"Palos Verdes Resident since 1947"

Show Me Your List(ings)

When you’re interviewing agents to sell your house, one the best things you can do is to ask them for a list of homes they’ve actually sold in your area.  If you’re in Palos Verdes, a list of sales in the 90274 and 90275 zip codes would be appropriate.  Any others would be nearly irrelevant.  As explained below, the agent you’re interviewing may not really be active in your area and/or may be starting with you.  If the agent isn’t active where your house is, you will be at a disadvantage for all the reasons listed below.  If you want the full explanation, read on; if not, just trust me and ask any interviewee for such a list.  Here is mine for Palos Verdes.

About 20 years ago, the various Multiple Listing Services, in their collective wisdom, all merged into basically one MLS for all of Los Angeles County (not technically, but true for practical purposes).  Used to be that the various areas (Palos Verdes, Torrance, the Beach) had their own MLS’s, and any agent wanting to do business outside his area was forced to join the MLS for that area, which kept the dabblers out, which benefitted the public.  Now, there are no barriers other than needing a map.  While this might appeal to some (such as agents wanting to do business wherever they desire), I was adamantly, and rather publicly, against it.  The reason was and is that market knowledge ought to be one of the major assets any agent brings to a transaction, be it a listing or purchase.  If an agent is doing business all over LA County I’m sorry, but he simply can’t have sufficient market knowledge in most of it.  As you might imagine, Palos Verdes is a very desirable real estate market in which to do business, and this merger has predictably resulted in our being swamped with out-of-the-area agents trying to make an occasional sale here.  While that may be attractive to the agent, it shouldn’t be to you, and here’s why:


Stand here for optimum view

Knowing the past sales in a given area — which means having seen them inside when they were for sale — is the only road to market knowledge.  Absent that, agents are reduced to running the computer for the data, and are really no better than such as Zillow.  There is simply no way to know what a house really was without having seen it because, if you think about it, the agent was trying to sell the house when they wrote what appears on the internet, and he/she isn’t going to point out that the view shot was taken standing on the powder room toilet, most of the HUGE lot was nearly vertical, or that you had to walk thru a bedroom to get to that family room addition that comprised 50% of the square footage of the house.  When you’re trying to settle on an asking price, this kind of knowledge of the other sales on the part of the agent is critical.  Unless an agent does a lot of business in your area, he simply isn’t going to have it.

When you get offers, it’s just as important:  part of the buyer’s agent’s job is to help his buyer get your house as cheaply as possible.  One of the ways to do this is to include with the offer some of the past sales.  I know it will come as a

This kitchen was remodeled, but when?

This kitchen was “remodeled”, but when?

shock to hear that these don’t tend to be the highest and most favorable to you, the seller.  If your house has 2000 square feet of living area and one of the “comps” presented by the buyer’s agent has 2500 but sold for less than you’re asking (and assuming you’ve already taken my advice and listed with an agent who is demonstrably active in your area and therefore have a valid asking price), there is something the buyer’s agent is not telling you — might be that the house is on the corner of Hawthorne, was “remodeled” in 1978, had tons of unpermitted stuff, or the “panoramic view” shot was taken standing in the street in front of the house.

The point here is that your agent must be equipped to counter, refute, correct, rebut (you get the idea) such “evidence”.  The only way he can do that is to have seen that house, and any others that support your price, while they were for sale.  If he didn’t, or can’t remember them because he was off chasing some deal in Long Beach, your counter-offer at a reasonable price may look arbitrary to the buyer and thus have less chance of being accepted.  If, on the other hand, your agent can tactfully point out that, unlike the buyer’s agent’s comps, your entire house is actually permitted, your remodel was done last year, and your view is from the rear of the house, etc, the buyer is much more likely to see the merit in your price.

One of the listing agent’s jobs is to meet the appraiser for the buyer’s loan at the house for the appraisal.  This can be a critical hurdle.  A good local agent will have in hand a stack of past sales to demonstrate that the house is worth the sale price.  This is really important because if the appraisal comes in below that, either the buyer won’t get the loan and you’ll be back on the market, or the buyer will want to re-negotiate the price based upon the value given by this supposed expert (who, by the way, has also not seen any of those other sales).  If the appraiser is met at the property by a prominent, competent local agent with “comps” in hand, he tends to trust them, and it makes his job easier, which he likes.  If the agent is from Manhattan Beach or Orange County, it just isn’t the same.

It’s also true that having a local, respected agent in your corner can actually help make the sale.  The converse is also true.  If the buyer’s agent sees that someone like Dana Graham has the listing, he knows that he will be dealt with honestly and competently, and that he won’t be hit with a bunch of stuff from “left field”.  On the other hand, if the listing agent is from an office in Beverly Hills and no one’s ever heard of him/her, it is less reassuring to the buyer’s agent — customary business practices vary by area and I’ll just leave it at that.

If you’ve read this whole thing, you clearly grasp the importance of this subject.  Ask any agent you’re interviewing for a list of their sales in your area.  If they don’t have one or equivocate, it’s a red flag.  Feel free to call (310 613-1076) or email ([email protected]) me and we can get down to brass tacks on how this applies to you.

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