We mortals have been working for a long time.  Long before we became humans or even mammals. It is many a wise person’s belief that, right up there with food, water, clothing, shelter, and air, is work!  Earning a little coin forges pride and achievement, allows us to take care of ourselves and others, and provides much needed social contact – albeit, these days, virtually.  Suffice to say, weeks before we were permitted to, my colleagues and I were in a lather, chomping at the bit to get back to one of the essentials of real estate life – showing property. On June 22nd, Phase 2 began and with it, real estate agents in NYC were permitted to work again. 

For me, Phase 2 felt more like crossing to Staten Island on a raft than driving over the Verrazano. I had strategized and planned for weeks so that I could hit the ground running. When the time came to finally bring strangers into my client’s homes, theory collided with practice harder than Foreman ever hit Ali.  Here are just a few observations of how the sausage is made during COVID.


Everyone is nice.  Really nice. One Sunday, I conducted ten separate half-hour showings of the same apartment.  Not a person complained about the mask, the shoes off, the hand sanitizer, the no touching, – the annoying inconvenience of it all. Admittedly, I was at my most charming and apologetic, but my experience with buyers since June 22nd is only positive. 

BTW, that night, at 8pm, after ten separate charming showings, I went right to bed!


We are working a lot more for a lot less. The ten, half-hour showings could have been squeezed into a single one hour open house pre-COVID. As alluded to above, each showing requires said agent to be the toucher and the opener. This leads to a lot more showing, a lot more talking, a lot more joke making, etc. Yes! I know! I’m whining but I haven’t even mentioned the four, two-page disclosures that have to be reviewed and executed via DocuSign for each showing!


It’s easier to spot the real buyers. In my business, we call a “real buyer,” someone who is ready to move forward immediately. This usually means that they have a knowledgeable buyer’s broker, know what they want, know their price point, have retained an attorney, are pre-approved for a mortgage or paying all cash, and know when they want to close. These attributes are the attributes of our dream buyer.  75% to 90% of the buyers I have encountered during COVID fall into this category.  In the epoch of pre-COVID, said buyer showed up only 10% to 25% of the time (fodder for another post, but if a listing is overpriced, the percentage drops to near 0%).  So yes, if you surmised that in this aspect of my work, I am working less – you are correct!


Presentation is paramount.  Photos and staging have always been important, but now that consumers have more time on their hands, they are looking more closely at property photos and videos.  As a result, solely because they liked the way we present our listings online, we have had a number of clients hire us without ever meeting me in person. Thank you Melanie, Orik, and Compass Concierge, we couldn’t have done it without you.  And, of course, the Virtual Tour technology is the bomb.  Everyone asks for it!  It also substantially increases web hits and property saves.    


Postscript thoughts:

  • People are more or less adapting and we may never go back to the “old way.”   
  • No one sells a property because they sent out an email blast to 10,000 agents or because they sent postcards to 1,000 homes in the neighborhood. They are a waste of time and money. There! I said it!
  • My Goodness! The NY Times Real Estate search aggregator is awful!
  • I love working from home.  

28 Days

Here’s a quick anecdote from one of my clients:


I think you’ll get a kick out of this. We are refinancing our home through a mortgage broker that shall remain anonymous. Among the mountain of paperwork they asked for, we were asked to provide our most recent bank statement. It had to be an official bank statement with the full account number (like the ones the bank sends monthly) not a download from online banking. So we sent them our February 2010 bank statement. It was rejected…want to guess why? February only has 28 days and the mortgage broker insisted on 30!
Anyway, just wanted to send this your way. We still love our apartment!

Take Care,


The Secret

An Open House in Park Slope Brooklyn

Fig 1-5, An unidentified broker documents his time at a recent open house.

Pssssst. Hey you. Yeah you: Mr. Buyer. Want to know a secret? Come over here. A little closer. Closer. Clooooser. Now listen carefully. We are not very busy. No- scratch that, we are not busy at all…OK, it’s dead out here. August is always dead. Really dead. Our open houses are poorly attended. Our blackberries aren’t buzzing. Our sales figures are down. Our sellers are not happy, so we are not happy. Our sellers are worried. We are worried. Our sellers want to make a deal. We want to make a deal.

Are you still listening? This is an opportunity for you. Here’s a suggestion: this year, why don’t you and your brethren close up the beach house early and, instead go shopping for a real estate bargain?

Here’s another secret: about two weeks after Labor Day, everything changes. Things pick-up, office phones ring, websites get hits. More of you go to our open houses. More of you make offers. And more of you actually purchase a home. How do I know? Just like August is always slow, September is always better.

So make a deal while you can – the Brooklyn Real Estate Sale ends September 14th!

E. 17th Street

A nice house in Ditmas Park Brooklyn

Click for Google Map of E. 17th Street in Ditmas Park BrooklynYesterday, I arrived early for an appointment and so decided to take a stroll down E. 17th Street. This neighborhood was once known as Flatbush and is now called Ditmas Park. It was such a nice walk that I had to share it with all of you. This block is full of detached Victorian style homes, all in pristine condition and most with front porches.  The sidewalks are pleasantly lined with oak, maple, and various fruit trees. I understand that many of you are familiar with this area, but believe me, even by Ditmas standards, this block is something special.

When you have a moment and before the summer is over, please take in E. 17th Street, between Newkirk and Dorchester…and if you have another moment, let me know how it went. Thanks for reading.

Take Five

Thinking about real estate in Park Slope Brooklyn

The author demonstrates the Take Five method

People often solicit my opinion about a given neighborhood. “Is it safe?”,they ask. “How is the area? What are the locals like?”, etcetera, etcetera,… I flat out try to evade these questions and I have my reasons. For one, I’m very fond of the neighborhoods I work in and don’t feel capable of answering objectively (It would be like bad-mouthing a family member to an outsider). For two, other than the number of times I’ve been fleeced by the Department of Finance (see How to Park It), I don’t worry all that much about crime in my neck of the woods. And three, the locals question? I don’t even want to know what people are getting at there. So I don’t answer any of these questions. But this is what I do say. I say, “because everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to these things, you need to explore the neighborhood yourself. That means more than just a cursory look. You need to take five extra minutes with some of the residents and get to know them. Doesn’t matter how you do it, but you need to engage a few locals. Ask for directions or the best place to get coffee. Say good morning or good afternoon. Whatever it is, just talk to people. If you do this, I guarantee, that if you really do this, you will see the neighborhood and you will see the entire city of NY in a very different light.”

I can hear the collective moan coming over the big T1 line in the blogosphere. You are out of your mind Jim. This is New York City! You can’t just talk to people on the street. You’ll scare them, or they’ll be suspicious, or they’ll get mad. My experience has taught me otherwise. When I first started exploring Crown Heights, I would stop random people on the street and ask them what they were paying for rent. If anyone asked why, I would simply say that I was thinking of buying a three family building in the neighborhood and wanted to know what I could lease the apartments for. And you know what? People talked to me. They were friendly. They were nice. They were very helpful. I even got invited into someone’s apartment to have a look. I couldn’t believe it either, but I learned a valuable lesson about my city. Nowadays, I almost always say hello, good morning, and good afternoon and my neighbors usually say it back.

So you want to know about a neighborhood? Take five extra minutes and get to know its residents. Thanks for reading, Jim.