Posts Tagged ‘real estate’

Service of the [Very] Good, the [Extremely] Bad and the Ugly: A Real Estate Tale

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

We recently worked with two New York City-based real estate agents. Rating their performances from one to 10 they represented the top and bottom of the spectrum. One agent, Linda Gawley, Managing Director, Charles H. Greenthal Management & Residential Sales, spent hours mopping up the mess left by the other who was careless and disrespectful of both our agent’s time and of us.

Her aggressive lack of participation was clearly a cause for kudos by the agency she works for. Make money by doing and spending nothing? Congrats! That’s the crystal message we got from the executive at the major New York real estate company who responded to our complaint letter.

In our letter we asked that this agency refund the fee. We heard that it’s not a practice for one agency to pay another in such an instance so we offered the option to return the money to us. Their answer: “No.”

The agent lived in her client’s condo apartment and was leaving. We wanted to sublet it and to do so we needed approval of the apartment owner and the building’s board of directors. Following is an abbreviated list of her elementary mistakes that jeopardized our move-in date and caused us inordinate stress.

Our agent remained calm and courteous even when snapped at. We knew something was up when Ms. Gawley questioned the spelling of the apartment owner’s name on the lease. It was an unusual interpretation of a French name. [My father was French so I noticed it.] “It’s correct,” barked Ms. ___ during a conference call we were in on. In fact, it was incorrect, so our certified deposit checks were inaccurate as well. This kind of sloppiness followed and tripped us up throughout the process.

The  apartment’s owner–Ms. ____’s client–wanted to meet us across the street from her office/apartment. She wasn’t free so Ms. Gawley squeezed in the appointment to her schedule. Ms. ___ had not given her client a copy of the lease we signed nor had she warned Ms. Gawley to bring one so when he asked for one, Ms. Gawley appeared unprepared—something she never is.

Because of delays caused by Ms. ___’s carelessness on February 1 we did not know whether we would have access to the apartment or if we had been approved by the building’s board of directors and therefore, whether the movers would be allowed in the building on Monday February 2.

Our board package was not submitted promptly because Ms. ___ hadn’t counseled her client to sign either the standard lead paint or child guard disclosure forms, discovered at the final hour. In the response, the real estate executive did not refer to this glitch.

She brought up another one. She wrote: “Unfortunately, we encountered a big snag at this point which caused us a delay. Upon review, the managing agent discovered that the owner of the apartment was not carrying the proper insurance. This is highly unusual, because it’s imperative for all owners to have valid insurance at all times, so of course it was completely unknown to Ms. ____. This is the purview of the managing agent, not the listing agent, and it would not be in Ms. ___’ typical scope to verify the insurance.” I underlined the words “typical scope” because I thought they were clever. What is her scope? How seasoned an agent was she?  Since she lived in the same place for a period of time, was she there legally?

We wanted to know where we would be living in the city [our weekend home requires a five hour commute round trip] but that was only the half of it. Should we cancel the movers [who had already stored our belongings for a week] and Verizon/Fios, which we ordered for move-in day so we might be connected to the world? What about business appointments  later that week–would we be free to make them or would we be waiting for the movers?

In the agency’s response, the executive wrote: “On the 30th, Ms. ____ received verbal confirmation from the Board President that the waiver had been signed, which she immediately relayed to your agent.  Did your agent not relay that information to you?”

Given Ms. ____’s slipshod track record, and the fact that the building’s managing agent couldn’t verify the information, Ms. Gawley wasn’t about to suggest that our movers park outside the building first thing Monday February 2 until she knew for sure they would be allowed in. She asked that we delay the movers to Monday afternoon. They lost a morning of work and had to leave [house rules] before they were done. When the Fios technician came he didn’t have our computer, phones and TV to connect them causing costly repercussions for us.

“Broom clean,” was not the way Ms. ___ left the apartment. Illustrative of her modus operandi see the photos at right and below left of just some of the things we found. They don’t capture the dirty towel on the bathroom floor and filled coffee cups and water bottles. In her letter the executive wrote, “she apologizes that her movers left a few items behind.” 

Ms. ____ had told us she was moving a few blocks away as well as to Connecticut but obviously didn’t relay the former info to her employer who claimed that from Connecticut she couldn’t have conveniently checked how the movers left the apartment. Funny: We’d just moved out of a city apartment followed by a two hour drive upstate in a blizzard and left not a spec of dust behind much less garbage bags worth of stuff.

411 stuff left behindThat Ms. ___was snarky and never apologized to us for her [in]actions was as grievous to me as the time she stole from Ms. Gawley and the stress she caused us. I also had a bad reaction to the patronizing tone of the executive’s letter, i.e. “Moving is always stressful.”  Between us my husband and I have moved some 50 times, sometimes across oceans, into property we’ve rented or owned, yet neither of us has experienced a move as bad as this.

I am tempted to write “The Haggler” in The New York Times’ Sunday Business Section but I want the episode behind me. If you need a great agent to buy or sell property I’ll put you in touch with Linda Gawley. Bad agents work all over, not just in NYC—I’ve hired and heard about lousy ones. Haven’t you?

