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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

Be yourself, or be Batman? A simple trick to boost your self-confidence

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) “If you can’t be yourself, be Batman.” We’ve heard it before, but is there a way that this mentality can actually give you self-confidence?



Batman symbol has long been a way to boost self-confidence.

The joke with scary movies is that the characters do stupid things, and so you scream at them. No you dumdums, don’t go FURTHER into the murder circus. Put down the glowing idol of cursed soda gods and their machine gun tempers. Stop it with the zombie dogs. STOP IT WITH THE — WHAT DID I JUST TELL YOU?

We do this as the audience because we’re removed from the scene. We’re observing, birds eye view imbued ducklings, on our couches, and with our snacks. Weird trick for horror movies to play — makes us feel smart, because we’re not the ones on meat hooks.

But if a zombie crashed through our window, like RIGHT NOW, the first thing we’re going to do doesn’t matter, because that thing is going to be stupid. So so stupid. You can’t believe how stupid you’ll act. Like, “I can’t leave behind my DONUT” stupid, as a zombie chomps your arm that was reaching for a bear claw you weren’t even really enjoying to begin with. “Oh no my DOCUMENTS I can’t leave without my DOCUMENTS.”

There’s a layer of distinction between those two instances — removed versus immersed. And really, this colors a lot of our life. Maybe all of our life. (Spoiler: It is all of our life.)

It’s Imposter Syndrome in overdrive — the crippling thought that you’re going to fail and be found out. And you tell yourself that all the little missteps and mistakes and mis…jumps are entirely your fault. Feedback loops reiterates, and then you get paralyzed. And man, what a time to be alive — what with the world on fire — to start up a self-deprecation engine shame machine. No way our self-confidence is suffering now, right?

The point is: You — as a being — experiencing things first hand is the perfect time to see your shortcomings. You can’t help but do it. You are living in your skeleton meat mecha human suit, and all the electronics in your head strangely remember all the times you struggled. And weirdly, if you look at someone else in the exact same situation you were just in, you suddenly have this powerful insight and awareness. It happens naturally. It’s why you think I would never head on down to the basement in a creepy mansion. Watch any cooking competition show to see this in action. Armchair quarterbacks, hindsight 2020. It’s all the same.

But when it’s just you and you’re doing things in real time? You lose focus, you stumble, and you wonder why it’s suddenly so hard to make rice, or why you fell for the really obvious fake punt.

So where does that leave you? How do you solve this problem? There are ways. But the journey is arduous and hectic and scary and difficult. Time tempers your soul over and over, you harden in ways that build you up, and you become better. The process is ages old.

I bet you’d like at least… I dunno, there’s gotta be a small trick, right? Life has secrets. Secrets exist. Secrets are a thing. Let’s talk about one to boost your self-confidence.

Stop seeing things in first person, and instead, talk to yourself in the third person. Yes, just like George did in that episode of Seinfeld. Don’t say, “I need to finish the project today.” Say “Bob needs to finish the project today.” If your name is Bob, I mean. Substitute in your name. In effect, you are distancing yourself from the situation at hand, as you begin to view it from outside yourself.

Studies have shown that doing this causes a fascinating side effect — an odd insulating barrier that can give someone just enough distance from the problem at hand, which in turn lets someone more calmly examine the situation. Once that is achieved, a plan can be written and executed with great results.

There’s some research demonstrating this concept, and as truly crazy as it sounds, marked improvement in behavior has been measured when participants are told to think of themselves as a different person. It’s like the “fake it ’til you make it” principle — suddenly you’re sort of cheering on this other person, because you want them to succeed. It’s just that in this case, the other person is still you.

I’ve heard the concept also said that “your current self can give your future self an easier life if you work hard now.” It seems like distancing functions on that wavelength — that by thinking you are supporting some other entity (and even when that entity is still you), some empathetic mechanisms spring into play, and your natural desire to see success rebounds back onto yourself. This is you eating your cake, yet something still having cake.

So that’s magic in and of itself, right? I want you to try it. Don’t think in terms of what you have to do, but what you watching yourself will do. All these fun tiny benefits concurrently happen — encouragement, pressure removal, controlled thought, drive, momentum, and motivation. It’s all there — a trail mix built out of emotions and psychological buffs. And they’ll all fire off at once and you’ll start noticing how much better you feel.

