Profile picture for gemster

Does it hurt to have a real estate agent that's not completely local to the area you're looking?

I'm currently looking to purchase a home and I've built up a good relationship with an agent in San Francisco.  However, I have shifted my focus to looking at homes in further south in the Penninsula.  How important is it to have an agent that knows the new area better?  Is it worth trying to switch?
  • January 14 2011 - San Francisco
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Answers (19)

Profile picture for sunnyview
I would switch to a local agent. The SF market is pretty complex and the Peninsula markets are also complex. You would be hard pressed to find an agent that was top flight for both the city and surrounding areas. Pick someone you can trust, but pick someone knowledgeable about the specifics of the local area.

Choosing a neighborhood is like choosing an ice cream. Reading the description is just not enough to go on and that's all that a non local agent has to go by. 
  • February 22 2011
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Profile picture for JackieGriffin
There are many ways to peel this apple. Your trusted agent can help you choose and/or work with another agent in the area that is not his/her expertise area. It is the real estate agent job to give you the best information possible so that you can make the best informed decision you can make, and any and all help is always good. Remember, the more brains you have, the better and more info you will have to help you make that all important decision.
  • February 22 2011
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Profile picture for Rich Mell

In Chicago it really helps to have someone from the area or at least very familiar with the area.  The reason I say that is in Chicago it can be difficult to price your home correctly.  The neighborhoods are not separated by zip codes and 2 city blocks can mean a huge difference in price.  A realtor not from the area would do a Comparative market analysis by selecting a zip code or township and may not come up with an accurate price.  Not to mention an agent close to the area will be able to show your home with fewer concerns such as traffic and so on.

  • February 22 2011
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Profile picture for Carole Klein

Not necessarily. There is a plethora of information out there for any agent to access.  If you have a agent you trust, who is willing to do the extra homework this might demand, there is every reason to believe that you won't have to switch.  I think it is important to ask your agent first if she/he wants to and feels comfortable helping you in an area that might be unfamiliar.

  • February 22 2011
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The answer lies with the realtor who is knowledgeable of the city, who takes the time to go see properties on a weekly basis.  It is one thing to look at properties online and a totally different experience to see them "live".  As a buyer you need straight answers, you need someone with their thumb on the pulse.  When comes time to write an offer, you have to know the comparables, if you haven't seen them, you can't compare, and thus will be misguided.  It is very important to have a local agent, one that will give you an advantage compare to agent who are not local, you need an agent who can compare properties.

  • February 22 2011
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No, I don't believe it will hurt you to have a realtor not completely local.
I believe if you have a realtor that has a number of factors such as background and experience, professionalism, you have a good rapport and comfort level with them and you trust in their abilities to get the job done, then the fact that they are not local should not hurt your ability to get the home in the area that you desire.   A good realtor (local or not) will be able to do the required research to find a home for you, find information on local market conditions and use his or her resources to address your concerns.  
  • January 15 2011
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Considering the vast information available to agents from so many sources enables us all to be efficient and competent in most areas, if the agent is willing to put the time in required to accomplish goal. Indeed, it is so important to find an agent we feel comfortable working with at all times. If you have a good, honest, dependable realtor, then at least give them the opportunity to help you in your search. As we all know, many times, it is not "what" you know but "who" you know! Good look in your search...I have found it is always good to avoid burning any bridges.
  • January 15 2011
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It really depends on the agent and the area. There can be both advantages and disadvantages. For example, a "local" real estate agent may have knowledge an outsider does not, but may also be overly-friendly with the other agents and either not help you haggle as aggressively. An outsider may miss some subtle market nuances, but also may look more objectively at market data.
  • January 15 2011
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Much good advice to consider has been offered here, both for and against using a local agent. What I have found in my experiance around Planet Utah is that local agents tend to know the local grant and loans that are specific to a neighborhood and town. They also tend to be more aware of changes coming in both the near and distant future planned for specific areas. Both of these could be quite useful and same much money and stress down the road. That being said, if your agent is not too far from the area you wish to check out, they have access to do the research and access to other agents. If they are worth anything as an agent, they will do that research and you will do well.

Happy Hunting!
  • January 15 2011
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In today's world, the access to information can be pulled in from any location. Some agents from afar actually can give you great deal more information than many other agents because the local agent has no idea how to gain the info due to lack of experience or not educating/exposing themselves to local information.

