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You get dozens of real estate postcards a month from the ‘Neighbourhood Expert’ in your ‘hood. You likely see their photos on billboards and bus shelters, and you might even get a fridge magnet or calendar from them too. So what’s the deal with ‘neighbourhood expert’ REALTORS? Should you hire them?

Today, we’re revealing ten truths about the importance (or non-importance) of neighbourhood expertise when buying or selling a home in the GTA:

1. Neighbourhood expertise is important when purchasing a home.

A REALTOR’s guidance about neighbourhoods – schools, services and amenities, safety, property values, green spaces and neighbourhood quirks is invaluable when you’re buying a home for your family.

Related: 88 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Neighbourhood

2. Your ‘Neighbourhood Expert’ may not be an expert at all.

If you’re hiring a ‘neighbourhood expert’ to help you buy a home, it’s a good idea to verify their sales in the area. Many agents position themselves as ‘experts’ despite not having worked in a neighbourhood. It’s a common newbie agent strategy.

3. If you’re looking to list a home for sale, DON’T hire for neighbourhood expertise first.

What’s most important when hiring a listing agent to sell your home?

  • Pricing skills
  • Marketing strategies beyond the MLS
  • Staging
  • Service
  • Negotiation skills
  • Reputation
  • Experience managing the listing process and all the things that can go wrong

Now it’s possible that your local agent is highly skilled in all these critical areas too – but you’d be surprised at the number of ‘neighbourhood experts’ who list a ton of homes, despite offering subpar marketing and minimal services and extras. Do marketing and staging matter? They do if your goal is to get the most amount of money for your home.

4. Neighbourhood familiarity is important when listing your home for sale.

A listing agent’s job is to sell the home AND the neighbourhood – so they absolutely need to be familiar with it. They need to be able to tell the story of life in your community and respond to typical Buyer objections too.

5. Expertise selling in a similar market is important when hiring a listing agent.

There’s no doubt about it, real estate is local. I wouldn’t list a home for sale in Ottawa because I have no idea what’s ‘normal’ there or how the market reacts and I wouldn’t be the best person for the job.

6. Experience selling similar homes is essential too.

Don’t hire an agent who only lists condos to sell your house; don’t hire an agent who only lists houses to sell your condo.

7. Agents who position themselves as ‘Neighbourhood Experts’ might be more concerned with getting their next listing than selling your home for top dollar.

Truth bomb: The ‘Just Listed’ postcards that fill up your mailbox? Their primary job is to find new Seller clients for the agent, not to sell your house. A neighbour rarely buys a house on the street they already live on or on a neighbouring street (and in Toronto, it could be sold by the time you get the card!) There’s nothing wrong with an agent marketing themselves – just make sure they don’t disguise it as marketing for your home.

8. Expertise in the type of Buyer most likely to buy your home is important.

Your listing agent needs to know how to reach your ideal Buyer. Where are they searching for a home? What language and messaging resonates with them? How do they communicate? Having a deep understanding of the ideal Buyer is doubly important if the demographics in your neighbourhood are changing.

9. A lot of old-school ‘Neighbourhood Experts’ are more concerned with their market share than selling your home for top dollar.

These agents are easy to spot – they often list homes exclusively (meaning they aren’t listed on the MLS) and they often represent the Buyer AND the Seller in the same transaction. If an agent recommends these strategies to you, make sure to ask: Is this in my best interest or yours?

Related: Should You List Your Home Exclusively?

10. The ‘expert’ in your neighbourhood will still show your home to their Buyers if you don’t list it with them.

This is a common scare tactic used by old-school REALTORS: “If you don’t list with one of the big names in the ‘hood, your house will never sell.” A lot of luxury agents try to scare Sellers with that line too. Truth: real estate agents show every home, and if they have a chance to make a commission by bringing a Buyer for your home, trust me, they will. Be wary of anyone who implies otherwise.

The BREL Model of Real Estate

Unlike many of our peers in the real estate industry, the BREL team has never positioned itself as the ‘neighbourhood expert in neighbourhood X’. Instead, we’ve focused on developing best-in-class digital marketing, staging, negotiating skills and client experiences – the things we believe make the biggest difference to our clients.

When it comes to working with Buyers, we know it’s rare to be focused on only one neighbourhood, so every BREL agent has expertise in multiple ‘hoods. Sometimes our agents will even work together to make sure our Buyers always have the inside scoop no matter where they’re looking; it’s not unusual for a Buyer to work with one of our agents in one part of the city and another BREL agent somewhere else.

So what should you do? Should you hire the ‘Neighbourhood Expert’?

There’s a time and a place for neighbourhood expertise –  just ask questions, and don’t sacrifice other critical skills for it when you’re selling your home. Just because someone sent you a postcard…doesn’t mean they’re the best person for the job.

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