"We're relocating from New York," the gentleman said. "Our friend suggested we look in Piedmont. Can you tell us anything about it?"
Uhhhh, yeah I can . . .
At which point I proceeded to recite a fair number of facts and figures about Piedmont: the number of residences in town, how many properties are typically for sale at any given time, and the current market activity. We spoke about the public schools and the excellent after-school programs, about the social services here in town, about Piedmont's police and fire departments, about the new aquatic center currently under construction, about movie nights in the park; about the Harvest Festival, and about Camp Augusta (just to name a few . . . ).
In the space of three minutes, this young man and his expectant bride had a condensed version of life here in Piedmont; of the joys of trick-or-treating, of the Fourth-of-July parade, and of concerts in the park. They heard about the tree-lighting ceremony, Newcomers' Night, block parties, and all manner of celebrations that make Piedmont truly special.
For good measure, I pointed them in the direction of a few other homes they should add to their Sunday Open list, and gave them each a home-baked chocolate chip cookie for the road. (You're welcome.)
And then because I'm in sales, I casually added, "and whom do I have to thank for sending you my way?" (In code speak: Are you currently working with an Agent?)
"Oh, I have a friend with a license that's helping us." he said. "He lives on the peninsula . . . "
(Warning, Will Robinson!)
Not that your friend doesn't mean well, but frankly, if he REALLY had your best interest at heart, he'd refer you to a local Real Estate Agent who actually knows the area, who will show up for inspections, who can refer you to a lender, who has a Suprabox key, who understands the competition, who will meet the appraiser with sales stats in hand, who will walk you through the disclosures and point-of-sale ordinances, who has an intimate relationship with the community, and who understands the lay of the land.
Moreover, if Buyers treated their housing search like a business transaction - rather than an emotional purchase (and let's be clear, home sales ARE, and will forever be emotional purchases), they'd make sure to walk the road with someone who is an advocate first and foremost; who has strong regional presence, AND who offers years of experience. Given that Real Estate is quite possibly the most geographically relevant of all professions, and more importantly, rife with legal landmines, I don't understand Buyers or Sellers who knowingly choose to work with out-of-area "friends/relatives/buddies" who can easily miss the inside track, not to mention the local ordinances, but they do.
This clearly comes from a lack of understanding that point-of-sale ordinances are unique to each community, that the rules of engagement may be vastly different from one county to the next, and that the closing costs may be distributed entirely differently from one city to the next. Southern California works nothing like Northern California, but even closer to home, neither does Marin, the South Bay or LaMarinda.
But perhaps what Buyers are missing most is that listing Agents tend to work with other Agents we know will bring a clean offer to the table and close the transaction with as little fanfare as possible. In short, that means, REALTORS® we've crossed paths with before whom we may rely upon to get the job done! (We have a fiduciary responsibility to our clients.)
So if your REALTOR® can't answer these simple questions, you shouldn't just be shopping for a house, you should be shopping for a new Agent.
1) How many houses are currently on the market in our search area?
2) How many are in our price range?
3) What's the average price per square foot?
4) What percentage above/below the list price are homes trading for?
5) How many homes have you sold in this neighborhood?
So while it's commendable to be loyal to your friends, a relocation already involves a tremendous amount of change and disruption. Your REALTOR shouldn't be part of the landscape you now have to navigate along with everything else. Instead, they should bring REAL value to the process. They should help you transition as seamlessly as possible, and they should willingly point you in the direction of someone who knows what's what.
That's just my two cents, or three or four . . . .
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 725 humorous but always informative, essays on life and real estate.