Who You Gonna Call?

Who You Gonna Call? is that highly recognizable refrain in the Ghostbusters theme song when there’s something strange in your neighborhood.

While the circumstances are hopefully different, the very same question arises when one is considering the sale of their home.

A seller’s often first step is finding an agent. The path of least effort may be reaching out to someone they know, trust and believe to be a credible resource.  That person may not be an agent but family, friend, neighbor, or co-worker who can suggest one although this approach may not be viable for those wanting to avoid making public a pending move. The alternative is to independently and directly secure an agent.

Regardless of the path, the professional qualification most often top of mind for a seller is local market knowledge.

First, what is “local”? Is it a county, city, zip, high school, middle school, elementary school, neighborhood, subdivision? It is my experience that sellers want an agent who knows the real estate market in their area; i.e., their neighborhood, or at least their school district.

Next, what is meant by “knowledge”? It is being familiar with a specific sector of the real estate market, acquired through experience gained over time and number of transactions.

Sellers often equate an agent’s record of sales in their area as having local knowledge. It is therefore puzzling that about 47% of the Walton High School single family detached resale closings in 2018 and 2019 with a sales price over $600,000 were performed by a listing agent who had just one closing during that two-year period. Is the following TRUE?

Selling A House = Knowing The Area?

Gaining local knowledge through a sale is akin to an internship. A seller will generally do better when experience produces the results. Given the above situation, 53% of the sales were performed by listing agents who had two or more closings.

Knowing The Area = Selling A Home!

It would seem that a search for the right agent would be over when an agent meeting these criteria had been identified. Is there more? A lot, if the goal is to find the ideal or right agent.

The key is in the information gathering.

Understanding an agent’s local transaction history within the context of their total business and business model is more enlightening. 

For example, a good question reveals the number of houses an agent recently sold in a specific area. A better question would be one that leads to an understanding of what portion of their total sales were in the subject area. A small percentage is the typical answer and may be a warning signal that the agent local area knowledge is limited, they serve a broad area which may result in a slower response when working with multiple clients simultaneously and/or be unavailable at times due to traffic or distant commutes.

The reason some highly successful agents, measured by number of transactions, are challenged to meet the local area knowledge criteria is because they are constantly driven to serve more and more territory to grow their business. Its very common to observe agents promoting their specialization as, for example: Buckhead, ITP, 400 Corridor, Cobb, North Atlanta, and even Atlanta. Can one truly be an expert over such broad geographies, even after years in the business? Not likely, at least not to the degree sellers expect. Such proclamations better describe and provide insight into places an agent is willing to travel to close business.

A seller may want to dig deeper when it appears an agent is working outside their home area. Unless the remote location represents a farming effort, at a basic level, the sale simply denotes a record of accomplishment. It does not automatically and suddenly infer local knowledge.

The right agent would be one that is hyperlocal and has an exclusive hyperlocal focus on the seller’s area, otherwise they lean more toward being a generalist.

A generalist would be a good choice for an investor wanting a relationship with a single agent to assist in the purchase and sale of various property (single family detached, multifamily units, condos, townhomes, land, lots, and possibly commercial) across multiple markets. A generalist would also be what a buyer needs when they have not yet narrowed their search and is still open to what seems to be almost anything; e.g., Milton, Alpharetta, Roswell and East Cobb; newer construction as well as a fixer upper; condo as well as single family detached.

An agent with a Brookhaven address can certainly travel to East Cobb to list a home but is that the ideal candidate to represent a client’s interest when the property is an updated primary residence in which the seller wants to maximize their equity and avoid long days on market?

In contrast to the generalist, the highly focused agent has insights (supported by hyperlocal data) to help ensure and enhance the outcome, and answer questions such as:

  • What are the hyperlocal market stats?
  • Does anyone get their asking price?
  • Does anyone sell without reducing the asking price?
  • What price is likely to generate offers to avoid making price adjustments?
  • What price might prompt multiple offers, and a backup?
  • Will starting high, to have room to negotiate, produce a better outcome?
  • How long will it take to be under contract?
  • How much of the buyer’s closing costs does a seller typically pay?
  • How long will it take to be under contract if reducing the price?
  • When and how much should the price be reduced?
  • How often does a house go back on the market after being under contract?
  • How many listings might it take to sell?
  • When is the best time to sell?

In conclusion, the right agent:

  • lives in and has an exclusive focus on the subject area;
  • concentrates on and is a student of the market for the same type of property and price range;
  • has previously visited comparable homes listed for sale with agents and by owner (FSBO);
  • offers marketing directed to agents and buyers that is distinctive, memorable and comprehensive;
  • has a price range specific pricing strategy;
  • prepares the seller and positions the property in a manner that offers the best opportunity for the client to net more at closing in less time; and
  • works with fewer clients at time because more hands-on effort is required.

Brady Miller has an exclusive focus on the higher value (generally $600k+) single family detached home resale market in the four elementary schools of East Side, Mount Bethel, Sope Creek, and Timber Ridge that feed into Walton High School. Visit MillerGroupRealty.com to gain additional insights into his Best Home Marketing approach to selling, view the latest monthly Walton High School stats by elementary school and price range ($600s, $700s, $800s-$1m, $1m-$1.5m, $1.5m+), and enjoy the details published in the Quarterly Walton HS Market Update.

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