In my experience, the answer is no. I have sold homes an hour away from my office, homes in areas in which I've never lived. Those sellers will happily tell you that i gave them great service and netted them every penny their home was worth. The truth is that a good salesperson can sell anywhere. The strategy and psychology of selling a home isn’t going to vary from White Plains to Ridgewood to New City. The key is finding someone who knows HOW to sell a home, regardless of area or price point. The rest of the information comes from targeted research and asking the home owner the right questions.
You’re thinking, “But if you don’t live here, how can you answer the questions that the buyers will be asking?” Here are some truths of which you might be unaware:
1) Agents are not allowed to discuss specific school districts with buyers. It’s against fair housing laws. They can point them to the information online or even leave the school report in the home, but they can’t comment about which schools are “good.” Even if they could, those answers would be highly subjective. What’s “good” for one set of parents (high SAT scores) may be completely different than what another parent needs (great Special Ed, for example).
2) Agents can’t tell buyers what neighborhoods are ‘safe’ and even if that was allowed, there are no guarantees--crime occurs in all neighborhoods. The best way to find out about the crime levels in an area is by calling the local police precinct as well as by researching neighborhood crime statistics online.
3) Agents can’t tell buyers which “kind of people” live in an area. Even if they knew (and no one knows *everyone* in town), again discussing it is against fair housing laws. Interested parties can visit the schools, google demographic information or visit local churches, temples and ethnic organizations to ask about the size of their membership. It’s also against licensing law for agents to reveal the location of group homes.
All of the above goes to show that the information a seller might think is essential for an agent to know is probably information we can’t dispense anyway. And if there’s something special about the house or the neighborhood that we should know and should/can discuss, that’s something a good agent is going to ask you directly and use in their marketing.
Okay, you’re thinking--if you’re not local, then how can you market my home effectively?
Well, the truth is that the Internet has made us ALL neighbors. There’s little to no walk-in traffic at real estate offices anymore. Buyers often spend their time in their offices or at home on the computer, researching homes on Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Yahoo and Google.The agent who knows how to “package” a home correctly with great professional photos, staging and descriptions is the one who’s going to capture the buyer’s attention.
Pricing, of course, is the most essential part of marketing a home. The information that’s necessary to price a home accurately, no matter where its location within a Multiple Listing Service (MLS), is at an agent's fingertips by researching past sales records..This is similar to what an appraiser does when deciding if buyers are going to be approved for their mortgage. You may be surprised to learn that those appraisers are not always from the areas they service. It's likely they have never seen or have been inside the homes they are using to “comp” the home in question.
Many sellers think they have to use a local agent because they're the ones with all the buyers. Wrong again. Many sellers don’t realize that the listing agent won't necessarily be the one bringing the buyer. All of the agents in all of the real estate companies in the MLS can and do sell each other’s listings, Listing agents typically share commissions with the agents who bring the buyers. Therefore, It’s not really important that the agent who lists your home is local or has a lot of their own buyers—what’s important is that the listing agent makes all of the thousands of agents in the MLS aware of the listing so everyone has an opportunity to bring their buyers. The more interest, the more demand and the more demand, the higher the selling price!
The great news is that thanks to a cooperative system of advertising called IDX, when I take a listing, no matter where it is located as long as it is part of my MLS, every major real estate company in the area will also be advertising that home on their website, so everyone is marketing the property on the owners’ behalf. That's in addition to the home appearing on all the major Internet home sites. Plus, with a system called reverse prospecting, if an agent has activated an electronic home search on behalf of their client, and if the home I've listed matches their criteria, they'll automatically get an email, alerting them that the home is on the market. That happens no matter which agent is handling the buyer or where I, the listing agent, am based.
Because of the cooperative nature of the MLS and the electronic lockbox system, as long as the owner agrees, any agent in the MLS can show the home without the listing agent being present. The lockbox will provide an electronic paper trail of who has been in and out of the home and automatically send requests for buyer feedback. That means that your home can be shown any time you permit, regardless of whether or not you are home or the listing agent is busy. No risk of losing an eager buyer just because your schedules don't mesh!
To make sure that any agent showing the property will know all pertinent selling features and benefits, a good agent will put a Home Book on site. My Home Books, for example, contain all the selling highlights of the home, including the ages of appliances and systems, demographic information, the school report, maps from the home to the elementary school, middle school and high school, and even transportation information for commuters. In this way, agents less informed about the home will be able to easily answer their buyer’s questions.
Rather than worrying where a particular agent is located, here are a list of 11 more pertinent questions to ask a prospective listing broker:
1) What’s your List-to-Sale Ratio? (How close does that agent typically get to asking price for sellers?)
2) What’s your average Days on Market? (How long does it take the agent to typically sell his/her listings?)
3) Do you use professional photographers? Stagers? Videographers?
4) Is your agency participate in the IDX system? Do you employ reverse prospecting?
5) Will you provide a For Sale sign and an electronic lockbox?
6) What’s your Marketing and Social Media Strategy?
7) Will you run a catered Broker’s Open House to put a spotlight on my home and garner extra attention to from cooperating brokers?
8) What strategies will you use so that my Public Open Houses are well attended?
9) How often will you contact me to discuss the listing (buyer feedback)?
10) How often will you review and possibly tweak the price of the home based on new homes entering the market?
11) Can I have a list of recent (and older) references to call? Can I call your current clients who have not yet sold their home?