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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?

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Written By

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!



  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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