2009 Jul 20th

4 Mistakes Your Friend the Realtor Might Make

Back in April I wrote an article about Choosing the “Willie Mays” of Realtors.  It talked about how selecting someone to sell your property just because they are your friend may not be the optimal criteria for the sale of what is probably your most valuable asset.   This past weekend I came across a perfect illustration of this very situation.

A few years ago, Lori and I purchased a one bedroom condo unit in a three-unit building on one a very desirable Hoboken street.  It is an investment property which we rent out.  Our neighbors are very lovely, nice people, so I’ll not mention them by name to spare them any embarrassment.  Let’s call them the Nudniks.  A few weeks ago we learned that the Nudniks wanted sell their unit, a 3BR duplex with a private yard.  I contacted them to remind them that we are realtors and to ask for the opportunity to demonstrate why they might want to list their property for sale with us.  They responded that they had already decided to list with a friend.  I wished them the best of luck, and I really meant it.  The higher the price they could sell their property for, the more beneficial for us should we ever decide to sell.

As it turns out, my tenants’ lease is expiring and they chose not to renew so I need to take steps to find new tenants.  I had to list the rental on the MLS, go to the building to put out “For Rent” signs, get the property listed on Craigslist and the internet, etc.  In doing so, I couldn’t help noticing some questionable decisions the Nudniks agent had made.  For example:

1.  Bad Signage – One of the most effective ways to notify people that your apartment is for sale or rent is by hanging a sign on the building.  To be effective, however, the sign needs to be seen.  This particular street is a narrow street that is one way heading uptown.  The Nudniks’ agent put two signs on the building, directly facing the street.  Both signs are virtually invisible as you walk or drive up the street.  You need to be dead smack in front of the building to read them and then you only see them if you turn your head sideways.  I put my “For Rent” sign on a gate at the top of the stairs, facing due south so that the sign can easily be seen whether you walk or drive up the street.

2.  No Flyers – Once you have the attention of passerbys, you need to tell them exactly what it is you’re selling or renting.  I purposely placed my sign up high so that it could be seen from far away.  At the street level I put a flyer box.  Pedestrians can grab a flyer showing attractive pictures of the apartment with all the pertinent info like the number of bedrooms, the monthly rent and the availability date.  The Nudniks’ sign says only “Condo for Sale”.  There are no flyers at all.

3.  No Web Page, No Video – Next I started to create a webpage and YouTube video for my rental property.  Prospective tenants can preview the apartment and decide if they want to make an appointment to see it.  I couldn’t find a website or a YouTube video for the Nudniks significantly more expensive sale property.  Now, my video isn’t up yet (still a bit more work to do on it) but the rental has been on the market only 3 days.  The Nudniks’ place has been on the market long enough to already have had a price “improvement.”

4.  Squandered Opportunity – This one kills me.  Because the Nudniks have the largest unit in our little building the condo by-laws give them 51% of the vote on condominium matters so they single-handedly control the building.  Those same by-laws prohibit pets in the building.  I contacted the Nudniks a few weeks ago and pointed out that private, fenced outdoor space like their yard was a huge attraction for pet owners.  Since I would like my rental unit also to be pet friendly, I suggested we change the condo docs to allow pets in the building.  I even offered to hire an attorney to make the necessary changes and do all the leg work.  I received a polite email from them saying no.  Even though they are leaving, and their unit does not share a hallway or entrance with the other units in the building, they refuse to allow pets.  By doing so, they have excluded a huge number of buyers from purchasing their condo.   To a great extent they have negated one of their property’s finest selling points, and they are actually costing BOTH of us some dough-re-me.   Maybe they just don’t believe I’ve got their best interests at heart (I do), but perhaps their agent friend ought to educate them on why being pet friendly boosts the value of units like this one and this one.

  1. Andy

    I hate to say this but many people in Hoboken are stubborn mules who make very stupid business decisions. Lets just hope the new buyer(if they find one) is friendly and will agree to making the condo decisions more equitable between your rental and their unit. You could end up having a new buyer who is dog friendly and will just make the change the first week they get there with you. I know its exactly what I would do upon moving in if I discovered I had that power on the board.

  2. Kimberly

    We have three dogs (excessive, yes… but we met at the dog park), and all we have been looking for is a place with a yard. They are definitely missing out on people even taking the time to see it.

  3. WorldBFree

    I would argue the property would be more valuable if the buyers held still held the right to convert the building to pet friendly…assuming they couldn’t change the rules back without grandfathering any existing pets back. Some people may not want pets in the building because of noise/allergy concerns turning off buyers..Don’t know the process but I assume a buyer with pets could purchase and change the rule with minimal inconvenience..of course the property should be advertised as such because it is a big selling point

  4. Guest

    This really smacks of sour grapes. I mean, of course you know the Nudnicks are going to hear about this post. So you’ve passive-aggressively “stuck it” to them.

    Some of the points are plenty valid. But when your blog becomes a “look at me” comparative broker match up, you really sort of lose the helpful “news” part of your blog and turn it into a personal gripe-fest built on down-market business.

