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. All brokers are salespersons, and many will say anything that they believe will lead to a commission.

What got me started on this topic again–one of my early posts in what has become a series on broker ethics was last August–was a correction in the real estate section of last Sunday’s Times.  It read:

An article last Sunday about the popularity of white-brick buildings because of their more-for-less prices, using information from an agent at the Corcoran Group, misidentified the agencies that have listed apartments for sale in two such buildings. . . Corcoran did not list either building.

Whether the agent was mistaken or misleading, I cannot say.  But the matter resonated with me after reading that same weekend a provocative article in the newspaper headlined: In a Land of Cynics and Saps, the Skeptic is King.” The piece said in part:

“No one wants to live in a world without trust,” said David Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell University. . .

One of the problems, Professor Dunning said, is that people remember when their trust has been exploited, and then become more cynical.

It is more difficult to draw a lesson from the opposite — there are few times when we learn in retrospect that someone we failed to trust was, in fact, trustworthy. . .

The choice, though, is not simply between cynicism and gullibility. The middle ground is skepticism — someone who doesn’t accept things on faith but seeks out more information, said Paul Mihailidis, an assistant professor of media studies and public relations at Hofstra University.

“A cynic doesn’t trust and walks away,” he said. “A skeptic doesn’t trust and keeps asking questions.”

I like what Mihailidis has to say.  Rather than branding all real estate brokers as unworthy of your trust, especially in the hyper-competitive Manhattan market, challenge the ones you encounter to prove what they say either with documented facts or by their actions. Greed may not be good, but, indeed, skepticism is.

(I am reminded of a couple who remain clients of mine after we began chatting a year ago. They said then that I probably would abandon them as others had done when they were not ready to make an offer.)

To me, the concept of automatically distrusting an individual amounts to stereotyping, which I personally happen to abhor.  In other words, when it comes to real estate brokers, the distrust that I perceive amounts to tarring all of us with the same brush.

If we brokers have no one to blame for our reputation but ourselves, the buyers and sellers of real estate I encounter must be excused for thinking they shouldn’t trust me. I don’t blame them, and I don’t mind having to prove myself again and again.  It is, after all, the way of the world.

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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

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