Let me preface my remarks by making it clear that, all things being equal, I'd choose an agent from my own town over an agent half the county away...if all things were equal.
Things are seldom equal in this market. Here are a few facts:
- Westchester County Home Buyers window shopped on Main Street in the 80's. Today they window shop on the Internet. This is especially the case in higher priced markets. I'll be clear: Buyers almost never drive up to your town from Manhattan, walk along your downtown, and step in to a real estate brokers office and ask what they have. That was decades ago. Nobody gets in their car these days without a manila folder filled with research and printed emails from brokers answering their questions on the properties they found online. The agents positioned to meet this need have a strong Internet presence and a superior follow up system. They get the buyers' attention. You want that agent.
- Home buyers in Westchester County could care less who lists the property. They care about location, price, condition, and how the home meets their needs. Only sellers care for firms with names that sound like law firms, coats of arms on their sign, and a perception of prestige. They should care about terms we seldom hear but are the nomenclature of real estate success in 2010: IDX, SEO, Syndication, Desktop Underwriter, price points and other things that entered the market as window dressing years ago, but now make or break transactions in the current market. If your agent doesn't sleep, wash and rinse with those terms daily, you have a problem.
- ANY broker or agent who would suggest that listing your home with a firm 2 zip codes away might result in fewer showings, a soft boycott by local agents (the local "mafia"), or inferior marketing exposure is not only lying, they are committing a serious ethics violation. The fact is that in a market where there is about 1 sale for every 15 licensees, any agent with a live buyer will show them anything and everything they can to make a sale. The competition to make a deal is brutal. No one would steer their client away from a home they liked and undermine their chances of earning a commission. It is antithetical to economic sanity.
If an agent's value proposition to you is that they are down the street and they don't live and breathe my 2nd bullet point as well as half a dozen other terms, they are blowing smoke. Buyers don't care where your listing agent's cubicle is any more than they care where you'll live after the closing. They want to know what's in it for them, and if the listing agent cannot deliver on that question, you don't move.
Broker opens, free coffee in the lounge, office caravans, and glossy brochures were done in the 80's. They are not the solution to get buyers to act in 2010. If you want to sell in 2010, you need to get re-educated about what works in this market. The days of licensees picking the low-hanging fruit, kissing yours but not breaking theirs are done.
Buyers today are savvy, careful, and methodical. They make 3-4 visits. They bring their parents or advisors. They have inspections with granular scrutiny. How your agent handles them, and their own agent, is life or death to your sale.
And that's why just being down the street alone just doesn't cut it. If you want to sell your home in Westchester County, your agent doesn't have to live nearby, but they must live in 2010.