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.  That was when I called to make an appointment for a client whose partner is out of town during the week to see the place.  My client kept changing his availability, and I had to keep changing my request, a frustration both for the one of the two listing brokers (call him “David”) and for me.  Some of the times I suggested, said the broker, wouldn’t work either for him or the owners of the co-op.

In the end we agreed on Wednesday at noon, I think I recall.  That morning I got a call from David saying that, oops, the cleaning woman would be there all day.  He would, the broker added, get back to me.

Kitchen of the apartment in question.

He didn’t call, but I did receive an e-mail from his business partner (call her “Faye”) a couple of hours later.  It seems the owners had just accepted an offer on the place, but we were welcome to come to the open house they were scheduling.

Let’s see: The cleaning woman is going to be there, a flimsy reason if there was one after so much negotiation over an appointment; David is going to call back with a new time; in the interim, I get that e-mail about an accepted offer; and my clients are instantly on the defensive should they wish to make their own offer.

As you can imagine, my suspicions about being dealt with fairly (which is mandatory, though ill-defined) were irrepressible.

With that in mind, my clients and I went to the open house, where I met Faye and David in person for the first time.

While my clients were in an adjacent room, I casually asked Faye whether, now that there was an accepted offer, the owners felt a moral obligation to honor their commitment prior to going to contract.  (I asked because two different clients of mine have lost late offers for that reason in the last month.)

Faye, an imposing woman with a big voice and just about everything else, boomed at me:

“If you’re going to be contentious, just call me when I’m back in the office.”

That raised my hackles, but I was careful not to raise my voice.  But I did probably err (and regrettably, if so)  in then asking what the story was with all that scheduling and canceling that had transpired.

“If you’re going to be contentious, just call me when I’m back in the office and we’ll discuss it,” she loudly repeated, glaring at me malevolently.  David then joined in, also fairly shouting.

To each of them I noted more than once that I was not yelling and that there was no reason for them to do so.

Anyway, my clients and I toured the apartment.  Encountering Miss Congeniality, who was standing watch in one section, I said I wanted to apologize and extended a hand.  Never smiling, she reluctantly shook it and declared:

“Accepted.  It’s 3 o’clock.  The open house is over.  Good-bye.”

Ignoring the time, I cornered David a bit later and apologized to him, though I’m not sure I did anything wrong.  He was gracious, gave a plausible explanation for the appointment difficulties and told me not to pay attention to Faye.  Said he: “She’s always like that.”


Here’s the thing.  I learned that my clients had overheard at least my original question and, of course, Faye’s reaction.

They were shocked at her, not me.  And they decided against making an offer on that apartment.  Whether it was the bad taste that old – and I mean “old” – Faye had stimulated, no one will know.  Certainly, she couldn’t have helped sell the place if at some level of their consciousness she discouraged my clients and anyone else at the open house from liking the place.

What I know is that an attitude like Faye’s ill serves her clients, the sellers of the apartment. Her behavior was, at minimum, unethical in my estimation.

To my mind, she failed in a requirement of all brokers to represent their clients best interests.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

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