After a buyer asked me some questions about a brand-new Upper West Side listing that I had sent him, the logical thing to do was call the broker for the answers that I couldn’t find online.
Among other things, my client wanted to know details of the pied-à-terre policy, what items in the co-op would be included in the sale, which side of the entrance the second-floor unit occupied and the view outside the second bedroom.
Easy questions, which I posed to the broker–whom I’ll call Victoria–when she finally returned my e-mail and phone message.
It was Friday. I already was committed for the the time period of the open house on Sunday, so I wouldn’t be able to see the place myself then. But I felt an obligation to get answers as quickly as possible.
Immediately after Victoria and I exchanged greetings, she asked me, because of my last name, whether I was black. To say I was taken aback would be putting it mildly, but I have to acknowledge that she meant the question only as an icebreaker, albeit an incredibly insensitive and (superficially) illegal one. (I can’t explain why, so you’ll have to trust me.)
I learned from Victoria that she had lived in the low-rise building for something like 25 years and, in fact, had been president of the board at one point. She moved out a couple of years ago to, as she put it, “downsize.”
At any rate, she debated with herself for a good minute or two before tentatively indicating which side of the entrance is the co-op. Then she confessed that she hadn’t noticed the view outside the second bedroom,what standards the board used for accepting pieds-à-terre (case-by-case was her default), or what the seller would leave behind such as window treatments and a tall bookcase.
When I explained that I couldn’t attend her open house, I asked whether there was a chance I could stop by Saturday. Well, she allowed, she had to go there with her “boyfriend” with a mirror on Saturday. But, she continued, she couldn’t be sure when.
Fine, I replied, I live nearby. Just give me call.
Sure, she responded.
That was the last time I heard from Victoria until her second open house more than a week later. No answers to my questions, no chance to see the place before the subsequent open house, there being none scheduled for brokers–as is common for a new listing–in the interval. There seemed to be no point in calling before that next Sunday.
When I got to that second showing and reminded Victoria of my call, receiving a blank stare in return before I explained, she said she had received “5,000 calls” as an explanation for her silence. Since she then was busy with prospective buyers, I didn’t press for answers to my questions.
She was still busy with prospects when it was time for me to leave, so I handed her my card and said, none too nicely, “Here’s my card; maybe it will help you remember to call me.”
So she did. Later that evening.
Fortunately, I had discovered that the apartment would not suit my client, and he agreed. It’s fortunate because I’d rather not be saddled with a lazy broker who leaves all the work to the other side.
And please know that my issue with Victoria is not just that I view her lack of knowledge as irresponsible and her lack of responsiveness as rude. If she is required by law to represent her client’s best interests, how does turning off a hot prospect meet the high standard to which all of us should be, and rarely are, held?
Moreover, I can’t help but wonder whether her silence may have had something to do with a hope for handling both sides of the transaction, thereby doubling her commission via what is known as a “direct deal.” No, that never happens, does it?
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022