I believe the most recognizable line from the musical “The Music Man” is “You gotta know the territory,” and I have found it to be a very true statement for just about everything. Whether you’re hiring a divorce lawyer who knows the law and the judges or a tax accountant who knows the tax code, insider knowledge is crucial to achieving good results. This is most especially true in the world of real estate, where location is everything, but finding a good deal can be a challenge unless you have someone on your side that knows the territory.
Knowing your way around is crucial for a real estate agent, but it’s the connections and the “insider knowledge” that separates a good agent from a great agent. Last week I was having lunch at Ye Olde King’s Head with my friend Andrej Nagy, who is a real estate agent for The Agency. We were chatting about his latest big sale, which has the distinction of being the highest sale price in the history of Sunset Park, ever, at $2.625 million.
I asked him what’s his recipe for success — “total devotion to knowing my territory. I walk my neighborhood of Sunset Park on a daily basis, frequently accompanied by my dog, Spencer, who is a natural attraction to start a conversation. People are always asking me what’s the best deal in town? Everyone wants to know what their home is worth, how quickly are offers being made, et cetera.” The current hot market is likely to heat up in the coming months as we head into the traditional high sales season of April, May June, because parents want to buy and sell over the summer to get the kids settled for school in September.
Real estate agents, contractors and designers are all busy right now getting homes ready for a sale. “I have few homes in process right now, that will be going on the market in the next two months as we work with the homeowners to maximize curb appeal and prepare the local marketing campaigns.”
I reached out a client of Nagy’s to see if he was walking the walk, and Rick Wenninger had this to stay about him: “Andrej handled the purchase of our new home from start to finish with professionalism and enthusiasm. He negotiated aggressively for us both before and after the offer was accepted, followed up quickly on even the smallest details throughout the escrow period, and, even now, after we moved in last month, he is still working to make sure our experience in our new home is everything we expected. Andrej did a first class job throughout the transaction, and we are now using him to list our former home.”
Using a local agent is crucial in a market like Sunset Park that is family-friendly, has mature landscaping and is an up-and-coming market for remodel construction. I am not a fan of the mansion-ization I see happening in Sunset Park, but I know that it’s the future. In speaking with Andrej he reminded me that “remodels and new homes raise the market value of the surrounding properties. A rising tide lifts all boats.” An apt choice of metaphor for the good looking surfer he is to choose.
“Being a local I get to park and surf off Station 28, which is a nice place for this boy from Jersey to be, I get out a few times a week, but having a new wife, and the demands of a busy real estate career are loves that take a big chunk of my schedule!” he said grinning through his glowing winter tan.
The market in Sunset Park has picked up nicely, sales are up 59 percent over 2014 numbers, and average price per square foot is up $50, which is a good thing for everybody. “North of Montana is doing even better, last year the median sale price was $2.085 million and this year it’s $3.275 million, and that’s based on the same number of sales (30 vs 31). I think it’s clearly a factor of the new construction that’s going on which is bringing up all the home values in that district,” said Nagy.
As a divorce lawyer I track the real estate market closely because as it goes, I go. The divorce rate tracks real estate with about a six month time lag, people generally only get divorced if there is something to fight over, no equity, they’re not coming to divorce lawyers, huge equity, they’re pounding on my door to get this done now. I have a case where the parties weren’t in a rush to get the paperwork done until they heard about another condo in their building going for a steep price jump, all of sudden they’re both ready to get to market — it’s the power of “knowing the territory.”
Nagy said, “I have lots of insider information because I work the territory I live in, and I talk to everyone. I know who’s planning retiring to Mexico and will be ready to sell in the next six months, I know who’s planning their divorce and who’s just had a baby and wants to move up. This is what makes me a resource for my clients who want to find a deal that isn’t on the market yet.”
Property values are hitting new highs and the market is sure to keep climbing for the next few months, which is good news for sellers, bad for buyers and comforting for those of us whose livelihoods surf the waves of the real estate market.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in fathers’ and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310-664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.