Take a Load Off Fanny

Once I was working with a couple who had a specific budget and a very clear idea of what they wanted. Unfortunately, and as with so many, "what they wanted and what the market would bear were two different things" (a classic Neil Binderism). It has always amazed me how often this maxim holds true and at all levels of the market. The $400,000 studio buyer likes the studios that cost $550,000, the $1,200,000 two bedroom buyer is only satisfied with units that cost at least $1,500,000, and even the $7,000,000 townhouse buyer is only moved by places priced at $10,000,000 or more. As such, the successful buyers are usually those who determine where they're willing to compromise and then adjust accordingly...but not always.

In this particular case I found a listing that was perfect for this couple. As expected it was priced way out of their range. The seller was a big gun in commercial real estate, a wealthy guy, and his apartment was a penthouse he had recently renovated. Being in the biz he had the best construction people available, and seeing as how it was his own place the renovation was, as we say, museum quality. Most recently, he had met and married a young stewardess who was now pregnant and they had purchased a house in Scarsdale. My sense was he was eager to start a new chapter in his life and would probably be very flexible if someone actually made him an offer.

I spoke with the prospective buyers and told them, despite the price, I really thought they should come and take a look. If it had been in a neighborhood they didn't want, I couldn't change that, if it was too small, I couldn't change that, if it didn't have enough light, I couldn't change that, but this place was perfect and I told them the only thing that wasn't etched in stone was the price. They refused. I started to insist, explaining all it had to offer, and asked that they trust me--there was nothing to lose, but they were adamant and even threatened to go use other brokers if I didn't drop the subject. People are strange sometimes, thinking they'll be tricked in some way rather than thinking about exploring the potential and allowing good things to happen, or not. A very wise old man (that would be my old man) once told me a story about a guy at a party who sees a very attractive woman across the room. He walks over to her and says "why don't we go to bed." Taken aback the woman responds "My God, you must get slapped by a lot of women for saying that" to which he replies, "Yes I do, but I also get to sleep with many women." You get the point...but apparently they didn't.

What did happen is a few weeks later we sold the apartment to a young attorney. She was house counsel for one of the top magazine publishers in the country. As you might expect she was aggressive in her approach and negotiated a deal that was nearly 30% below the asking price...and such a deal. But that's not the end of the story. A month or two later I got a call from the wife of my original couple. She called to tell me they had recently visited a friend who had just purchased a wonderful apartment that would have been perfect for them, and this friend had only paid such and such for it. Why hadn't I taken them to see it? Well, it was the exact same penthouse and I reminded her of our conversations and how I wanted them to come and see it and how they absolutely refused. There was a brief silence, and then she started screaming, cursing and ripping into me about how I should have shown it to them, and how they would have paid $30,000 more than what their friend paid, and on and on. In thirty years of doing real estate this is the only time I've ever hung up on someone.