The Carpetbagger Broker

J Philip Faranda January 25, 2011

The only territory that truly belongs to J. Philip Real Estate- my homeYears ago, I listed a home in a nearby town which was next door to the residence of a celebrity. It was, as you might imagine, a nice place, and some of the phone calls I got from area agents were bizarre. “What are you doing here?” “Where is your office?” “How did you get that listing in my town?” and so forth. It annoyed my wife more than it annoyed me (maybe because she was answering the phone at the time), but I still found it incredibly unflattering to those who asked. It was if I dared to step foot in their fiefdom. It closed, I had a fine experience with the buyer agent, and we moved on. 

Years later, I listed another home, this time a short sale, in another idyllic little village in Westchester, and very soon after listing it, we put it under contract. For reasons unimportant to this post, I had to re-activate the listing again a month or two later, and I got a phone call from “Marge.” 

“Marge” had been an agent in this area for quite a while, and she decided she would call me and have a…”professional” conversation with me about my listing. If I worked in Bananaburg like she did, my colleague said, I’d know that the home was overpriced for the square footage. And on she went, prefacing her remarks that if I knew her town I’d know better, I’d do things thus and so, basically making a boob out of herself. Marge was not being that subtle- she thought I was carpetbagging into her town and was letting me know before I got too comfortable. 

Aside from the condescension and pettiness, dear Marge was pushing the envelope with the law. New York Real Property law, known locally as “Article 12a” specifically prohibits Market Allocation, which is seen as a restraint of trade. It might seem superficial, but the mentality that one broker has “their territory” and I have mine is an anathema to free trade and very anti-consumer. In my case, the client didn’t need a neighborhood specialist (whatever that is) and needed an experienced short sale broker. 

Most people I know aren’t big fans of their utility company or cable provider, in large part because they have a monopoly on the commerce in that area in their industry. Do the math with that and the reputation of real estate agents. Am I worried that such a thing will happen? No, I am not losing sleep over it. But it does concern me that there are licensees out there who are dumb enough to go there. Smart agents don’t engage in this kind of talk for the very same reasons we don’t discuss commissions. Market allocation, like price fixing, never discussed between companies.  If the net effect is to intimidate a new entry into your locale, it doesn’t edify the profession and may be illegal at that. 

“Marge,” who may be grandfathered by Albany for continuing education at her advanced age, needs to go back to school. 

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