The High Road: The customer is not always right

There can come a time when a broker has to say good-bye. (Photo by _6ft5)

A real estate broker infrequently has to bid adieu to a buyer or seller who is devious or merely mischievous.   And it  always is regrettable when that situation arises.

The fact is that, when it comes to real estate, the customer is not always right.  In that case, the customer or client should be fired. Continue reading

If this is a true story, one broker should be shot

Montague Terrace, Brooklyn Heights (Flickr photo by lumierefl)

A friend sent me the link to a New York Times blog, where an anonymous commenter told an anecdote that raised my hackles and, as well, the hair on my head.

It seems a Brooklyn Heights real estate broker leaped over the line of conflict of interest and landed with both feet on the square of ethical violation.

According to the post, the broker is married to the president of a co-op board in the building where the writer, a first-time buyer and foreigner, hoped to live.  The commenter quoted the broker, who is the female half of the couple, as maintaining that she knew exactly what sort of shareholder the board was seeking–“and don’t worry.”

The woman and her husband would facilitate the process, the broker reportedly said. The comment continues: Continue reading

Don’t be surprised by how little brokers know

(Flickr photo by ac4lt)

A recent Wall Street Journal first-person piece by a newbie broker had me chuckling and nodding in agreement.

However, you may gasp in horror at how little useful information real-estate brokers acquire during the abysmally small amount of online education or class hours required to obtain a license.  You also may think twice about working with a broker who is just breaking into the field (though I am, of course, sympathetic to their plight, which I shared some years ago).

Evoking the drudgery depicted in the film, American Beauty, Alyssa Abkowitz also confesses Continue reading

Does ‘good’ broker mean good salesperson?

A smart guy I met not long ago approvingly quoted a broker friend of his on the definition of a good broker.

The friend told him that a good broker was one who was able to counter objections successfully.

To my thinking, that broker meant only that a good broker could sell a studio apartment to a family of five, a house in Jamaica, Queens to a first-year associate at a high-powered law firm or a sixth-floor walk-up to a 90-year-old pensioner.

In other words, the definition seems to mean that a good broker is a good salesperson.  If perhaps I’ve misunderstood the meaning, the fact remains that too many brokers put themselves ahead of their buyers and sellers.  That’s just not ethical. Continue reading

Who do you trust? Probably not me, right?

What kind of world would we have without trust?

If you are anything like the typical consumer, you very likely don’t believe what a real estate broker tells you.  Do you trust information from a broker on such matters as:

  • The square footage of an apartment in the event that the listing broker is rash enough to commit to a number, daring a subsequent lawsuit.
  • Ceiling height.
  • When any renovations were completed.
  • How much it will cost for any improvements you have in mind.
  • A board’s approach to potential buyers.
  • The seller’s flexibility on price.
  • What the market value is of the place you’d like to sell.
  • How much you can depend on the broker to be responsive and professional.
  • Whether other offers are expected, in already, accepted or almost in contract.
  • The perfect time to buy or sell.

Of course, you don’t trust a broker whom you don’t know pretty well.  Nor should you. Continue reading

Brokers flout Fair Housing laws with impunity

When it comes to many matters relating to real estate, the Big Apple often lags the rest of the country.

One prime example discussed on this blog concerns the continuing resistance, especially by the biggest brokerages, to a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) even while reluctantly accepting VOWs (Virtual Online Web sites).

Another example involves the strictures of the Fair Housing Act, along with other anti-discrimination legislation on the municipal, state and and federal levels.

Such measures protect certain “classes” of consumers–for instance, by the source of their income, marital status, age, race and sexual orientation.  (In D.C., sellers may not discriminate by what is called matriculation, that is, against students.)  The list of protected classes can rise into the high teens.

Well schooled about the subtleties of the law when I was affiliated with Long & Foster Real Estate in D.C., I was astonished to see how flagrantly the provisions of the law were violated with impunity by brokers here in New York City. Continue reading

I’ll bet my next commission on Mary Kay’s regret

Perhaps you read a lengthy and largely admiring profile last Sunday about the nonagenarian broker credited with helping to save Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, from a downhill slide.

In that piece, Mary Kay Gallagher is quoted as saying that she got into real estate as a kind of civic duty, “to help find responsible guardians for the shingled, gabled and columned behemoths in her own backyard.”

As suburbia beckoned many of the middle-class white families that had populated the Flatbush area, the minority population surged to 20 percent in 1970 from 2 percent in 1960, according to the Times article on the woman.  Blockbusting by brokers wanting to repurpose the area became a viable threat.

Once the so-called Old Guard moved out, what mattered to the 90-year-old broker was replacing them with owners who cared enough and could afford to maintain their properties and preserve the neighborhood’s aesthetic. Continue reading

A Times real estate column gets it right. Finally.

Flickr photo by Big Fat Rat.

Reading the business section of yesterday’s New York Times, I found myself nodding in agreement at a column written by Damon Darlin.  The headline was “Great Time to Buy (Famous Last Words).”

As any regular of this blog knows, I have so many pet peeves that I’d need a whole zoo to contain them. Mr. Darlin mentions one that looms large just inside the entrance of my teeming zoo and represented in the photo above:

“‘IT’S a great time to buy a home.’ Continue reading

NAR ethics code now includes sexual orientation

The late George Segal created this sculpture, installed in Sheridan Square, Greenwich Village. A tea party, it is not. Wallyg photo.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) added sexual orientation to its equal opportunity policy at its recent annual governance meeting.

The Board of Directors passed the measure unanimously, according to Realty Times.

The organization’s Code of Ethics generally has reflected the Fair Housing Act, saying that its members “shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Continue reading

Brokers must represent best interests of clients

Photo by Floyd Brown

If my bashing of unnamed brokers seems as if I relish the activity as a sport, you are mistaken. It’s just that I’m continually astounded by the behavior of the bad, but nonetheless successful, apples in the bunch of us.

I’m still seething over the behavior of a broker at her open house of an expensive four-bedroom apartment on a corner of Broadway on Manhattan’s Upper West Side a week ago.

The story begins a week before the open house.  Continue reading