- Your next client could be the love of your life.
- But agents should evaluate whether any romantic interest connected to their job could create a conflict that interferes with their ability to serve a client's best interests.
When the agent — who was engaged — left the meeting, she called up her friend, Jennifer Egbert. Then she turned around and headed back to the prospective client.
“What the hell is going on here?” she asked the man with whom she’d shared company for the better part of a workday, according to Egbert, a Boulder, Colorado-based Realtor.
“I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out,” he responded.
And they did. They’ve been married for nearly 20 years and have four kids.
From true love to flings, stories of romance in real estate abound. While they may lead to everlasting happiness, they also can sometimes complicate agents’ ability to do their job — and just cause a general mess.
Inman has compiled nine real estate love stories. Read on for a window into the many shapes and forms that romance can take in the business, along with their consequences.
‘The only catch is that you have to go on a date with me’
Realtor Brittany Camacho had been told by her employer, a developer, that she might be tested by “shoppers.” They would pose as prospective buyers to figure out if she was doing a good job at selling condo units owned by the developer.
So when a man asked to see the floor plans of all 14 types of units that made up the development complex, just as she was locking the office one night, she assumed the man was a shopper — there see how she would treat buyers on her way out.
Camacho, now an agent at Arlington, Virginia-based Century 21 Redwood Realty, dutifully showed the man every unit type. Then they sat down in her office.
“OK, I’ll buy that condo on the sixth floor,” the man said. “The only catch is that you have to go on a date with me.”
Jeez, this shopper is really going the distance, Camacho thought.
She would be on her way. She wished him the best of luck in his search. She hoped he would find what he was looking for.
“I’ll call you tomorrow at the same time, and the same deal will be on the table,” he said, after she reluctantly handed over a business card.
And he did. Not just the next day, but every day for 13 days after that. On the 14th day, he asked: “Don’t you work on sales commission? I’m trying to give you a sale, and you’re just not taking it.”
She caved. The next night, she walked him through the contract in her office.
“We are on opposite sides of the transaction. You shouldn’t trust me at all,” she would tell him as she explained various forms. “I work for the seller, not you.”
But he “kept just looking up at me in my eyes and saying, ‘I trust you,'” signing every form with complete disregard for what appeared above the dotted lines.
Camacho tried to make her exit at 10:30 p.m. after the contract had been signed (she’d made their appointment late she could get out of the date), but he held her to her word.
She refused to get in his car, telling him “he might be a serial killer” for all she knew. But she agreed to walk with him to a nearby restaurant.
“On the walk back to the building, I just remember stopping and…I was like, ‘Oh, my god, I just fell in love with this guy,” she said of their return to the complex after dinner. “What is wrong with me?!”
When the transaction closed about a month later, Camacho’s persistent suitor presented her with an envelope. Inside was a set of keys to the unit he had purchased.
“He was like, ‘Move in with me. Let’s do this,'” she said. “Let’s just jump in.”
They were married three years later, and now they parent a five-month-old baby.
“We always joke that it was the most expensive first date of his life because he had to buy a condo,” she said.
‘Don’t like him, don’t like him, don’t like him’
Marianne Bornhoft, a Spokane, Washington-based agent at Windermere Manito, had always strictly followed her policy of never dating a client.
So when she found herself short of breath upon seeing her future husband for the first time, she told herself right then, and for many nights after: “Don’t like him, don’t like him, don’t like him.”
But her intellect was no match for her heart. The two quickly formed a bond, recommending books to each other during a three-hour listing appointment and commiserating over the difficulties of divorce (her now-husband was selling his home due to a divorce, and Bornhoft had divorced a few years earlier).
Their first fight came when Bornhoft learned that her future husband had worked with another Realtor about a year before the two met. She told him she didn’t think she could represent him in good conscience.
“I’m really upset,” he told her. “How dare you say I have to call another Realtor?”
He won the fight.
One day, she called to tell him that there was some new interest in his property, which was a rental condo. Why, she asked, was he panting so much? He was training for a triathlon, he told her.
“Ding, ding, ding, that was the hook,” she said.
As their friendship blossomed into romance, she was “brutal on him” with her insistence that he fix up some parts of his condo. The property later fetched the highest sales price on record for its complex.
“If anything,” she said, the relationship “made me a very good Realtor.”
Beware the contractor
In Leslie Ebersole‘s experience, male contractors often seem to be at the center of real estate-related love affairs, with the typical scenario involving married women breaking vows for romps with the laborers.
One case involved a real estate agent and contractor who flipped homes together, said Ebersole, who heads up the T3 Fellows brokerage accelerator. The agent would find bargains, close the transactions and pool her money with the contractor to fix up and flip them.
