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Opinion Editorials

Are so-called area specialists merely two faced salespeople?



Local expertise is good, right?

There is something to be said about local knowledge, but honestly folks, isn’t the term “Area Specialist” just a marketing angle for some agents? These self-anointed neighborhood experts brand themselves out the wazoo to their farm. To drum up business, they talk up how they know this zip code like the back of their hand, how they know every nook & cranny within a five block radius, how they are the go-to agent for all the locals, blah blah blah. They live, breath & reproduce in that neighborhood! OK, I get it. For some agents, that is their hook, which is fine and dandy. Everyone’s got their schtick.

But, how many times have you seen a self-dubbed “Area Specialist” get riled up for you taking a listing in “their” farm? They get possessive about anyone stepping onto “their” turf. (Excuse me, I don’t see your name on street sign!) And yet despite their PR about the importance of working with an Area Specialist, they’ll snap up a listing across town without batting an eyelash. It just comes off to me as a sales gimmick, a mere marketing ploy. Because if they practiced what they preached, then they wouldn’t take that listing outside their area. You can’t have it both ways, folks!

The inherent problem

Ergo, that’s the inherent problem with labeling yourself an “Area Specialist.” You convince a buyer to work with you because you know the area the best. But what if their search ends up in a neighborhood clear across town? Your cred is shot. Based on your logic, they should no longer work with you. Are you really going to give up the last six months of work you put in? Doubt it. On the listing side, I don’t know a single Area Specialist who’d turn down a million dollar property because it is outside their geographic bubble (all of a sudden they aren’t an “Area Specialist,” they’re a “Luxury Specialist”).

My point is that agents who flagrantly label themselves as Area Specialists run the danger of painting themselves into a corner. They end up looking like hypocrites the second they do business outside their area. Am I wrong?

Watch Real Estate Expert Herman Chan put the REAL back in REALTY. In his show Habitat for Hermanity, Herman skewers the real estate business and pokes fun at his fellow agents, all the while empowering buyers & sellers with behind-the-scene tips & secrets of the industry! Get a glimpse beyond the glitz & glam of real estate. It's a hot mess! Featured on HGTV, House Hunters & other media outlets, Herman is the undisputed Real Estate Maven whose helpful & hilarious commentary you just can't live without! In fact, his real estate TV show has just been optioned in Hollywood!

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  1. Ruthmarie Hicks

    September 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I agree that the "area expert" nonsense is way, way, way overdone. Having said that – local knowledge is essential. Just HOW local is probably the matter of debate. Do I try to sell homes a county and a bridge away? No. Why not? I don't know the area. There are agents running over vast territories throwing anything up against a wall they can find to see what actually sticks. They are in 10 counties claiming that they can sell farmland in upstate NY, shoreline properties in CT and Lofts in Manhattan all at the same time. That makes no more sense than the area "expert" that claims you can only sell homes in a 3 block range.

    The answer lies somewhere in the middle and the exact foot print will vary from agent to agent.

  2. The Terra Nova Development Group LLC

    September 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    True, true and so true!! Local/area specialist to me and my team means being global and if that means I'm farming in someone so called turf, then they better step up their service and make sure they walk the walk or get passed up period! Don't take it personal it's just better business!!

  3. Jeffrey Douglass

    September 4, 2011 at 7:02 pm


    Great post and I have thought of this question many times. My first thought when I run into a neighborhood expert is they are interested in supporting property values where they live, regardless of the actual market conditions. While knowing a home was owned so Susie and Mark Jones, who bought it from Jim and Sandy Sweetbriar, who purchased it from the original owners Pete & Betty Perywinkle is interesting, it doesn't really bring much relevance. Too many "neighborhood specialists" are to interested in the history, and downplay actual property conditions and things a buyer would be concerned about.

    Secondly, I believe that with technology and the reduction of market activity, the neighborhood expert, unless located in an area of high turnover, will not be able to support themselves. Dong complete "due diligence" and bringing in appropriate professional as always a better route for a buyer, rather than listed to an emotional rant on why the home is worth 20% over market price.

