by Melbourne buyers advocate Carly Susic 

When you are selling your home, you may be tempted to consider an out of suburb agent. But beware the pitfalls. When you are selling a home, the right agent can make or break your campaign. So it’s important to choose the best possible team to sell your house. 

Read on to find out why out of suburb agents are unlikely to be the best choice to sell your home — and how to find a local agent instead. 

Why people choose out of suburb agents 

Often, you find yourself considering an out of suburb agent because of a friend or family connection. Your cousin is an agent across town. Your friend had a great experience with her agent. Or you go back to the person who sold your house years ago, because they’ve been sending you Christmas cards every year. You like them and you have a prior relationship with them. 

Trust in your agent is a big thing, especially in an industry often ranked as one of the least trustworthy professions in Australia.  

So when you find an agent you feel you can trust, you naturally want to appoint them. And it makes sense to trust the recommendation of friends and family. A word of mouth referral is comforting when you are making the decision about choosing a real estate agent to sell your house. 

But it can be fraught with danger.  

Pitfall #1 lack of local knowledge 

Out of suburb agents aren’t as familiar with the local area. They don’t know which primary school is the most popular, or which coffee shop has a queue every morning. 

Of course, any agent can research the local area to get an idea of these things. But an agent who’s been operating in the suburb for decades knows it like the back of their hand. 

Think of your suburb. Is there a fancy street that everyone considers the best in the area? Likewise, is there a corner that’s considered a little bit dodgy? Non-local agents are less likely to be aware of these little nuances of your suburb. 

Pitfall #2 lack of local buyer knowledge 

Agents don’t have a connection to local buyers. When you work with a local agent, they have an established network of people to call the minute your listing becomes active. Ideally, they can get people through the door on day one. Most agents get to know local buyers and what they’re looking for, with a view to being the agent to present that solution, so it makes sense for them to build a network of buyer profiles.

Plus, agents with local connections pay attention to gain an advantage — knowing buyers’ price thresholds. They notice when people stop bidding at auctions, or what their highest offer was on a property they previously missed out on. 

A good local agent will easily determine the budgets of most of their buyers, either by asking them or observing them interacting at auctions. As the vendor, this benefits you because they know buyers’ price limits and can negotiate accordingly on your behalf. 

Pitfall #3 inaccurate evaluations 

Due to their lack of familiarity with your local area, agents can fail to understand those in-demand areas that can command a few extra thousand on your asking price. A local agent will know the popular corners and crannies of the suburb where everyone wants to live. Conversely, they’ll also know the areas that are less than desirable (comparatively). Again, this all comes down to local knowledge which can be extremely valuable. 

I experienced this when my client was selling, using an agent from three suburbs away. The agent was pressuring my client to sell at $1.05 million. I knew the price was valued at $1.1 so I dug in my heels. The agent, not being familiar with the area, wasn’t aware that the house was in a highly prized pocket of the suburb. We held firm on the asking price of $1.1 million and later that day another bidder who’d missed out at auction offered a tidy $1.12. If the client had listened to the agent, they’d’ve missed out on that extra $70,000 in the sale price. 

Pitfall #4 inconvenient open times 

When your agent has to drive 15 minutes or so to host your open house inspections, they’re likely to stage it at the end of the day or first thing in the morning , to give themselves time to arrive. 

They’re not going to give you the prime opening time in the middle or late morning, as they’ll have to drive twenty minutes and back again to fit in all their opens. This means you may attract fewer buyers to your opens because the times are not as convenient, which may impact competition levels when it comes to selling at auction. 

Also, agents who live farther away are less available for last-minute private viewings. They’re less keen to drive late at night in the rain to a private inspection when it’s a few suburbs across town. They’ll hopefully do it, but their availability may be limited. 

How to choose a local agent 

So, how do you find the right local agent instead? 

  • look at the for sale boards in the area 
  • Google sold houses in your street and surrounding streets – who was the agent? 
  • search recently sold figures online 
  • use realestate.com.au’s find an agent feature to see who’s selling the most in your area 
  • Look at what types of properties they are selling —  if they sell apartments and you have a four bedroom house to sell (and vice versa) they won’t be the right agent — you want them to be active in your particular segment of the market 
  • Secret shop them — head out to opens or auctions or call to enquire about a property, thinking about how you want them to talk to your buyers. (Don’t reveal you have a property to sell — if you do you will then be pursued and charmed and probably find yourself with an appointment for them to appraise your home that afternoon!)

A final piece of advice – keep it quiet 

Don’t ask your neighbours, friends or even your family for recommendations. This is often how vendors wind up using out of suburb agents — someone close made a recommendation and they felt obliged. 

When the agent is sitting in your living room with a contract in hand it can be difficult to say no. After all, agents are known to be extremely charming and persuasive. The fewer people you tell about your selling plans, the fewer not-so-helpful recommendations you will get from well-meaning friends and family. 

When you’ve chosen your agent and have the contract signed, then you can tell everyone. By then, if they recommend an agent, their cousin or their mum’s friend, you can cheerfully decline. 

You may also like 

How to respond to a letter in your mailbox offering to buy your house 

How a vendor advocate can help you sell your house with less stress and for the best price 

Selling your home in a lockdown 

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