Soon enough, the partnership took on lustful dimensions.
“She actually ended up leaving her husband for the contractor, and everybody in town knew it,” Ebersole said.
The affair caused such a stir that it even received local media coverage, according to Ebersole.
“All of this involves contractors,” she said, speaking of the real estate-related love scandals she’s witnessed over the years. “I don’t know why they involve contractors.”
Unscrupulous hotties have always used their allure to seduce others for profit. And real estate hasn’t escaped their machinations.
One of broker-owner Nelene Gibbs‘ clients took up with another agent who led her to believe he was falling for her. Such was the power of the agent’s spell that he convinced her to buy a house for cash and put his name on the deed.
“Shortly thereafter, she found out he was engaged to someone else!!!,” said Gibbs, who owns Virginia Beach, Virginia-based Nelene Gibbs Real Estate. “Not good.”
Love conquers all, including a good offer
On behalf of a client, agent Becky Boomsma submitted what she thought was a good offer on a home listed by an agent who was a “successful colleague.” The offer was accepted, only to be rejected later in the day.
“It seemed very suspect at the time,” said Boomsma, an agent at Franklin Lakes, New Jersey-based Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty
Her instincts were right.
As it turned out, the homeowner’s actual agent, the “successful colleague,” had made an offer on his client’s home himself.
A few days later, the listing agent and owner began dating, and married not long later. “He must have been quite the charmer, and, 15 years later, they are still happily married.”
Commenting on the story, which was related on Facebook, broker Scott Forcino observed: “Love conquers all. Even an accepted offer.”
Closing gifts: A way to open the door to romance?
Karen Bigos, a broker-owner at Short Hills, New Jersey-based Towne Realty Group, may have found a way to subtly open the door to romance with a client.
Bigos met a woman in a restaurant bathroom (a friend of a friend) who said her older brother was looking for a home. She gave the woman a business card and then promptly received a call from the woman’s brother.
After showing the man more than 40 homes and shepherding him through a “nightmare transaction,” she offered him a gift certificate for a restaurant of his choice. He insisted that she go to dinner with him.
Whether or not Bigos intended to offer an opportunity to the man, she may have hit on what should be the closing gift of choice for agents lusting after their clients.
“I later found out that his sister’s intention was to play matchmaker and he really didn’t care if he bought a house, he just thought it would be fun to meet me,” Bigos said.
The two dated for around a year, “but I did not like the house he bought!”
“We both married other people (went to each other’s weddings) and are still friends over 30 years later,” she added.
The Zillow lead that got away
It all started with a Zillow lead. The prospective buyer had called about a high-end property, and from the moment one agent (who asked not to be named in this article) saw him, she was “smitten.”
She found him interesting and easy to talk to, and the more she worked work him the more he “fit my ‘perfect guy’ bill.” She would make up excuses to meet over things that could be handled by phone, but she tried to remain professional and keep her feelings under wraps.
It was a closing gift that set things in motion. When presenting him with expensive champagne after he purchased a home, he told her she shouldn’t make him drink alone.
“So I later emailed him if he had a girl, and the necessary implication was made and we hit it off from there,” she said.
Sparks flew, but while the agent had helped him buy a new house, she still hadn’t sold his previous one. The mixing of romance with business made for “a lot of strangeness” and “some awkward situations” and both are in weird stages in their lives.
Alas, the two are drifting apart, she said.
“Now I work with good-looking men all the time, but I fell in love with this one,” she said. “I think he will always be the one that got away.”
The play pad
Real estate agents grappling with romantic interests connected with their profession should carefully consider whether it “creates a conflict that interferes with the agent’s representation of the client’s interests in the real estate dealings,” said industry expert Russ Cofano.
The case of two agents who allegedly met for romps at the home of one of the agent’s clients in New Jersey in 2012 would seem to highlight a scenario that creates such a conflict.
The two not only used the home “as their play pad to have sexual relations” in the client’s home, but the client’s agent “intentionally listed the house above market value to avoid Realtor traffic in the home” while the two “carried on their trysts,” the client had alleged.
Sex for sales
That’s right: Some agents trade sex for listings — at least if we’re to believe broker Adelaide Polsinelli.
Writing in the Commercial Observer in 2012, Polsinelli cited the case of one female broker. The temptress would lure sellers to her house in the Hamptons “under the guise of a weekend with some powerful investors.”
Each seller who showed up would find himself alone with Polsinelli.
“Using her feminine wiles and various body parts, depending on how large the deal was, she would get him to sign her up as the exclusive agent, and, voila, the assignment was hers,” Polsinelli wrote.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that Bornhoft represented her future husband in the sale of a rental condo, not his primary residence.