What’s wrong with brokers anyway?

Flickr photo by marttj

BROKER WARS: Tales from the Front

If real estate brokers receive little respect, there is ample reason.  In this three-part series, I’ll provide examples that prove the point, explain what is required of brokers in New York now and suggest a solution.

It does not surprise me, and certainly won’t surprise you, that 30 percent of respondents in a Harris Interactive Poll said real estate agents and brokers deserved “hardly any prestige.”

Their assessment was exceeded by a couple of points only by the categories of actor and stockbroker.  As for having “very great prestige,” real estate agents and brokers were 23rd on the list, attaining a mere 5 percent—below farmer, union leader and accountant.

I have found myself blogging regularly about the unprofessional, rude, incompetent or unethical actions of other real estate practitioners.  Consider these examples (which you can find at greater length by following the links):

  • The listing broker for a one-bedroom Upper East Side apartment that was on the market for a year learns that the buyers she was courting had decided to have me represent them.  When speaking to me, her tone is icy.  After I present the offer, she tells me that the seller had accepted an offer the previous day, a Friday, and that lawyers were already working on the contract, an unlikely development so swiftly.  Then, she reports early the next week that the seller felt morally bound to stick with the buyer with the lower offer.  Was she lying and collecting a commission for both sides of the transaction?
  • Having seen more grossly overpriced apartments than I can count, I can report that the practice of “buying a listing” is endemic. That is, a broker will promise a seller a pot of gold just to list a property before finally urging a lower price to enable its sale.  Then there are “pocket listings,” which brokers keep to themselves in order to double their commission by keeping buyer representatives in the dark.
  • A broker whom I e-mailed about details of a $2.7 million Upper West Side apartment in which a client had an interest, claimed never to have received the message (regarding square footage and lobby personnel).  It turns out, the broker said in my telephone call to him, the owner had decided to rent out the co-op.  This broker failed to do three things: He didn’t return my email, update the listing or grasp the significance of a potentially hot buyer.
  • I tried to make an appointment for my clients to see a large co-op on the Upper West Side. When it was scheduled, the listing brokers suddenly relate that the

    Nice apartment; broker, not so.

    housekeeper was due that day and canceled.  Hours later, they report that they have an accepted offer.  At the open house that my clients and I attended anyway, I ask one of the brokers whether the sellers would be open to a later offer. If you’re going to be contentious, just call me when I’m back in the office,” she booms in the hearing of my clients and others in the apartment.  Although I had done nothing untoward, I apologized.  Her response: “Accepted.  It’s 3 o’clock.  The open house is over.  Good-bye.” My clients and I flee in wonderment.

  • Everyone knows that “puffery” is as central to real estate sales as an engine to a car, but what to make of the broker who writes that the three bay windows with eight panes of glass each amount to eight bay windows?  That’s just one of his badly spelled exaggerations that lurched over the line between puffery and dishonesty.  And he’s hardly alone with his hyberbole, quaint spelling or twisted grammar.
  • Imagine one listing broker my client and I recently encountered in

    Luckily, the broker had a counter on which to rest his book.

    a one-bedroom apartment in Chelsea.  He is leaning a book on the counter of the kitchen pass-through, deeply engrossed in his reading.  I decide to ask him the title, but he mumbles something unintelligible and returns to the book.  That’s pretty much all that my client and I saw of or heard from him while visiting the open house.  Though we hated to intrude, we did hazard to interrupt him with a routine question or two.  Only reluctantly did he lift his head only to say he didn’t know the answer.

  • Finally in this long list, which could be longer still, there is the top listing broker I’ll call “Gina.”  She responded this month to my e-mails for my client to see a nearly $3 million listing through an appointment on the weekend or at an open house if one were to be scheduled by replying “OK.”  Then silence.  After she made an appointment with my prodding, an e-mail from her assistant said the owner won’t give access that weekend.  Then, the broker hit “reply all” to say that she told “him,” meaning me, that Saturday would be fine.  I’ve considerably shortened our exchange, but I remain puzzled why it was me she called rude, concluding her e-mail by saying, “If u think you will get far being rude to me you are sorely mistaken.”

These are true anecdotes, and only those that dispirited me enough to have posted much longer summaries of the encounters and launch this three-part series.

Perhaps I’m just a crank, but I am amazed that brokers suffer such lapses and even more astonished that people think it’s okay to treat each other the way they do.

Next: Part 2: Little to Fear

Subscribe by Email

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s