Here’s the best part — we can take this further. At least two different studies have shown with children that thinking of an alter ego and then distancing creates even stronger outcomes. Now we’re not just hyping ourselves up — we’re hyping up an impressive figure. Batman is already taking down jerks. So what if you say you are the night and combine that with self removal? Even in children, the conclusion was fascinating. When they were given a menial task to complete, those who were told to believe they were Batman had an improvement of 23% in focus and productivity over a group who was given no directive. Even without the consequences of adult life and its inherent complexities, children naturally showcased that they work harder if they undergo an alter ego transformation. Now you’re not just there for yourself, you’re there for Batman himself.

“But that’s just children.” Ok, well, it works in adults too. Beyoncé and Adele would psych themselves up by creating onstage personas that were confident, successful, fearless versions of themselves. It’s an act within an act, with a performer further elevating themselves away from reality through the substitution of a personality built and engineered for success. Set aside that these are powerful, fierce, intimidating entertainers in their own right; the focus here is that they also used this mental trick, and it worked.

(There’s an aside here that I think is worth mentioning — in the midst of performing to a crowd, you are 100% in control, and I think this simple realization would help scores of people with their fear of public speaking; a concept to write about another day.)

Distilled down: If you think you’re a hero, you’ll act like one. Easier said than done, but give it a try by taking yourself out of the equation, even if for a moment. You’re not changing who you are so much as you are discovering the pieces of innate power you already had. You aren’t erasing yourself — you’re finding the hidden strength that’s already there. Having a way to kickstart this is perfectly fine.

The ultimate goal with all of this is to build the discipline that lets you begin to automatically engage this mode of heightened ability – that you’ll naturally adopt the good parts into life without the need for ramping up. Armed with that, you’re unstoppable.

Life — as a series of interactions and decisions — can be gamed, to a degree, with tiny and small shifts in perspective. Dropping a surrogate for yourself gives you enough room to have the chance to take everything in, and augmenting this concept further with the thought of having an alter ago creates even wilder possibilities. Psychologists are finding that this sidestep phenomenon can potentially help in different areas — improved physical health, learning how to better handle stress, emotional control, mastering anxiety, and a host of others.

So put on a mask, and then put on a whole new self. It’s almost Halloween anyway.

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Opinion Editorials

Don’t forget about essential workers in a post-COVID world (be kind)

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) As the world reopens, essential workers deserve even more of our respect and care, remembering that their breaks have been few and far between.



Tired essential workers wearing an apron leans against the doorframe of a cafe, eyes closed.

Anxiety about returning to work post-COVID-19 is real. Alison Green, of Ask A Manager, believes “much of that stems from a break in trust in the people and institutions that have shown they can’t be counted on to protect us.” Green also goes on to remind us that a lot of people don’t have the luxury of returning to the workplace – the essential workers who never left the workplace. The grocery store clerks, janitors, garbage collectors, and healthcare providers, just to name a few. As the country reopens, we have to be more sensitive to these essential workers, who often are left out of the discussion about safety, work norms, and benefits.

Essential workers got lip service during the pandemic

At the start of the pandemic, the essential workers were hailed as heroes. We appreciated the grocery store workers who tried to keep the shelves stocked with toilet paper. We thanked the healthcare workers who kept working to keep people healthy and to take care of our elderly. I remember being more appreciative of the person who delivered my mail and the guy who came and picked up the trash each week. Now that the pandemic has been with us for more than a year, these workers are still doing their jobs, just maybe not so tirelessly.

Some of these workers don’t have sick days, let alone vacation days for self-care, but they are still making it possible for their community to function while being treated with less than respect. They’ve weathered the pandemic while working in public, worrying about getting sick, dealing with the public who threw tantrums for policies beyond their control, and managing their health while employers didn’t enforce safety measures. I’d hazard a guess that most of the C-level executives didn’t bring in any of their essential employees when writing new policies under COVID-19.

Bring essential workers into the conversation

In many cases, it has been the workers with the least who are risking the most. In Oklahoma, even though Gov. Stitt deemed many industries as essential, those same workers had to wait until Phase 3 to get their vaccine. Please note that elected officials and government leaders were eligible under Phase 2 to get their vaccine. Society pays lip service to the essential workers, but in reality, these jobs are typically low paying jobs that must be done, pandemic or not. In my small rural town, a local sheriff’s deputy contracted COVID-19. The community came together in fundraising efforts to pay his bills. It’s sad that a man who served the community did not have enough insurance to cover his illness.

As your office opens up and you talk to employees who are concerned about coming back to the office, don’t forget about the ones who have been there the entire time. Give your essential workers a voice. Treat their anxiety as real. Don’t pay lip service to their “heroism” without backing it up with some real change. As offices open up to a new normal, we can’t forget about the essential workers who did the jobs that kept society going.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.



Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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