2010 Nov 23rd

How Well Can a Stranger Know Hoboken?

Some potential buyers from Manhattan were considering moving to Hoboken.  They went out looking at Hoboken properties a few times with a Hoboken agent but they weren’t sold on Hoboken and were considering the “M-towns” (Morristown, Montclair, Maplewood, etc.).  They told their Hoboken agent that they were going to work with an agent from Montclair so that “they would only have to deal with one person”.  Presumably, the Montclair agent would also show them Hoboken condos.  This struck me as really strange.

Most Hoboken agents are licensed in NJ and could work anywhere in the state.  There are some good reasons why few do.  Realtors tend to belong to a particular MLS board and specialize in neighborhood or maybe a few adjoining areas, like Hoboken & Jersey City or the Gold Coast towns.  I’ve yet to meet an agent who “specializes” in the whole state or even in Hoboken and a suburban town.  In a state with over 8 million inhabitants, its pretty hard to be a specialist in that many neighborhoods and homes.

On the rare occasion when an out-of-town agent does lists a Hoboken condo for sale or brings a buyer to look at homes here, there is usually a family friend, relative or relocation deal involved.  After all,  one of the crucial attributes of a truly outstanding agent is knowing the local market and community.  That knowledge allows for the match to be made between the properties that are available and the buyer’s needs. In my opinion, to really know the market your agent really needs to live in it!

So if these buyers were looking in two completely different communities, would a Hoboken agent really do them justice in Montclair any more than the Montclair agent would be able to serve them in Hoboken?  I highly doubt it.  A much better idea when buyers are shopping two separate towns is to have one agent arrange for a referral to a top agent who truly does specialize in the second (or third) location.  After all, we know how to tell who is good and who isn’t.  It also makes all the agents involved feel less possessive about steering the buyers to one’s own neighborhood as both agents get paid thanks to a referral fee, regardless of where the buyers ultimately buy.

Using an out-of-town agent in today’s market is not very smart.  I’ve seen sellers list their homes for sale well off the market value because their agent was not familiar with local market conditions.  Similarly, buyers may have little guidance in knowing value and negotiating an offer with an agent who doesn’t know the neighborhood.  Remember, all real estate is local.  Your agent probably should be, too.

  1. whynot

    were you the agent that dealt with these “potential buyers from Manhattan”?!?

  2. Lori

    Whether or not I was the agent or Howie was the agent is not important. The point is the value of using an agent who really knows the community.

  3. ab

    agents don’t bring much to the table.

    any reasonably smart person will do just as good. Agents just care about getting their commission….Not if the house is really right for the buyer.

  4. Lori Turoff

    Really? Do you sincerely think that in today’s extremely competitive market, any old agent can sell a property and earn a commission that easily? Are buyers that easily duped that an agent can push them into buying the wrong property with a wave of the wand?

    If you were the buyer would you want to work with an ill-informed, inexperienced agent when making one of the largest purchases you are likely to make in your life, especially when it’s the first time you’re buying a home?

  5. Howie

    Putting aside the considerable value that an informed, experienced, knowlegable realtor can bring to a first time homebuyer (or for that matter, any homebuyer) – with almost 450 units for sale in Hoboken, don’t you think someone works in a specific neighborhood every single day, who is familiar with all the apartments, the nearby shopping, the unsafe areas etc… don’t you think an agent like that could save a buyer time by cutting through the BS? I don’t know what ab does for a living, but most buyers have busy lives, and having a realtor who knows more that just what the pictures on the MLS tells him, and can save the buyer from wasting valuable time.

  6. DF

    Agents do bring valuable insight to a home-buying search. If you are not sure, consider this:

    If you are looking at listings online (Trulia, Zillow, Craigslist), there will be pictures and a description written by the person selling the property. Never will it say, “thin walls” or “cheap flooring which cannot be sanded if scratched” or “across the street from a loud fire station”.

    An experienced and informed agent will save you lots of time and expense by informing you of these things.

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