Does someone in a service business–like real estate agent, PR or advertising exec–owe counseling to their clients or has it become yet another area where the client is expected to know everything and to get zero guidance and direction from the specialist?

Service of a Divine Location

Monday, September 8th, 2014

If you’ve glanced at real estate sections over the years you’ll have seen advice against buying a house too close to the road, how a swimming pool lowers a property’s value and so on. Since hurricanes and oil leaks have more frequently had their way with beachfront properties, many are taking a second look at oceanside homes, once coveted by me especially.

On the brighter side Stefanos Chen shared highlights of a German study on the benefits of owning a condo near–though at the right distance from–a place of worship. It doesn’t matter what religion. He wrote “A study of the housing market in Hamburg, Germany, found that condos located between 100 to 200 meters, or 109 to 219 yards, away from a place of worship listed for an average 4.8% more than other homes. The effect was similar across all religious buildings studied, including churches, mosques and temples.”

Continued Chen, “But live too close to the religious building—within 100 meters—and the premium is erased, they found. Sounds associated with houses of worship are only part of the problem. The effect of bell ringing, for example, wasn’t statistically significant, he said.” The “he” is Wolfgang Maennig a German professor in the University of Hamburg’s economics and social sciences department who co-authored the journal report that appeared in Growth and Change.

Maennig told Chen that being close to transportation and sports arenas also adds value. I’d question the latter. Surefire gridlock when the local team was playing at home would make me want to rent or buy far, far away.

The jury is still out as to whether the divine proximity phenomenon affects US real estate. Can you conjecture? When moving to a condo, co-op or house, what do you look for in the location?

 

Service of Civility: Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate Survey and East Hampton, N.Y. Manners

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Sometimes I think I live on the moon. I was reading Nicholas Joseph’s highlights on researchscape.com of a survey of a thousand Americans that KRC Research conducted for Weber Shandwick and one of its divisions, Powell Tate. I’m in sync with the condition but not with the cause to which 80 percent of respondents attributed incivility: Government leaders.

What about parents and guardians? Is this another game of hot potato where nobody wants to be left holding the vegetable when the music stops?

Joseph wrote: “Civility in America remains at a steady low level as 54% of Americans expect civility to continue to decline in the next few years….. With Americans encountering incivility more than twice a day, on average, and 43% of respondents expecting to experience incivility in the next 24 hours, dealing with incivility has become a way of life for many.

“Many Americans believe that uncivil words are provoking harmful deeds: 81% of respondents believe that uncivil behavior is leading to an increase in violence in our society. Respondents view the government, general public, and large corporations as uncivil, while they see local news, small businesses, and their community as civil.

69% of respondents view the government as uncivil

63% think that the American public is not civil

63% also view the media as uncivil”

I’d like to insert easy access to guns also leads to an increase in violence.

Toward the end Joseph added: “The level of civility will not improve until government leaders act more civilly and 83% of respondents think that politics is becoming increasingly uncivil.”

Granted, the survey blamed the American Public second after government…but that’s far too fuzzy for me. It’s not the public but a person that lets a door slam in my face as I enter an office building with my hands full; watches the elevator door slap shut as I’m about to step inside or crashes into me on the sidewalk without taking a breath to apologize.

Respondents—70 percent–also directed fault at the Internet. Almost half  have blocked missives from an uncivil offender while Joseph reported cyberbullying has increased 15 percent since 2011.

Manners are a first cousin of civility and Jim Rutenberg focused on the former in the title of his New York Times column, “Mind Your Manners, Or Else.” Datelined East Hampton N.Y., the first instance he described—of a hedge fund person and Wall Street lawyer trying to scam a local real estate company of its fee by leaving behind notes in one property asking the homeowner to deal directly with them—wasn’t about manners, it was about ethics and honesty.

After mentioning venues that capture unmannerly behavior, such as TheRudeHamptons.com, Curbed Hamptons and twitter character Joe Schwenk, whose handle is @HamptonsBorn, Rutenberg continued: “‘The Hamptons are, first and foremost, the locus of all this stuff: It’s where the powerful, the glamorous, the rich and the exalted go to summer,’ said Neal Gabler, the Amagansett-based author. ‘Because it’s their playground, the place where they can let themselves loose, it’s the place where you are likely to see them do things that they wouldn’t do in their own environment.’

“Mr. Gabler, who wrote the seminal biography of the gossip columnist Walter Winchell (“Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of the Celebrity”), views the sites devoted to reporting on suspected misdeeds as practicing a form of homegrown gossip columnizing, the whole basis for which, he said, “is essentially to equalize and take down the mighty to make sure they know they’re not better than we are.”

Manners apply whether or not you are rich or important or think you are. Some have them regardless, others don’t.

Definitions of “civility” and “manners” widely differ so we would naturally have diverse expectations about each. Is the reason we step on one another therefore inadvertent? I’m also curious about why survey respondents leave themselves out of the equation on the subject of civility and point far away to government and the public.

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