Never judge a book by its cover

I believe this axiom was meant to imply if something appears to be wonderful on the outside it may in fact be otherwise upon deeper investigation, but what happens when the opposite is true?

I learned this early in my career when a young woman called in search of a studio. The problem was her budget was so small that nothing was available in her price range, at least not in Manhattan. Rather than dismissing her I remained on the phone and talked with her for nearly half an hour explaining the buying process, what she should expect, how to find a good broker who could help her, etc. She was very appreciative and I wished her good luck. About four months later, I got a call from a gentleman who told me his niece had spoken with me a few months earlier, and that I had been so nice and helpful. I remembered her and asked him how she made out. She had found an apartment and was all settled, but the reason he was calling was because he was looking himself and she had recommended me (even over the broker she eventually used to buy her place). I said I'd be happy to help, what was his price range? was in the high seven digits.

Candace from our office had found a modest penthouse in the village for a nice unassuming gentleman big deal. A few months later she got a call from him to thank her again and to say his sister's daughter, an actress, had a boyfriend who was looking to buy, could we help. Sure, send them on over. The next day I escorted the tall handsome buyer and his blond girlfriend over to Candace's desk. "Candace this is John and Daryl", can fill in the blanks.

In my early days at Bellmarc, I remember Dan Levitan was sitting in the office when a very young unshaven guy with a knapsack, long hair, torn jeans and sandals walked in. Dan went over to tell him that we didn't do rentals, only sales. The guy said "Oh, I'm interested in buying something." Skeptical but polite, Dan took him to his desk and started to ask the usual questions. When he got to price range the guy said around a quarter million. This was in the early 1980's, and that was the price of a townhouse. Dan was momentarily caught off guard and blurted out, "But can your really afford that?" ...the money was in the knapsack.

The next example, involved another very young man. My partner James got a call from this buyer who claimed to want a penthouse downtown. He looked fresh out of college and even had his college roommate come along to inspect the properties we were to show him. His budget was huge and James was as skeptical as Dan had been, but this guy's name was so familiar that we investigated further. Without revealing who he was, I can tell you we discovered he came from one of New York's wealthiest families and young as he was, already sat on the Board of Directors of one of the top privately held companies in the world. To give you an idea of the respect held for this family, the loan he applied for was almost 50% higher than the actual price of the penthouse we sold him (he "wanted to do some work on it"), and the full commitment letter arrived within 3 days of application. We later heard a fellow broker had thrown his name in the garbage after meeting him and "judging the book by its cover".

My favorite one of these stories involved yet another young guy fresh out of NYU who came to me looking for an apartment in a well established building. He claimed to be a writer of children's books. I had already learned my (don't judge a book) lesson, and took him to the Brevoort East just off of Fifth Avenue in the Village. He loved the apartment which was being sold by an older couple retiring to Florida. When I submitted his offer, the owners who had met him at the showing questioned whether he was really capable of buying--he was so young. They actually put the fear in me so I decided to look into it further. Hmmmm, a writer of children's books, I headed over to Barnes and Noble (
see "Occam's Razor"), and asked to see one of those big red books that lists everything published. When I found his name (thank God) it was not only there, it took up a whole page with dozens of books. This guy was apparently a prodigy who had written his first book when he was 12, was already published when he was 14 years old (he's now published over 55 books to date) and had received 3 major book awards before I even met him. I will spare you any puns or double entendres about judging this particular book by his cover.