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A reliable source tells BrickUnderground that a posh Upper East Side co-op quashed a sale after running a Facebook check--on the buyer’s children.
“The board looked at all of the kids’ Facebook pages and there was something a little strange on one of them,” says our source. The page apparently revealed ties to a hate group.
Checking out buyers and renters online is routine these days, but several brokers and board members told BrickUnderground that investigating children is a new and so far scattered phenomenon. It may be linked to recent changes in Facebook’s privacy settings that have opened a wider door for curious boards and brokers to peer through.
Whether ferreting out information on parents or their offspring, brokers, boards and landlords have related but separate agendas: Boards and landlords are trying to spot bad neighbors/tenants, while brokers aim to cherry pick buyers who will pass the board and renters who won't become a thorn in a landlord's side.
Bottom line: Sanitize your digital presence--and your kids'--before looking for your next New York City apartment.
“Now more than ever, because everything is so transparent and the whole world can follow what you're doing, you can’t leave any stone unturned when you’re applying for a co-op,” says broker-blogger Paul Zweben of Prudential Douglas Elliman.
He Googles his clients and checks out their Facebook pages to get to know them better. "If there is something alarming when I search, that could change my future relationship with them," he says.
Steven Goldschmidt, a senior vice president at Warburg Realty who is on the board of his UWS co-op, says that while he has not (yet) started checking up on buyers’ children, he scrutinizes the Facebook friend lists of the buyers themselves.
The accidental publication of the friend lists has been a particularly pernicious side effect of Facebook’s recent privacy-setting changes, but says Goldschmidt, “It’s not all negative – it’s very useful to learn that you have a mutual friend in common.”
Goldschmidt also checks out buyers’ Twitter feeds, looking for updates like, "Dead drunk, heading home."
Several other Warburg brokers told BrickUnderground stories about how over the years, their Googling had turned up evidence of undesirable pasts that went well beyond frat-boy lifestyles.
“We were going to lease a very expensive unit on East 57th Street and when we Googled the customer, we found out that he was in prison in Connecticut for fraud,’ says Robert Doernberg, a senior vice president at Warburg Realty. “He was willing to pay cash but the landlord was very uncomfortable with the fraud history and worried about getting him out after the cash ran out.”
Goldschmidt described how one buyer’s online profile got him dinged even before he got to the board.
“We found out he was a rock musician promoter and the image I got from Googling him was that he didn’t really intend to live there, but intended to have friends and guests stay there,” says Goldschmidt, who represented the seller. “It prompted me to ask his broker questions, and we aborted.”
But even a stellar online reputation can be foiled by offline dealings.
"We Googled one buyer who had a prestigious fundraising job--she was on all sorts of boards--so we took her over another buyer, and she didn't pass the board," recalls Goldschmidt. "It turned out another board member knew her and didn't like her."