Don’t use a San Francisco agent to buy a house in the East Bay | Dangers of an Out -of-Town Agent

Don’t use a San Francisco agent to buy a house in the East Bay | Dangers of an Out -of-Town Agent

Thinking of using a San Francisco agent to help you buy your home in the East Bay? Think again. While there are exceptions to every rule, by and large, you are not doing yourself a favor when you use your San Francisco agent to buy a house in the East Bay.

Here are the 5 reasons:

1. Different Contracts

The first and foremost reason is that SF agents use an SF-specific contract. It is the one area in our geography that does this. As a result, those agents are well-versed in writing SF-specific contracts. When people in my network are looking to buy in SF, I refer them to someone who is an expert in that market. As a result of being an expert with their contracts, many of them are novices when it comes to working with ours. Specifically, in the East Bay, which uses the Standard California Purchase Agreement.

The upside of getting an East Bay agent who is an expert in writing East Bay contract is that they would know the loopholes, landmines and opportunities to that benefit you! Contracts contain specifics language and sections that work togeather (or can conflict) that will either tee you up for success or set you up for failure.

So my advice? If you’re planning to buy a house in East Bay, find an East Bay agent who knows how to write an East Bay contract well. Of course, the same applies too if you’re planning to buy a house in SF or even elsewhere.

2. Local Neighborhood and Market Knowledge

As you know, there are many micro-neighborhoods inside bigger neighborhoods in SF.  The same is also true for East Bay which is built between the Oakland/Berkeley hills and the San Francisco Bay.  The geography changes very quickly. Having local knowledge not only includes being familiar with the dividers between neighborhoods, but being familiar with listings that are coming soon/off-market and historic inventory.

If your agent has local knowledge about the neighborhood, they should have specific knowledge about not only the recent sales but the condition or factors that led to that price.  For example: Did it have a big pest report? Was the layout strange? Were the bedrooms small?  Was the next door neighbor a jerk?  This is all really critical information to help you make an offer that’s intelligent and well-informed.

3. Local Network of Vendors and Contractors

All real estate agents have their local network—vendors, inspectors, trades people, contractors, which know that local inventory and customs. Of course, if you’re going to buy a house in East Bay, it would be ideal for you to work with those local vendors. They can provide the most relevant knowledge to help you make an informed decision, help you know what’s typical (or not), or help you price a repair or improvement that makes sense in the East Bay setting.

So wherever you’re looking, make sure that the agent you’re going to work with has a strong local network that they can pull from. 

4. Local Expectations and Customary Ways of Doing Business

In addition to having different contracts, some other nuances exist between the San Francisco and East Bay market. The standard allocation and distribution of things like closing costs, escrow fees, and transfer taxes are divided differently in East Bay than they are in SF.

For instance, let’s say you wrote an offer for an East Bay property with your SF agent. Based on the way they allocate the escrow/title fee, transfer taxes and other closing costs, the listing agent will know they are not from around here and don’t know the standard customs and ways of doing business.  They will relay that information to the Seller.

If you are competing against other offers from agents the Listing Agent knows or recognizes, like the Gunderman Group, Grubb, or Red Oak—they will also give their feedback and experience to the Seller. 

Chances are, the listing agent is going to refer to their client that the San Francisco agent gave a good offer, but also, that they may not really be familiar with the customary ways of doing business in East Bay.

Because the listing agent want to impress their client and give them the smoothest experience possible (to earn referrals in the future) they will communicate their experience and opinions to the seller that will hopefully deliver that outcome. Since the seller hired that agent to be their advisor, more often than not, they follow that advice.

5. Point-of-Sale Ordinances

The fifth reason is very important because it can cause you thousands of dollars if not done correctly.

Every city in East Bay has its own point-of-sale ordinances. These are city mandated upgrades or improvements to the property that have to happen to the property either before it sells or very shortly after. For example: the Sewer Lateral compliance, the Gas Shut-off Valve instillation, and the Side Walk Compliance certificate. 

If your agent doesn’t understand what these ordinances are, what the costs should be, how to bid them out, how to fill out the contract so that you, the buyer, will only take responsibility for some and the seller takes responsibility for the others, you can easily be on the hook for thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. 


Keep these five reasons in mind when choosing a real estate agent from a specific city to work with.  No matter who you work with, make sure to discuss these five categories with your agent to ensure they are able to serve you at a high level. 

If they don’t give you specific or quality enough answers, don’t worry. You can ask them to refer you to someone in that market who can serve you. And your agent can still collect a referral fee. In the end, it will be well worth and uncomfortable conversation in order to remove  stumbling blocks and other issues from your transaction. In the end, this is about you and your process. 

I hope this list has helped you. If I can give you more context on the process of buying or selling your home, please do not hesitate to reach out. My information is below. 

Here’s to all your success!

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