At the height of the real estate boom, Curbed.com, Lockhart Steele’s snarky community real estate site, ran a contest for one word to describe the borough of Brooklyn.
The word that won was “sun-drenched.” The answer was seen as a wry comment on real estate agents and our unending hype. During the boom, no home was “small”; it was “cozy.” No home was “large”; it was “massive.”
Well, those days — and mind you, I’m in a submarket that’s still hot — are gone. I am shopping for an apartment for two newlyweds, just starting out, and everything I find for them the other brokers try to talk me out of.
My clients are in a one-bedroom now, and they’re looking for something bigger. A two-bedroom would be great; they have no kids yet, so the spare room could serve as an office, possibly a place to park bookshelves full of media stuff.
I sure would like a room like that, and so would they. I know the wife has visions of getting her wedding china out of her in-laws’ basement.
So when I found a two-bedroom in the right neighborhood, I initially whooped. But I didn’t show them that apartment, because the listing broker convinced me not to.
“The bedrooms are small,” she said. “They wouldn’t like it.”
Small? Whatever happened to cozy?
I took the listing broker’s word for it because I’m sure it was born of weary experience. I’m sure she had shown the apartment to many a couple who went, “nuh-uh,” and she was getting a little sick of it.
So I went on to the second apartment, a gigantic wacky industrial loft the size of a small house. “Tell them the kitchen’s not going to be nice,” said the listing broker. “There’s no kitchen now, and the landlord will put one in, but tell them not to expect a six-burner Viking stove.”
As a sell, I found that left something to be desired. Whatever happened to “massive”?
The apartment that we are going to is, hopefully, the Goldilocks apartment: It’s not the one that’s too little and cramped, and it’s not the one that’s too big and unfinished.
Honestly, I’m not sure what its flaws are because there’s no floorplan on the listing. I think, from looking at the photos, that it’s probably lacking in closet space and that the master bedroom is awkward, but the listing broker shot it pretty artfully, so we’ll have to see it to find out.
And when we’re there, I’m sure they’ll try to upsell my clients to a bigger, nicer unit — just like the old days.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a plea for aggressive misdirection and upselling. We’ll certainly have to battle back against those factors when we face them. It is, however, a plea to put a little optimism back into listing presentations. If you truly think a home is awful, don’t list it. If you list it, have the confidence that it’s right for some buyer, and at least present the good with the bad.
For example, I appreciate being told the whole tiny-bedroom thing, but the location on that apartment was perfect — perfect! Good school district, right near shopping and transportation, a couple blocks from a park — why not emphasize that?
The too-industrial place, well, OK, not everyone likes industrial, but it’s three times the size of my apartment. If the listing agent had just said that to poor, tired, cramped me enough times, I would have agreed to live there.
Especially if she’d told me it was “sun-drenched.”
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”