pastime" from the moment they could hit a ball off the tee until they graduated from high school. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano each spring, the boys played ball, Cliff helped coach, and I kept the box scores from the comfort of the bleachers. (On reflection, the bleachers weren't all that comfortable.)
If you really want to learn the game, keep score.
Strikes, balls, errors, outs, who's on base, how the runners advance, etc., etc., etc. - turns out that baseball isn't just about watching the hitter at bat, it's also requires an understanding of what's going on with the opposing team out in the field. Regardless of what happens at the plate, the infield and outfield players are continually anticipating the best response should the baseball come their way. (BTW, "anticipation" is the operative word here; figuring out what to do AFTER the ball is in your mitt is waaay too late.) Baseball may look slow when compared to other high-speed games such as soccer or lacrosse, but there's a lot going on that is easy to miss.
I was reminded of the importance of being "on your game" this week when working with an out-of-area Realtor and his TC (transaction coordinator), who, while certainly well-intentioned, were definitely the "visiting team." Given that this Agent's practice is in Sunnyvale, it's no wonder he is unclear on the required local county and city ordinances that must be provided before a transaction can close escrow in the county of Alameda (ie: sidewalk inspection, sewer lateral certification, energy audit, etc.). BIG DIFFERENCE!
Long story short: because he doesn't know what he doesn't know, this Agent made some critical errors . . . and now that we're in contract, we're not only having to conduct inspections, we're having to backfill the omitted documents as well, which, as it happens, may take weeks - not days. (Why? Your guess is as good as mine; please take it up with the good folks at City Hall.)
Let's back up a moment to explain how I came into contact with this South Bay Agent. Having received a Buyer referral from a local mortgage broker (thank you very much), I was only too happy to jump into action, set up an appointment, send out the PEAD, meet the prospective Buyers at the property, run comps, and request a disclosure package post haste. (Hello, it's nice to meet you.)
While I know many of the Realtors in this area, I had never crossed paths with this particular Agent, but given that there are currently 93,795 licensed Realtors in the state of California, I freely admit I don't know MOST of them. As a point of fact, a California Real Estate license allows a Realtor to practice anywhere in the state, but the important question is should they? (Don't answer; that's a rhetorical question. The answer is NO.)
The trouble began almost immediately when I couldn't find the identified property on the MLS. For the record, Multiple Listing Services, are AREA SPECIFIC. Ours is the EBRDI: The East Bay Regional District, now also known at BRIDGE MLS, And while a broader search eventually located the property, the home wasn't posted in Piedmont. (Strike One!)
When I requested the disclosure package on behalf of the Buyers, we were sent the bare minimum absent nearly every important inspection required to write an informed offer. Instead of 42 separate documents, we received six. (Strike two!)
And finally, when it came time to submit an offer, the Agent couldn't - or wouldn't - tell us who else would be writing or even how many offers might be coming in. (Strike three.)
The importance of relevant and timely information can't be overstated as it tends to protect BOTH Buyers and Sellers, but it also helps inform Agents as to how to coach their clients in order to compete. The more information we have, the better we can do our jobs. And on the flip side, it's a selling Agent's fiduciary duty to leverage the interest of others to bring in the highest price. So who benefits from a lack of transparency?
I'm not saying that good Agents don't exist elsewhere; but I am suggesting that GREAT Agents stay in their box, know when to swing, and are comfortable drawing the walk when appropriate. In other words, if you practice elsewhere, ELSEWHERE is where you should stay.
More than any other business I can think of, Real Estate requires deep and local knowledge in the community. With the clear understanding that no Agent is going to be all things to all people (nor do we want to be), often the best course of action is to bring in a pinch hitter when asked to perform beyond one's expertise.
And given that the consequences of NOT understanding the rules of the game can lead to expensive litigation, what possible good reason can Buyers or Sellers give for working with an out-of-area Agent who doesn't know how to keep score? (Your newly licensed aunt, sister, brother, father, mother, cousin, or best friend are NOT good reasons.) Listen, Sarah and I are well compensated for being area specialists - we're not looking to get drafted to another team (nor benched!) - but more importantly, as Buyers or Sellers, you want and NEED to be on the home team in this highly-charged marketplace.
The simple truth is that when you have the home-team advantage, it's a lot easier to play, and much easier to win, so why not take advantage of it? (Okay, that one you can answer.)
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.