    The first thing I tell Buyer's when I start working for them that I am not familiar with the 11,000 single family homes in San Diego, we will know everything there is to know when you find the one for you.

    Where neighborhood experts become more valuable is in high end luxury markets. Years ago when working mostly in Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County, I would always be amazed when an out of area buyer shows up with an out of area agent and makes an offer on a property the locals thought never would sell. Luxury markets tend to be more about relationships and homes that are not "officially on the market", but are know by the locals as available. Most of this has to do with how unique luxury markets are over a subdivision neighborhood.

    How I have always overcome that in my business is calling those "local experts" and speaking to them when ever representing a buyer. Most times, the feedback is very subjective, but once in a while something pops up that only the locals would know. If I am every uncomfortable, I will partner with a local agent to make sure the Client is getting the best representation possible.

    To answer your question, unfortunately I believe many (not all) real estate agents are two faced. Driven by "high producer status" and getting commission check, they sometimes put their interests before the Clients.

    I have enjoyed your videos over the last year or so, and it's great to see you can write to! Keep it up.

  4. Eric Hempler

    September 4, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    For what's available for data now a days an Agent should be able to price any home in any market. Decide how far you're willing to drive for a listing and how far when working with Buyers. A house is a house, but once you start dealing with specialty properties it may be wise to find someone that knows that particular specialty very well.

  5. winchester walk

    September 5, 2011 at 3:28 am

    I'd defnitely agree with this. Labelling has become so common that many business establishments, and brands, would dare to proclaim themselves suddenly as one. It was like having this title has become a must that everybody should have it, when in truth and in fact, they dont even practice it. What I am saying is that these people should not create false hopes when it is blatantly impossibble…

  6. Boise Idaho

    September 5, 2011 at 8:26 am

    You should write a post about how agents over use the word "custom homes" as well. Based on the listings it seems most every home is a custom home?

  7. Tom Alcorn

    September 5, 2011 at 8:28 am

    While there is considerable value to his comments, I do not agree. I believe that we all have our own area of expertise and should use that to leverage ourselves in a competitive market.My areas are commercial and industrial, high end homes and the subdivision where I live. I go into other areas if requested, but do not exclude them, nor claim to be an expert. I would hope that the listing agent would be the "expert" if I have an questions.

  8. Lyle Fisher

    September 5, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I tend to agree that the appellation "Area Specialist" is grossly over done. I have seen it time and time again where an agent will list a property in a neighborhood in which he/she has never before had a listing and the first thing they do is hang out the "Area Specialist" sign rider. I feel this is a gross violation of the Realtor's Code of Ethics in as much as it is misleading the public as to the expertise level of that particular agent.

  9. Bill (Homes in Horsham)

    September 5, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Funny that Agents still try to Market themselves as an "expert" in a particular geographical area – old school thinking to say the least. Eric above and Herman in the article make a good point that technology has not only allowed us (Agents) to become “experts” on any location but more importantly, our Clients come into a Transaction much more knowledgeable then we could ever hope to be.

    Just my personal opinion but we need to stop trying to be location experts and we need to start being financial and negotiation experts!

    Any one can show them a house; it takes specialized (and on-going) training to get our clients the Best price, with the best terms, in a time frame they want.

  10. QuinteRealty

    September 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    As with any business in any discipline in any application, a claim to fame can be very easily overstated and/or overachieved. What Mr. Chan is trying to do (and having marginal success I will admit) is to also make something more than what is really there. Over-achieving an overstatement if you will.

    It's true that any Realtor that places too much emphasis on any personal trait is taking a risk of over-statement. So what? Any arms advocate that speaks too loudly about the right to bear arms risks looking like a lunatic. Or, (do I dare say it?) anyone who claims to be "Real Estate Maven" runs the risk of being perceived as just another blow horn.

    Mr. Chan your article reeks of subject desperation, meaning you had a deadline to meet and couldn't come up with anything better so you made the most of a so so, maybe, maybe not subject.

