Friday, February 21, 2014

Getting Territorial: Should you be looking for a “neighbourhood specialist”?

What really matters when choosing an Ottawa real estate agent? Depth of experience, certainly. Track record, naturally. Professionalism, definitely.

Emotions play into the decision, too: good personal rapport between you and your agent generally translates to a better all-over experience.

But there’s one factor that shouldn’t carry as much weight as it often does. More and more, I’m seeing agents promote themselves as “neighbourhood experts”, suggesting that they have the inside scoop on a given part of the city because it’s their home turf.

I can hear you thinking: “But I’m looking to move to Awesometown! Why wouldn’t I want to hook up with an agent who’s lived in Awesometown for fifteen years?”

Well, if that agent happens to check all the other boxes, by all means. But what exactly is it that a self-appointed “neighbourhood specialist” can offer you?

A good agent, regardless of where they live, will use all possible resources to research the heck out of a neighbourhood. A good agent will understand the trajectory of a neighbourhood: where it’s been and where it’s headed. A good agent will lay the groundwork with the numbers – finding “comparables”, as well as statistics on local schools, demographics and taxes – and build out from there.

True, “neighbourhood experts” may know which diner has the best coffee. But, more to the point, are they able to be objective about market values of homes to which they have an emotional connection? Are they able to steer clients towards alternative, promising neighbourhoods if the numbers just aren’t coming together? On occasion, small playing fields lead to tunnel vision.

Consider this: suppose an agent does possess “insider knowledge” about a certain school, street or neighbour. If that knowledge would discourage a purchase, will it necessarily make it to your ear?

Realistically, all real estate agents have zones where their business is concentrated. However, as a realtor based in downtown Ottawa, I’ve helped clients find and sell properties throughout the region, and far beyond the city limits. I do my homework and we’re off, taking my expertise along with me.

The takeaway? Any agent worth her salt can help get you the right house in the right part of town. There’s no need to run screaming from those who claim to be neighbourhood experts; just stay clear-eyed, and don’t give that claim more weight than it deserves.

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