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How Far Will You Go?

How Far?

Should We Limit Ourselves?

How far will you go for your client? With all the talk about hyper-local blogging and expertise, should we limit ourselves to only representing clients within our hyper-local area? Generally, we do not! Most of our local boards serve a fairly wide area, and we can show homes within in 50 mile radius; some local MLS’s serve a farther reaching area.

Although I am not convinced I should stay within my hyper-local area, I do have enough common sense to not wander into an area I know nothing about. I do have my limits! Why would I go to the farthest edge of our county to an area which is foreign to me? Not knowing the peculiarities of a particular city is enough to keep me inside the city limits where I do know or can get the information my client needs to make a good decision.

So Far Out of Bounds…

Apparently, not every agent feels compelled to stay within the boundaries served by their MLS. Twice this week, I have had calls from agents who are representing clients outside of their local board’s MLS area. I’m talking a three hour round trip to show homes you can not get MLS data on, which means you can’t possibly offer comparable data for your client.

Agent #1 – I am not the listing agent on the property you are asking about. Your client apparently has been searching my IDX for homes and my name is there. Sorry, I can’t give you any information about the home.

Agent #2 – I appreciate these are dear friends, but do you know the road behind this home will soon be widen to four lanes. What do you mean you don’t know what a short sale is? The best thing you could do for your dear friends is refer them to an agent in the area.

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In the past few months I have had agents call me and ask for comparable stats so they can write an offer on a home they have not seen. No kidding!

C’mon people, do you know the meaning of agency or your fiduciary responsibility to your client?

Written By

Paula is team leader for The "Home to Indy" Team in Indianapolis . She is passionate about education and client care and believes an empowered client is better prepared to make good decisions for themselves. You'll find her online at Agent Genius,Twitter and sharing her insights about her local real estate market at Home To Indy.



  1. Vance Shutes

    September 3, 2008 at 9:48 am


    Spot on! Nothing can replace local knowledge. Buyers typically don’t like the “deer in the headlights” look from an agent when posed with local-knowledge questions, such as “Where’s the nearest grocery store?” or “Where’s the best sledding hill for the kids?” (for those of us in the north country!). Our best fiduciary to our clients is to refer them to an outstanding local agent for their searches outside of our “home base” area, and we can develop fabulous friendships with those outstanding local agents via our work in hyper-local blogging.

  2. Todd

    September 3, 2008 at 10:14 am

    If someone asks about a home outside the self imposed 50 mile radius limit, couldn’t you just send them the Zillow URL for the house? Even if you don’t end up being part of the transaction, at least one Consumer thinks you are helpful ( Re: Mr. Shaws post from eariler )

  3. Matt Wilkins

    September 3, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Clients notice and appreciate when you know things like HOA amenities, the different floorplans that were built, and other area specific information. When I first started inthe business i had a few deals that were outside my market area and all were very stressfull experiences. I now give all potential clients who want to look outside my market area the oppurtunity to be referred to a local expert.

  4. Ginger Wilcox

    September 3, 2008 at 11:52 am

    I turned down a referral for a potential client today for the purchase of a home within my MLS and really only about 10 miles away, but in a neighborhood I don’t know at all and don’t work. I too have worked outside my area of expertise in the past and it is just not worth it. I can’t represent my clients fairly and I don’t want to harm my reputation or future referrals by not doing my absolute best. I believe it is better to refer them on to someone else than do a less than stellar job.

  5. Elaine Reese

    September 3, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Here’s a couple “clues” that an agent is too far afield:

    * If your keypad doesn’t work in the lockbox and you need the listing agent to let you in, it might be time to refer it out.

    * If you don’t read the local newspapers to keep up on new developments, highways, Walmarts, etc, it might be time to refer it out.

    * If you need to program your car’s GPS system to GET you to the property, it might be time to refer it out.

    My apologies to Jeff Foxworthy.

  6. Teresa Boardman

    September 3, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    I pay attention to boundaries but it is about time and gasoline. I hurt my business and limit my opportunities if I spend too much time in my car. I live in a densely populated urban area and unless it is for friends, family or past clients I pretty much stay within 5 miles of my homes, mostly within 2 miles. When I need to go outside the boundaries to help someone, I do so with no hesitation

  7. Jay Thompson

    September 3, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    In my MLS area, it’s roughly 100 miles from the SE corner to the NW corner. With about 5 million people and 50,000 listings in between those points. There is NO WAY I can give buyers the support they need across that area.

    We’ll go further for listings than we will for buyers. With proper research and discussions with the seller, we fell we can effectively market a listing that’s a little far. We do keep in mind though that we need to be available for potential showings from “stumble upons” or the proverbial “I love this house but my agent is too busy to show it to me” call. So we can’t go too far out for listings.

