It’s not okay for statistics to rest on anecdotes

Shoe by Manolo Blahnik: $945

A useful article that was published Tuesday makes a good point but goes way too far in quoting the value of heeding details when selling a property.

By the otherwise scrupulous Christine Haughney, the New York Times piece quotes various brokers as putting dollar amounts on chipped plaster, broken bathroom tiles and fresh paint.  I didn’t pay much attention to the column until a “civilian” friend of mine cited the numbers as gospel and I began seeing links to it on several Real Estate blogs that I monitor.

To be fair, Haughney does say that the calculations were “irrational” and notes that her survey of the brokers was “informal.” What troubles me is that, disclaimers aside, numbers that appear in print and on the Internet tend to take on a life of their own.

Amid a veritable forest of variables, how can a broker be certain that:

  • After languishing for more than a year, an apartment found a buyer for $25,000 more than the highest previous offer because of new towels and a bath mat?  Could it be that the market had changed or that the buyer came to the unit with emotional baggage that was highly motivating?
  • The reason a buyer offered $917,500 for an apartment that had received offers of no more than $885,000 more than a year earlier was just the new lighting that had been installed?  Or was it a different market?
  • There is any foundation for a broker’s theory that 25 pairs of designer shoes in a closet will boost the price?

I am sure that it took the writer quite a while to dig up the anecdotes.  I am equally certain that her underlying observation is correct: Every detail matters–e.g. windows that sparkle, odors that cannot be detected and photos of nudes.

But I think that the amounts of money attributed to details should be viewed as nothing more than mere speculation based only on anecdotal evidence.  In fact,  connecting “anecdotal” with “evidence” is a stretch that I’m not willing to make.

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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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