    Just seems so below the belt to post your neighbor’s broker’s shortcomings because the didn’t use you. Think twice before you hit “publish” posts like this just diminish whatever “speak truth to power” credibility you have.

  5. Lori

    Guess you don’t believe in learning from others’ mistakes. No sour grapes here as it affects us so minimally. If you have been reading this blog for the past years, which from your comment I doubt, you might not make assumptions about our motives. I can’t imagine that he Nudnicks read this but should they, perhaps they could give their agent some better direction. Plenty of people agree that there are many less than excellent agents our there.

    I do take issue with any landlords or owners who don’t permit or appreciate the many benefits a pet can bring to one’s life. why do you suppose they let prisoners have dogs? Or allow them in senior facilities, rehab hospitals and hospices? Sorry if you find that somehow offensive.

  6. David

    I agree with Guest. But I want to delve further.

    The poster (I’m thinking Howard), does not do the one thing a helpful agent/broker would do: Offer a solution.

    So, the Nudnicks have a bad broker. Should they fire her – stiffing her of compensation in the event of a sale in the near future? If so, how does this square with the previous “host post” that an agent should be compensated for his time, no matter how much (or little, as the case may be) he offers the client? And if the bad selling agent should be compensated for his time, what is the proper price?

    I am of the position the bad agent should not be compensated at all, because a bad job costs a client more money than no job at all.

    If the Nudnicks should not fire their broker, are they just stuck with him until the contract expires? Such a “solution” seems to benefit only the broker, esp one who frequents the “buy the listing” tactic.

    I think answers to these questions would be infinitely more helpful to us (the public) as I think most of us are likely to enter into a relationship with a bad broker before we luck into a relationship with a good one.

  7. Lori Turoff

    The “solution” is for the sellers to tell their agent: 1. Put the signs where they are most likely to be seen; 1. Make flyers; 3. Get a better presence on the web; and 4. Consider making your building pet friendly.

    A seller has the opportunity to interview agents before selecting one. The seller can decide on the duration of the listing agreement. The seller can always communicate with the agent and question decisions or give directions. Ultimately, if thing really are not working out the seller can go to the agent’s broker and ask for a different agent. The listing is a contract between the seller and the brokerage firm, not the individual agent. The seller could even ask the broker to be voluntarily released from the contract. In the last two scenarios the agent would likely not be compensated.

  8. Edward

    i like those ideas. as someone with a background in digital filming/design, i esp. like the youtube video idea. thanks guys

  9. Recent Buyer

    Guest – seriously? why do you think the blog was started in the first place?? yes, lori and howard are providing transparency and they’re a wonderful asset to the field, etc. and etc. (i get a little annoyed with the love fest sometimes), but this blog, utimately, IS a MARKETING TOOL!!! and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! many companies, such as law firms, start blogs to write about topics related to their business in order to attract traffic and potential clients. i don’t know if lori and howard were attempting to get their neighbors as clients or not, but if they were, how can you blame them??? it’s called free market competition.

    this blog was an ingenious idea. it’s shining a light on what brokers should be doing for their clients, it’s providing buyers with “exclusive” information, and thus, giving back the power to the buyer, and i hope it makes them lots of money in turn.

    do i feel sorry for the neighbor’s broker? NO. do your job and you won’t lose your client.

    do i feel sorry for the neighbor? NO. now they have a shot at knowing what SHOULD be done by the person who could be making as much as 5% of their purchase price!

    as for David’s post – i think the solutions were pretty clear in howard’s post, no? isn’t that what the post was about? it could not have been spelled out more clearly – tell the broker to position the sign in better place, make flyers, make youtube video, allow pets, etc. OR fire the broker and hire lori and howard (or, better yet, go the FSBO route and follow the tips on this site to market your property and keep the 5%)!

    simple. didn’t even have to read between the lines. it was all right there in the post.

  10. stan


  11. Amy

    Recent Buyer – CHILL OUT. You sound like you’re foaming at the mouth.

    Howard – Those are some great suggestions. You and Lori are the best. Keep up the good work!

    Stan – “Don’t.Be.A.Nudnick!” LMAO

  12. Andy

    @Stan – Awesome

  13. David

    Lori, a couple of posts ago you had talked about different ways to compensate brokers, in one of the comments.

    In that comment you mentioned that it was illegal in “NY” for a buyer to get a refund from the agent. Did you mean NJ?

    Is it a law, a custom, or a Realtor(r) rule? If it’s a law, do you know the citation? (Sorry, trust but verify.)

  14. Recent Buyer

    Amy – I had to reply to “guest” – and yes, I was nearly foaming at the mouth. Glad it came across.

  15. Amy

    Recent – Okay, whatever.

    Anyway, Why would a buyer receive a refund from an agent? Which post is this in reference to?

  16. Recent Buyer

    Is a realtor refund is when the realtor takes less of a cut to close the deal? My friend did that with her purchase. Both the listing agent and the buyer’s agent cut their fee by 1% bc the parties were only a few thousand apart.

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