Though sounding good, the advice is questionable

Those are some tomaters. Photo by Chris Breeze on Flickr.

She has been selling real estate for no less than a quarter of a century.  Her record runs to hundreds of transactions worth a total of hundreds of millions of dollars.

There isn’t a layout in a building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that she doesn’t know.

Hardly an apartment has gone on the market that she hasn’t viewed one time or another.

That’s “Lily,” who told me the other day about how she sweated for two days over a marketing plan that a condo owner who wants to sell his property asked her to provide.  Perhaps he’s read advice to make the request in a book or on the Web, but it’s advice that owner should have ignored.

For one thing, experienced real estate brokers are likely to concoct virtually identical plans, different in format and perhaps in some negligible details.  Included in them will be plans to analyze comparable sales past and present, stage the property appealingly, have the place photographed and floorplans drafted, decide on a strategically effective price, hold open houses, obtain feedback, advertise one way or another, produce brochures and show sheets, reach out to other brokers, and continually evaluate and adjust the whole effort.

When a broker is asked, as Lily’s condo owner did of her, to document his or her record of sales in the past year or two, exactly what does the seller expect to learn?  That she had an unusually bad or good year?  How would he know?  That a high price or low price for a short or long list of properties is telling about how the apartment will sell in a dynamic market?

Second, if a broker with Lily’s level of experience cannot be trusted to do the job right, why interview her in the first place, knowing her reputation?

If one or two individuals strongly recommend a broker to a seller, as happened in Lily’s case, how will the additional evidence sought prove anything?

Do you ask a stockbroker who is referred to you for a list of his transactions in the past year?  Or do you look and listen to detect in someone’s an approach that appears to be consistent with your expectations?

If your answer to the first question is “yes,” then I’m sure Bernie Madoff will welcome a visit from you in prison.

Do you ask a surgeon that you’ve heard about to tell you how long each of his or her operations took? Or do you ask that doctor to talk about the depth of his experience and the ins and outs (sorry) of the procedure?

If your answer to the first question is “yes” as well, that sponge left inside you will be an unwelcome memory of your shortsightedness.

Years ago – when I kind of specialized in writing about job hunting for Money magazine – and until this day, I discovered that chemistry during the interview tends to be far more crucial to an applicant’s success than anything else.  That ingredient should be no less important to a seller (or buyer, for that matter) when hiring a broker to do the best possible job.

The fact is that Lily never felt quite comfortable with the condo owner, in no small part because of his conviction about the overblown price (above $3 million) he wanted to obtain for the property was unshakable.  And by the time she finished the marketing plan and e-mailed the thing, she hardly cared whether she got the listing.

If you ask me, she’ll be better off without it than having to deal with a myopic, unreasonable and arrogant seller, who happens to be a player on Wall Street.  Neither Lily nor I can imagine him brooking any request to provide the sort of information he has demanded of her.

Good riddance, I say.

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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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