Sales Market

That bonkers "broker's guide": fact, fiction or something in between?

By Virginia K. Smith  | July 23, 2014 - 1:59PM

New York City real estate brokers don't exactly have a reputation as shrinking violets, and yesterday, stalwart British newspaper The Guardian published a piece confirming (and exacerbating) everyone's worst fears about how they operate.  A "training manual issued to new agents" from a supposedly legit New York City real estate brokerage--left at the writer's apartment--bestowed gems of advice like these on brokers: "You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure" (fair enough), and “WORRY ABOUT THE APARTMENT LATER … JUST GET THE CLIENTS INTO THE OFFICE" to "Please do not date clients until after we rent them and collect the broker's fee." There were also plenty of cheesy scripted lines to use on clients, like "This is a TV apartment!" and "For every great apartment there are five to 10 people you are competing against who want it!"

Yeesh. While it's unclear which firm the manual came from or whether it's even real, we ran it by a few brokers for a reality check. Here's what they had to say:

  • "The vernacular is completely foreign to me--I don't even know what a TV apartment is! What does that mean? Are there people who even fall for these lines at this point? I don't think I could use this script with a straight face. A lot of it is borderline and dishonest, and not about having your client’s best interests at heart. It's amusing but it's sad, too, because it's not a fair representation for how people perform in the industry.​" -Jason Haber, sales director and associate broker at Warburg Realty
  • "People get mad at brokers for telling them the reality of the New York market, which is that it's expensive and obnoxious. But there are different ways to do it. There's the way you see here, where you're trying to convince people what's realistic before they're ready, but most firms tell you to do the opposite--agree with your client's assessments, and just keep showing them apartments. If they need to be spending more money for what they want, eventually, the market will educate them." -Gus Waite, broker at Coldwell Banker AC Lawrence
  • "A lot of this revolves around lying to customers, which no one would endorse. But not all of it's off-base--for instance, the part about having both the husband and wife present for a showing. When you show apartments, you do want all the decision-makers present. You want everyone on the same page so things can move quickly if they need to. Similarly, it's not good to take clients to apartments out of their price range if they haven't agreed to it, but sometimes you have to educate them about the realities of the market, particularly if they're new to the city. Still, I think this 'manual' is a parody. If it's real, that's a little scary." - Larry Friedman, broker at Coldwell Banker AC Lawrence
  • "This has to be at least a few years old. It's outdated to try to use any of these 'tricks of the trade' when anyone can just look an apartment up online to see what it really looks like, and how much it usually rents for." - Eliot Bogod, president of A&I Broadway Realty
  • "I think it sounds either completely made up and just a generalization of the things people think about sleazy brokers. Or if it is a real manual, it's from some 'chop shop' type company. I think that the average renter these days is a lot more educated and aware of the 'pitfalls' this 'manual' would be setting. But in the end we are salespeople, so we are required to sell properties or explain the reality of what people's expectations are." - Joshua D. Arcus, president of Siderow Residential Group
  •   "My first reaction was to laugh out loud, but this 'manual' showed up, so someone has to be using it right? It would be not authentic to say that no agent in New York City acted like this, and there's a certain level of truth to the part about competition--we've all lost an apartment because someone else got their application in faster. But clients are savvy these days, and no one looking to stay in the industry in the long run would subscribe to this. People have a gut feeling if you're being honest with them or not, and you don't want to be in the position of tricking someone into renting or buying."John Le Vine, managing partner EXR Group
  • "It’s kind of comical. Some if it might be tongue-in-cheek as an internal company document, so it reads differently to us as outsiders. We always tell agents that the most important thing [is] to be honest, because ultimately we’re in the hospitality business. This manual is pretty far from hospitality, more like a cab driver looking for their next fare than a broker looking at the long term. Even if what a client thinks they want and their budget don’t match up, you still have to show them what they want, and let them figure things out. Don't drag them to an apartment out of their price range right off the bat. Some of this manual does make sense--it's good to get clients to come into the office for a meeting, for instance--it's just the way it's written here that makes it questionable." - Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats


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