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Old 11-02-2007, 08:44 AM
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Post Diary of a Real Estate Rookie

For those of you who don't read this column every week -- really, how hard is it? It runs on Fridays!

Sorry; what I meant to say was, for those of you who don't read this column every week, it is the story of my adventures in real estate.

And one of the long-term themes is both how starting a business is much more rewarding than I ever imagined, and yet much harder.

My first year out -- in New Jersey -- was an absolute disaster. I responded to this by coming back to New York, where I live, and starting over. Things were better immediately.

And there was a point where it looked like "better" would translate to "fantastic." People in New York knew me from my previous career, and it was much easier to get referrals.

I spent a few months of my first year in New York working with two of those referral clients. They were nice, and I liked their taste in apartments. I especially liked the part where they were willing to spend more than $4 million.

We found a place we liked, and they were determined to be in by Christmas. A contract was negotiated, and signed, and countersigned.

And then no deposit came through, ever. Bye-bye, happy little $60,000 commission!

It was one of those war stories that, I'm sure, happens to everyone, but it happened to me at exactly the wrong time. Hadn't I been beaten up enough, already?

Well, I got a book out of it. I put all my war stories in a memoir, and that one -- the Christmas that wasn't -- was pretty much the capper.

And that was that, until the book came out, and the guy wrote me. There was so much to explain off-the-record he said, but he was really, really sorry.

Well, his off-the-record explanation sounded plausible, but I had moved on. I had other fish to fry, and I had learned that there was something to be said for the greater certainty of a smaller commission.

Until the other day, when he wrote me again -- the theme was roughly: "Help, we're trapped. And we promise we'll spend the money this time."

Because my clients are no dummies when it comes to playing me, this time the stated budget was $5 million.

Well, what do you do, Charlie Brown, when Lucy swears that this time, she won't take the football away?

I debated a million responses, ranging from an "Oh, I'm so successful; your petty $60,000 means nothing to me," to "Hey, get in line," to "OK, double or nothing?"

I finally went with explaining to them that since I technically work for the seller, I had a responsibility to bring the seller of any and all $5 million apartments prequalified clients, and since they hadn't put down a deposit before, could they please show me their money?

Now this doesn't protect me totally. They might have the money, and dance me around some more, and refuse to spend it. The more I talk to highly successful brokers who have been in the business a long time, the more I realize that everybody's got one of those.

But it is, as they say of the busload of politicians at the bottom of the ocean, a good start. I'll let you know if a certified letter from their bank ever comes.

Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."

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