    We don’t have any hard boundaries — they are sort of “fuzzy”. We’ll go where we know and understand the nuances of the neighborhoods. Where it gets tricky is when we get calls like this:

    “Hi, we’re from Canada and we want to buy a home in Phoenix. Will you help us?”
    “Where in Phoenix?”
    “Oh, we have no idea.”

    There are ways to whittle down the area pretty quickly. It’s unrealistic to try to get 6 or 7 agents from different parts of town to collaborate on one client. Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes.

  8. Jill Wente

    September 3, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    I am definately boundary driven. I had a potential client call me the other day and ask for recommendation of areas in Houston to look for multi-family homes. I said 1) Houston is the 4th largest city in the US and I would be doing a disservice to attempt to recommend various areas because all I know about some of these areas is how to spell them. I specialize in Northwest Houston and Spring Texas specifically that is enough territory for me to cover. and 2) I only deal in single-family residential homes. I am not familiar nor want to become familiar with the multi-family homes market.

    Its all about not chasing the dollar and focusing on what you know.

  9. Paula Henry

    September 3, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Todd – I sure could and don’t mind assisting agents who bring buyers for my listings or buyers who want to buy my listings.

    I’ve tackled more than my share of newbie agents who needed help and answered questions for both buyers and sellers who were not my clients.

    I will always do what is in the best interest of my client. I just don’t happen to believe representing a client outside of my MLS is in the best interest of my client, since I have no way of determining value, comps, tax data, etc., unless I want to go to the county courthouse for records. (Most of Indiana sales are not online.)

    Just for fun – here’s the Zillow page for one of my listings –

    Not much help at all! Zillow’s zestimate for this area is $222K-232K. That info doesn’t tell you this home is a short sale, currently priced almost $100,000 less than it was purchased for a few years ago. From the info here, you would guess my listing is overpriced.

    Somehow – I don’t think that is helpful to the buyer or the agent.

  10. Paula Henry

    September 3, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Vance – I will go outside of my local area if I believe I can access enough data to provide my clients. I’m talking local suburbs here! I won’t go outside of my local MLS area, where I don’t have a clue. I have turned down both buyers and sellers who wanted me to list/sell a home in a recreational area where I have never been.

    Matt – I would love to say I know all the details of every neighborhood where I have listed homes. I don’t! We have many neighborhoods with custom homes, where the builder has long since retired and production builders who have gone out of business. With enough data though, I can competently advise my clients. If not, I don’t go there.

  11. Paula Henry

    September 3, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Ginger – Good for you! If I don’t feel comfortable, I won’t do it either. There are some neighborhoods where you just can’t find decent comps or information. I say, let someone who knows the nuances of those neighborhoods do it. I love our downtown and would love to work there, but the Historic Neighborhoods are completely out of my realm of expertise. Being competent is as much as about knowing what you don’t know as much as it is about what you do know.

    Elaine – LOL!! Jeff would be proud!

    It’s the keypad not working which was the basis of this post. For instance, one of the agents was licensed in Ohio and Indiana, because she lives close to the border. She could just as easily call you in Columbus to let her in one of your listings. But, should she?

    I do love my TomTom, though and use it regularly. It tells me when to turn when I am talking with clients or not paying attention. It really does help on those County Roads, too.

  12. Paula Henry

    September 3, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Teresa – I find many agents don’t put as high a price on their time as they should. I do go outside of my chosen area also, but NOT outside of my MLS.

    Jay – Maricopa must be the largest county in square miles than any place I have worked. There’s a big difference between listing a home in a Glendale subdivison versus a horse ranch in Cave Creek. Honestly you could list a home in Payson, but would it be wise? Believe me, it’s not 🙂

    I’m with you – I don’t have hard boundaries, except if I don’t have sufficient data to properly represent my clients, that’s the boundary! Like Teresa said, we also have to consider our time and cost of gas.

  13. Elaine Reese

    September 3, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Paula, funny you mention the IN/OH agent. I did have an agent from Dayton do just that. She and clients (family) were sitting in front of my listing and would I please come let them in. I happened to be 25 min away and told her ‘no can do’.

  14. James Bridges

    September 4, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Paula, yeah it’s reallly too bad how far agents will go. I just don’t think it’s doing the client any service. If you can’t know good streets vs. the bad streets you just shouldn’t do it. I mean, you don’t see the Podiatrist doing Brain Surgery just so he could work in another surgery do you? 🙂

  15. Mana Tulberg

    September 4, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Hi Paula, I am not comfortable working in areas that I am not familiar with either. My county is not a large one, but there are a few area 30-40 miles from home that I know pretty well and have served.

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