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Q:  Marsha, I often receive solicitations to sell my home with out-of-town agents. Sometimes these are from agents as far away as Los Angeles. They seem to know about sales in my area. What do you think about using them when I want to sell?

A:  Agents soliciting business from outside their local service areas have become common. The reasons for this are simple: the internet and technology. 

Almost all real estate companies require their licensed real estate agents to belong to a local association of Realtors. Our local association is the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors (SBAOR). The Realtor boards are invaluable in helping members with education, legislative policies, and networking. Realtors also adhere to a strict code of ethics and behavior. Besides being a Realtor, agents also belong to their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This is the property information and data service. It is through a region’s MLS that all information regarding listings is delivered. 

In California, Realtors will generally belong to just one local Association of Realtors. However, a California real estate agent is licensed to sell and help secure properties anywhere in the state. While a Realtor only belongs to one association of Realtors, they can join as many MLS regions as they want. They join to access information about real estate in a particular area.  

Selling real estate is all about information and access to that information. In the pre-internet days, real estate agents had the MLS book. This was a weekly compilation of every active, in-contract, and recently sold property for an MLS region. For decades, before the year 2000, Santa Barbara Realtors met every week to update the MLS book and agents on local property information.

Real estate agents were the gatekeepers of the MLS book. We were warned by our companies never to show the book to our clients. All property information had to come through us. If we had a client who wanted to purchase in another MLS region, we researched and spoke with agents in that area and then referred our clients to them.

Around the year 2000, significant change occurred with the advent of the internet. Suddenly everyone had access to property information. Multiple platforms, such as Zillow, were viewed by potential buyers and sellers.

In 2010, three existing MLS regions merged, and the concept of the California Regional Multiple Listing Service was created (CRMLS). Now instead of spending a lot of money to join little MLS regions all over California, an agent could inexpensively join CRMLS and gain access to the same information the local Realtors had. Currently in California there are 110,000 CRMLS agent participants. It is the largest MLS association in the country.  

CRMLS has participating MLS regions running from San Diego to Alameda and Mendocino. Not every MLS region in California belongs to the CRMLS. Santa Barbara does not belong. However, many out-of-town agents belong to our local MLS. The agents who are contacting you are getting sales information about your neighborhood by reviewing the local MLS.

When you hire a local agent to sell your property, you are hiring that agent’s team, network of tradespeople, local expertise, market knowledge, and peer relationships with other local agents. Can an out-of-town agent possess a local’s subtle knowledge about our neighborhoods and our market? A significant part of our Realtor’s code of ethics is to place our client’s needs ahead of our own. 

You, as the property owner, will make the final decision and evaluation as to who can best serve your real estate needs. 

Marsha Gray has worked in Santa Barbara real estate for more than 25 years. She works at Allyn & Associates, where she helps her clients buy and sell homes and with lending services. To read more of Marsha’s Q&A articles, visit Contact Marsha at (805) 252-7093 or DRE# 012102130; NMLS #1982164.


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