It can happen many ways…an old friend asks for help with selling their house, even though they know the agent doesn’t normally work that area; the agent receives a referral call from another agent for an area the agent isnt’t familiar with- the potential agent hasn’t had an escrow close in months and is hungry; the agent has listed their clients home and the sellers are willing to have the same agent represent them, even though they know that agent doesn’t normally sell where they are buying.
Do you see a pattern developing? It is so easy to fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people, especially when escrows are fewer and the agent needs to pay the mortgage. This is not an easy time in real estate. The adage of “Agents are working 3 times as hard at twice the cost for 1/2 of the income” is not really a joking matter…it is true.
However, need is not an excuse to ignore the primary duty to the clients. The fiduciary responsibility to the client is to advise them as to what is best for the client. Working in an area that the agent knows little, if anything about, is not in the best interest of the client.
Every neighborhood has nuances that an agent must know in order to properly understand market value. The same house could have two distinctly different values and only be blocks apart and only an expert in the neighborhood will know where that line is drawn. There may be a history in the neighborhood that could affect value such as an old creek bed that affects the foundation of homes built on it. Some streets may appear to be benevolent and yet has a resident that has made national news for his stand on recent issues and has tourists that want to visit. Maybe there is a taxi service being run out of a house that isn’t apparent on the days the buyers are looking. An out of area agent is not going to be knowledgeable about these issues.
When writing an offer, each town and county has traditional costs that are recognized by local experts. The costs to a buyer or seller can vary widely. In one county, a buyer could traditionally pay most non-recurring closing costs. In another, the same costs could traditionally be born by the seller. An agent familiar with the area will know the proper costs to be paid by their client. If the contract is completed in error, it could cost the client thousands of dollars that they otherwise would not have had to pay.
Finally, a local expert has worked with or know many of the other agents working the same area. They will be able to facilitate a smoother escrow with fewer surprises. In a multiple offer situatiion, an agent who has an out of area phone number is going to be recognized as a potential for a less than smooth escrow due to lack of knowledge of the area and access to the property.
So, when considering helping an out of area buyer or seller, think twice. What is in the best interest of the client? Maybe a referral would better serve the client.