I win some, lose some and don’t enjoy losing

(Flickr photo by dampeebe

An e-mail last week from a woman whom I had represented successfully in two transactions was, to say the least, kind of disappointing.

Along with Paul Purcell, a principal in the brokerage with which I’m affiliated, plus a broker with 26 years of experience on the Upper West Side, I met with the woman’s husband last spring to assess the value of the apartment that I had sold them.  Although the meeting was long scheduled, the woman was unaccountably absent.  (I suspect that she avoided the meeting deliberately to avoid hearing bad news.)

In the low 80s between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, the unit was thronged at an open house the last time it was listed.  That was in 2007, when the market was red-hot.  In a competitive bidding situation, they won the co-op for an even $2 million.

A year or so later, they decided to move either to an even more convenient Upper West Side location or downtown, closer to their children and grand-children.  So I spent a significant amount of time researching possibilities and shepherding them to properties over many months.

But none met their evolving requirements in terms of place, price or specs. Although I had hoped to find what they were seeking, the result was, and is, fine with me: A broker’s life is like that.

Meantime, they focused on what their apartment might be worth and, as many sellers do, checked out other properties in the neighborhood.  In so doing, they decided that theirs, which had undergone perhaps $70,000 in renovations, was worth in 2010’s wan market as much as $2.2 million.

“Ours is unique,” she insisted, echoing what half of sellers always believe.  (Actually, every apartment is unique in ways, but that doesn’t make them more valuable.)

That’s when I thought it would be a good idea to arm myself with Paul and the other broker to buttress my estimate of their unit’s worth.

Each of us independently came to the conclusion that the correct listing price was $1.8 million.

“Ours is unique,” my friend and former client continued to maintain, now adding that she would interview other brokers.

When I volunteered to list the place at her price, provided we could lower it at a time to be specified if there was no action, she demurred.  If I didn’t believe in the price, she declared, I wouldn’t work hard enough to sell it.

(Let me let you in on a little secret: Any decent broker will do everything to unburden himself or herself of a listing to collect a commission, including the usual staging, advertising, additional marketing, frequent open houses and promotional talk.)

Then, after she pleaded the need for time off during August, came her short e-mail, which I quote in large part:

. . . we have decided to sell our apartment and hope for the best or rent until the best comes along.

We have interviewed a number of brokers, as we said we would, and uniformly the list price suggested to us has been $2195000 with an expectation of a sale close to that price.

While anyone can say/ask anything, one broker really stood us for us in terms of her professionalism, experience and connections in the real estate world here, so we have decided to go with . . .

We want to thank you for all the time and effort you exerted on our behalf . . .

I know we are not easy clients and I am glad that you had at least 2 sales to show for your hard work! If things don’t work out with [deleted] we will of course let you know, and if you turn out to be right in your assessment of our apartment’s value, then we probably will put off moving for awhile any way.

Perhaps at our spring meeting, we were wrong about the price.  We won’t know that for a while.

But if we were correct, then I have to assume the brokers who pitched the listing did, in fact, tell the owner what she wanted to hear.  “Buying” a listing certainly is a widespread phenomenon that was the subject of my post yesterday, so any reported consensus proves nothing.

Also, I understand that business is business for a hard-nosed seller, and this one had to act as if she were serving her own interests, not mine.

In any case, I am enormously grateful that the couple was thoughtful and straightforward enough even to keep me in the loop.  (I never cease to be amazed how infrequently clients and customers fail to deliver unpleasant news.)

And if I have my way, what has transpired will not in the least affect our relationship, which in the past included an invitation that I accepted to celebrate New Year’s Eve with them and a few other of their friends.

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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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