    What I strongly disagree with (and which perfectly demonstrates your low-end, "please change the channel" commentary style) is your comment "Everyone’s got their schtick." I'm a Realtor and I don't have shtick and I never will; my clients wouldn't stand for it. In my mind anyone who has shtick has something to hide. Right Mr. Chan?

  11. James West

    September 5, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I disagree with you Herman. If you can walk the walk and not just talk then specializing in your own area is a great thing for buyers and sellers. Specializing has nothing to do with limiting yourself to only one area. In fact it is an honest way let people know that you know more about one area than other areas. As far as people listing properties in my area when they haven't got a clue what the area is like and really just give a generic MLS and personal site description, I think that is a poor choice that the seller made for whatever reason. Many times, here on the Big Island of Hawaii, I have seen properties represented by out of town and other Island Agents that do not have pictures or signs placed on the properties, particularly vacant land, and I just shake my head.

  12. Sfvrealestate

    September 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Herman, my bosses don't agree, but I think you're totally correct!

  13. ian lazarus

    September 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I thought being an expert is a good thing? Being an expert in an area doesn't mean you don't other neighborhoods or communities. Being an expert to me says I know this area like no ones business. This doesnt at all hurt my opportunities from taking other listings or help buyers find their dream house. Thanks for your comment.

  14. imraano

    August 30, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I consider myself a specialist in my neighborhood of Beachwood Canyon.
    My value as an area specialist to buyers/seller looking to live/sell here is that I’m aware of:
    1. Owners/neighbors that are considering selling and give me pocket listings because I represent Buyers in the neighborhood.
    2. The other agents in the neighborhood that share that same information with me because they want to work with me and know I have buyers.
    3. By focusing attention on this one neighborhood I can visit a higher percentage of the inventory giving me a better idea of why properties get the prices they receive and allow me to more accurately price listings.
    4. I’m dialed in to community issues, events and vendors which some clients appreciate.

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Opinion Editorials

The offensive myth of getting laid off being a blessing



laid off, losing job

There’s an age-old trend in news to look for rags-to-riches stories. People love to hear about someone who’s down on their luck scraping together a genius idea and, through sheer grit (it seems), finding the motivation to finally strike out on their own and realize their dream.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Person X is laid off from their long-time but unfulfilling office job, say at an oil company in Alberta, or a marketing agency where their good ideas are consistently shot down.

What seems like a situation to for despair is actually an opportunity in disguise— see, with their newfound freedom Person X has the ability to fully commit to their small business pipe dream.

In fact, the story goes, getting laid off was actually the best thing to ever happen to this person.

This story is a myth.

Although I don’t want to discredit anybody who has had the willpower, luck, and resources to succeed at launching their business, there are many people who are laid off who are truly in critically terrible times.

The insidious underlying message of this myth is that anybody who is truly devastated by being laid off is being weak or lazy.

It serves to alleviate the guilt of those who may have survived the lay off themselves; it helps organizations justify the fact that they might have had to let an otherwise good employee go for their own, corporate-level problems.

The characteristics that many of these laid-off-turned-successful-entrepreneurs have in common are the same sort of privileges that many take for granted – health, youth, a personal support system to help keep the lights on, and an established network of people that can be turned into a market of clients.

What happens to the many workers who are victims of ageism when they are laid off in favor of younger, less expensive workers?

What happens if you’re laid off and you can’t use your newfound time to work on your business plan because you’re raising young children?

The entrepreneurs who find opportunity in being suddenly jobless were probably already on their way to striking out on their own, with their being laid off acting as the defined starting point for a plan they might not have known was forming in their heads.

If you, a friend, or a colleague have the unfortunate luck to be laid off, don’t let this myth get under your skin.

It’s okay to have a rough time with a huge life event that is absolutely terrifying and difficult.

Hang in there.

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Opinion Editorials

3 things to do if you *really* want to be an ally to women in tech

(EDITORIAL) Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce.



follow your passion career job interview

More and more women are leaving their positions with tech companies, citing lack of opportunity for advancement, wage gaps and even hostile working conditions as some of the reasons why.