I, in fact, have taken clients around neighborhoods in which I was far from the area and could pin point things that local agents failed to mention. When the client asked why the other agents didn't tell them these things, all I could say was perhaps they didn't feel it was important to you...

I have met many tourist that could tell a lot more about an area than practically any native. That is because most natives either don't care or they just get comfortable thinking they know everything or are numb to the importance of the information.

I love dealing with the agents in Los Angeles, especially in Palos Verdes and the Beverly Hills areas because they don't feel threatened, are very professional and will go head over heals to help you out to get the job done; of course not everything is 100%. So me being an outside agent has no issue of getting the job done.

I am no where near San Francisco, but I can tell you that in order to do a transaction in San Francisco I'll need San Francisco specific forms, in Rancho Palos Verdes all trees will be topped in order to preserve views and so on...

It all depends on the agent you choose, so being local isn't always a factor, it is the selection of the particular agent you choose.


Good luck...
  • January 15 2011
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Profile picture for coralgundlach
I would ask the agent honestly what his or her comfort level is in that area, assuming you have a good relationship and it sounds like you do.   If they don't really know the area, ask about referring you to one who does.  Agents can often work collaboratively with each other, so if you want to stay loyal to your agent, ask if he/she can find a Penninsula agent to refer you to, and your SF agent can stay in the loop, prep that new agent on what you like and how best to help you, and everyone wins.
  • January 15 2011
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Profile picture for DanEliot
Being a first time home buyer can be very expensive considering the amount of money needed for the down payment and closing costs. Thinking about this can be very defeating. Also, if you already have a home and are looking for some home loan and mortgage advice it can be a very trying experience. I have some good news for you however. Learn more:

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  • January 15 2011
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr
REAs can chime in on the validity of this argument...

I choose to deal with someone local to the area because they know the other players in the area. For me, this has proven to be good leverage when working out the last few details of a deal. A REA who is a local player will likely know, and cooperate and get cooperation from, others in the area (i.e., don't poo in your own backyard).

Add to that the experience and awareness of locales, and it doesn't make sense to me to go with someone who is "out of their element". I can get all the generalized information myself from the internet, it's the truly local info that you want.
  • January 14 2011
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I would suggest asking your agent point blank "Do you have the knowledge of home values in these areas of the Peninsula I want to look in?" Each county has its own customs and paperwork. It's important for your agent to be familiar with them or learning them really quickly!
I work in San Francisco, Alameda and San Mateo counties, for instance, but not in Marin. Some agents won't set foot outside of the city. Give your current agent the chance to make their case (or admit they are not the right fit) with your move out of the city.
  • January 14 2011
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It is important to have an agent with local info.
In some neighborhoods, prices can change from street to street. This is information that someone couldn't discern from online, only from local experience.
  • January 14 2011
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Great advice shared so far.  Agents can and will go beyond the general area they work.  With Zillow and other tools agents can use many resources to work in different areas.  Ask them if they have experience in that area, if they would like to help you with your search.  If they are uncomfortable with helping you let them refer you to someone else.  Many agents will work hard for your business and educate themselves to help you.
  • January 14 2011
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Gemster,

The internet and modern technology enables real estate agents to be effective beyond their local area.  That said, you still need to make sure that your agent has the proper tools, general real estate knowledge, and local smarts about the area that you are looking in.

For example, I am based in Medford & Stoneham, MA but have built an extensive proprietary DB of sales data & trends of real estate around the entire state of MA.  Specifically, I have access multifamily stats that few others can produce.  I would be able to tell my clients about multifamily investments in other towns that the agents in those towns are unlikely to know.

In short, does your agent have the information that will help you make the best buying decision possible?

Your Real Estate Geek,

 Rich
  • January 14 2011
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Profile picture for twiltse
It is worth trying to switch, but not before asking your agent if he/she is knowledgeable about the other area. Then, assuming she isn't, ask for a referral. Going in totally blind is just that. No agent might be safer than a poor agent. Good luck 
  • January 14 2011
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It's probably a good idea to work with someone who knows the area well.  If the agent in San Francisco has done a lot of work for you they can refer you to an agent elsewhere and still earn a referral fee.  This way they would still be compensated for their time and energy.  
  • January 14 2011
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