Piedmont's kids came out in their finest last Saturday night and my good-looking son, Tristan, was among them. (Yes, a mother can brag just a little; it's in the parenting handbook. He's the handsome one in the vest.) Dressed in formal attire, our children gathered for group photos before breaking off into excited pairs and heading to the dance. From all accounts, the evening was a BIG success (not that teenagers tell you much, but a smile is worth a thousand words).
As parents, we've watched these kids grow up, so it's a kick to see them blossom into smart young adults; perhaps even a bit bittersweet as they'll be graduating from high school soon and navigating travels and adventures beyond our little haven - and our safe homes.
How they pair up and arrange the "dates" is beyond my pay grade, but suffice it to say, there are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes and the "asking" is a bit more complicated than it was in our day. (Evidently, it's got to be Instagram or Snapchat worthy.) Perish the young lad who doesn't at least strive for a little creativity in this department.
"Choosing a date" in Real Estate needn't require social media (although it can), but it's important nonetheless. At the risk of offending your friends or family members who have their real estate licenses and are incredibly well intentioned, let me give you a few reasons why you may want to politely decline their offer to help you purchase - or sell - a home, especially when it's an out-of-area endeavor.
Aside from the fact that not everyone can successfully sell real estate (it only seems that way), the sale or purchase of a home is a highly-specialized, LOCAL venture composed of many micro markets. It may all look the same on paper, but in practice, the transfer of property is extremely nuanced and insular.
Question: If your family friend/agent doesn't live or regularly work in a particular region, he/she isn't going to know:
a.) the inventory
b.) the local protocol
c.) the other agents involved
Answer: ALL OF THE ABOVE!
"Inventory" doesn't just apply to what the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) publishes; it also speaks to those homes that trade "off-market." Surprisingly, even in a Sellers' market, there are a fair number of homes that sell this way. Why? Often it's for reasons of privacy or security, but convenience is a highly compelling factor as well. Frankly, not all Home Sellers want to put themselves through the paces of coming to market. Not only is inviting strangers into your home highly disruptive and work intensive, it's also emotionally taxing. If you can quietly achieve your goal without the pain and pressure of a public sale, then a discreet approach may in fact serve all parties best.
"Local protocol" has everything to do with the etiquette and professionalism agents extend to one another. It also includes a working knowledge of the mandatory disclosure requirements and point-of-sale ordinances that are required on the sale of any property in the state of California. Misstep here and you might find yourself paying for closing costs that aren't typically yours to pay, or omitting some important documents that leave you vulnerable to future lawsuits. Who pays for what, changes from county to county so mistakes in this area can cost your dearly - and unnecessarily.
"Knowing the other agents" within a territory isn't just helpful; it's critical. All things being equal, when it comes to the multiple offer scenario, I am going to encourage my Sellers to accept an offer from an agent I have typically worked with in the past. Since I most definitely cannot control the other parties involved, I'm left with limiting the risk within the transaction, which means (drum roll please . . . ) that I will likely bank on a known entity.
I'm specifically looking to engage with a Realtor that can close the deal with minimal drama and a strong track record. Even if your out-of-area Realtor is a top performer in their neighborhood, they aren't a top performer in mine. And as your friend/relative/bff (fill in the blank), they should do you the favor of referring you out to a local Realtor. A Real Estate transaction is too large a risk to gamble on the unknown. That's the blunt and honest truth. So please, work locally if it's a home you seek and not an exercise in frustration.
(BTW - I don't just recommend this course of action, I live it; having referred three close relatives to local agents in their respective cities last year alone.)
"But my sister (aunt, uncle, father, college roommate . . .) has offered to take less commission. " In other words, your friend will credit you a percentage of the sale if you work with him/her. Ah ha! I hear you.
That's not unlike a few national discount brokerage houses that do the same thing. In essence, they are incentivizing you to work with them. (Sounds good, yes? NO!) I understand the appeal, but you'll pay a heavy price. If at the end of the day, you are never successful at securing the home, then 1% of nothing is still NOTHING. OR if you sell for less than you might have because the out-of-area agent missed the Brokers' Tour dates, didn't place the home in the Ad Review or the correct MLS, overpriced the property, or didn't leverage the interest to your advantage, you will have lost far more than the 1% you hoped to pocket in exchange.(Hmmmm, that's food for thought.)
At the risk of playing the devil's advocate, may I politely encourage you to think long and hard about what best serves your intended goals? In a market where homes are usually sold within 14 days and typically involving multiple offers, you can't afford to lose a minute - or an opportunity - because of a misplaced obligation, no matter how well intentioned.
"We lost five houses last year working with our agent from the peninsula," a discouraged buyer lamented.
Yes, I've heard that before and no, it doesn't surprise me at all. Worse yet, the market is shaping up to be MORE competitive this year than it was last, so while you were being polite and loyal to your out-of-area agent, the house you could have had last year for "X," will now, undoubtedly cost you "Y." In an UP marketplace, time truly is money.
Luckily, this hurdle is easily correctable. Ask your out-of-area agent to refer you, or better yet, align with a local agent who is happy to issue a referral agreement to your previous agent in exchange for your business. Yes, your 1% may get cut out of the equation, but better that than going into another competitive season two strikes down. Good agents understand the value of the referral and want you to have a successful result. In short, GREAT agents put your interests ahead of their own - and that's as it should be. Are you ready to date?
How can I help you?
(P.S. -You can follow my ongoing renovation on my new Blog: Renovation Riptide. I invite your comments and stories. )
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.