What’s better for the tech industry and its employees than cultivating inclusive and diverse departments? Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce. To name a few:

1. Be open to listening to different perspectives.

It can be awkward to hear so many reports of workplace politics stacking against women, especially if you’re not a woman!

Instead of getting uncomfortable or defensive – ask open ended questions and be interested in a perspective that isn’t yours and may be unfamiliar.

Don’t seek to rationalize or explain the experiences you’re hearing about, as that can come off as condescending. It’s common for women to be interrupted or spoken over in team gatherings. If you notice this happening, bring the conversation back to where the interruption began. Offering your ear and counting yourself as responsible for making space will improve the overall quality of communication in your company.

Listening to and validating what women have to say about the quality of their employment with a company is an important step in the right direction.

Expressing something as simple as “I was interested in what you had to say – could you elaborate on your thought?” can help.

2. Develop an Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.

An ERG is a volunteer-based, employee-led group that acts as a resource for a particular group of employees. An ERG can help to foster inclusiveness through discussion, team-building activities and events. It’s common for a department to have only one or two women on the roster.

This can mean that the day to day feels disconnected from concerns commonly shared by women. disjointed it might feel to be on a high performing team, without access to relatable conversations.

3. Be responsible for your company’s culture.

Chances are, your company already has some amazing cultural values in place. That said, how often are you checking your own performance and your co-workers performances against those high standards? Strong company culture and values sound great, but whether or not they’re adhered to can make or break the mood of a work environment.

Many women say they’ve experienced extremely damaging and toxic cultural environments, which lead to hostility, frustration, and even harassment. Take action when you see the new woman uncomfortable with being hit on at team drinks.

Call out those who make unfriendly and uncouth comments about how women perform, look, or behave.

Setting a personal threshold for these kinds of microaggressions can help you lead by example, and will help build a trustworthy allyship.

(This article was first published here in November, 2016.)

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Opinion Editorials

How the Bullet Journal method has been hijacked and twisted

(EDITORIAL) I’m a big fan of the Bullet Journal method, but sticker-loving tweens have hijacked the movement. Worry not, I’m still using black and white bullet points with work tasks (not “pet cat,” or “smile more”).



bullet journal

It’s taken me some time to come around to the Bullet Journal method, because it took me some time to fully understand it (I have a tendency to overthink simplicity). Now that I understand the use, I find it very beneficial for my life and my appreciation for pen-to-paper.

In short, it’s a quick and simple system for organization tasks and staying focused with everything you have going on. All you need to employ this method is a journal with graph or dotted paper, and a pen. Easy.

However, there seems to be this odd truth that: we find ways to simplify complicated things, and we find ways to complicate simple things. The latter is exactly what’s happened with the Bullet Journal method, thanks to creative people who show the rest of us up.

To understand what I’m talking about, open up Instagram (or Pinterest, or even Google) and just search “bullet journal.” You’ll soon find post after post of frilly, sticker-filled, calligraphy-laden journal pages.

The simple method of writing down bullets of tasks has been hijacked to become a competitive art form.

Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at this stuff because I dig the creativity. But, do I have time to do that myself? No! For honesty’s sake, I’ve tried just for fun and it takes too much damn time.

With this is mind, this new-found method of Bullet Journaling as an art is something that: a) defeats the purpose of accomplishing tasks quickly as you’re setting yourself back with the nifty art, and b) entrepreneurs, freelancers, executives, or anyone busy would not have time for.

Most of these people posting artistic Bullet Journal pages on Instagram are younger and have more time on their hands (and if you want to spend your time doing that, do you, man).

But, it goes against the simplistic method of Bullet Journaling. The intent of the method.

And, beneath the washi tape, stickers, and different colored pens, usually lies a list of: put away laundry, feed cat, post on Insta. So, this is being done more for the sake of art than for employing the method.

Again, I’m all for art and for people following their passions and creativities, but it stands to reason that this should be something separate from the concept of Bullet Journaling, as it has become a caricature of the original method.

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