The High Road: Brokers should blame themselves

When brokers act like the two I recently encountered and no one complains, we who sell real estate should expect our collective reputation to persist at a low level.

So do I occasionally write about certain unnamed brokers under the “High Road” heading (as well other questionable behavior).

Blogging about the incidents always has been enough at least to stem my anger and mitigate my contempt of bad brokers, even though I undoubtedly delude myself into thinking that my writing could lead to improvement.

Consequently, I don’t report bad behavior to the ethics committee of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) , the Department of State (which regulates licensees) or executives of the firms that supervise sales personnel.  As I draft this post, however, I have yet to make a decision whether writing about a recent situation is sufficient.

It begins with an e-mail from my client, who has confirmed that her son (D–) had visited an open house and then received and a seven-sentence e-mail from the listing broker.  The broker indicated in his original e-mail that he was providing amplication of answers given during the open house.

Knowing that I was representing the buyer, the sales agent made his first mistake by communicating directly with my client instead of going to the trouble of locating me.  Had he merely asked my buyer for my e-mail address, however, I would consider his behavior acceptable.

The second mistake came in the final sentence, which read as follows:

I welcome a return visit if you are interested or I may be able to suggest additional buildings for your consideration.

The mother, who plans to buy an apartment with her son, is far more informed about the world of real estate than most consumers.   She let the agent know that and directed him to deal only with me.

In his response to the mother, the agent wrote this:

Sorry, my fault since I just put down Malcolm’s name: can list him as email next time.

When she asked her son in message whether he had indicated me on the sign-in sheet, D– wrote back that, yes, he had.  So informed, the agent replied to the mother:

Thank you for the info. D– did not register Malcolm on the sign in sheet so it is the first time I have seen his name. Have Malcolm reach out if you would like to arrange a return visit.

That lie prompted me to write to the agent (L–):

Would you email me a copy of the sign-in sheet since you and D– have different versions of the situation.

His response:

I’m not sending you a copy of my sign in sheet, I had over ten people and their information isn’t something I’m looking to share.

Fair enough, but he didn’t have the imagination or, more likely, the motivation to think about just blacking out those names.  Ironically, he had no qualms about using my buyer’s information to seek more business himself.

It was time to go higher.  I called his office to find out the name of his manager.  Lo and behold, the office manager holds two positions.  His second is as a member of the offending agent’s own sales group.

I e-mailed him anyway asking him in what I believe was a nice way merely to look at the sign-in sheet and verify which version of the information was correct.  He evaded my request this way:

After reading both of the emails you’ve forwarded, I must say, I really have no idea what you are taking issue with. Clearly, L– has indicated he will communicate with you directly on any question your client or client’s mother have as she has requested he do.

Am I missing something?

Did your antennae go up, too?  More suspicious than ever, I tried again:

Please just take a look at the sign-in sheet and confirm that D– wrote down my name.  If he did, I’ll take it from there.  If not, tempest in my teapot. 

A day went by without an response, so I amped up the dispute.  I wrote to the manager that I would “feel compelled to take additional steps without the assurances I have requested from you.”

That had the desired effect: “Malcolm, your name is on the sign-in sheet.  D–, however, left only his e-mail as a contact.”  He said further that “there should be no reason for you to take issue in the first place” since the agent had already registered me as my client’s broker.

Is he missing something?  You bet.

For one thing, a simple and sincere apology with an acknowledgement of wrongdoing would have achieved wonders.

With regard to my having been registered as the broker, I hope this manager knows that a buyer can choose to be represented at virtual every stage of a purchase whether his agent was registered at an open house or not.

He also missed serious acts of commission (the agent’s) and omission (his own).

By writing to the manager, I had hoped to achieve a middle ground of complaint that would put no one’s license in jeopardy or lead to a fine.  At this point I see three other choices: Going to the brokerage’s president, reporting the incident(s) to the authorities or dropping the thing as a lost cause to which I’ve possibly over-reacted.

Your advice?

Tomorrow: Weekly Roundup

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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
Web site

4 thoughts on “The High Road: Brokers should blame themselves

  1. I think you are reaching here, pal.

    Yes, you (your client) *should* get an apology, but no, the Secretary of State is not going to care (and probably shouldn’t, unless there is a pattern of misbehavior). Offering real estate services to someone you know is represented by another brokerage is a no-no, but I can imagine a reasonable (if negligent, or dishonest) explanation: “I sent the same follow-up email to everyone who attends my open houses.”

    Communications are now going agent-to-agent, as they should. SIgn-in sheet may or may not have been legible. Other agent may or may not be an actual jerk (or, just play one on TV). Manager may or may not have been reluctant to (a) admit in writing his guy did anything wrong or (b) escalate the controversy by redacting and sharing the sign-in sheet.

    The firm may or may not care, but you’ve made as big a point as you are likely to make without escalating. Namaste


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