Property Grunt

Sunday, March 06, 2005

For sale by Owner: A dangerous way to do business especially with a psycho broker

Curbed recently reported an incident between an owner and a broker. Today's New York Times has brought further details to light.

The Grunt give props to Curbed for being recognized by the New York Times.

The McNulty's were doing an open house allowing brokers to look at the apartment when Gia Wang from Douglass Elliman proceeded to have a spaz attack when she was asked to vacate the premises, which resulted in Mr. McNulty receiving facial wounds courtesy of Ms. Wang.

This is what happened according to Mr. McNulty

The couple advertised the open house, and Gia Wang, an agent with Prudential Douglas Elliman, was one of several brokers who showed up to look at the apartment. It is common for brokers to go to open houses where owners are handling the sale themselves, either in the hope that they may be able to persuade the owner to turn the listing over to them, or to meet buyers shopping for an apartment.

Mr. McNulty said he allowed the brokers to look around but asked them not to stay. He said that Ms. Wang lingered in the apartment and that he had to ask her several times to leave.

"She left and reappeared a couple minutes later, just ranting and raving," recalled Mr. McNulty, who worked until recently as a graphics editor for The New York Times. "Her rants got more incoherent and we said, 'You're really scaring us and you have to go now.' "

She continued to be belligerent, he said, and when he tried to remove her from the apartment, she began to claw at his face, scratching him and drawing blood. "She was dragged kicking and screaming out of my kitchen," he said. Finally, he said, he got her into the hallway and she fled the building

If Ms. Wang's intention was to persuade the owners for an exclusive this was not the way to do it. Any agent worth their salt will walk through a FSBO(For Sale By Owner) open house, make nice with the owner, compliment the apartment and leave their business card without even mentioning anything about representation. When an agent does a pitch it has to be in a controlled environment, preferably alone in the apartment with the owner. NOT AT AN OPEN HOUSE! The best time to make a pitch is after the open house because the owner may feel like they are in need of assistance.

Loitering at a FBSO open house to troll for buyers is no better than being a streetwalker working the meat market for johns. It’s simply unprofessional. Good agents get buyers through ads, referrals and walk ins that come through the office.

If Ms. Wang's intention was to acquire buyers by treating Mr. McNulty's home as her personal office than he was more than justified to toss her out.

The Grunt found some details from the article worth discussing.

Meanwhile, Mr. Peters said he found out about the incident two days later, after Mr. McNulty called to complain. Mr. Peters said he then called Ms. Wang and asked why she had not called to tell him what happened. "Her reasoning for it was that she felt that she had disgraced Douglas Elliman and she was planning on resigning and she was very scared," Mr. Peters said. She resigned on Feb. 24, he said.

As an agent she made a critical error of not reporting the incident to him. The management needed to be made aware of it immediately. Her conduct was absolutley unacceptable.

He said Ms. Wang began work for the company last October and appeared to be a promising young broker. If Ms. Wang had not resigned, he said, he would have had to fire her because of her behavior. "We're a customer service oriented company," he said. "She should have left right away."

Mr. Peters agrees her actions were despicable and even confirmed her behavior with a third party.

Mr. Peters said he also spoke to another person who had been in the McNultys' apartment and saw part of what happened. "He said he's never seen such unprofessional conduct in his life," Mr. Peters said of the witness. "She was asked over 10 times to leave and she didn't."

He said Ms. Wang admitted that Mr. McNulty had asked her politely several times to leave, but that eventually he became more adamant.

"She told me she was sick and she'd never been talked to like that," Mr. Peters said. "She said, 'I just froze.' "

Yet, Mr. Peters response to this goatf**k was this:

Mr. Peters said Ms. Wang's behavior was clearly inappropriate, but he added, "I think both parties were at fault."

From the information presented in the article there is no evidence stating that Mr. McNulty was at fault in any way. For Mr. Peters to suggest the owner bears any responsibility to the situation is adding insult to injury. To be frank, Mr. Peters should be burying his face firmly between Mr. McNulty's butt cheeks and consider himself lucky that Mr. McNulty has not initiated legal action against his company. That is if he hasn’t already. Under Mr. Peter’s watch Ms. Wang put Mr. McNulty, his wife and anyone else present in harm's way. God only knows what would have happened if she had gotten her hands on a kitchen knife. In fact this whole incident is an embarrassment to not only to Douglas Elliman but the real estate brokerage community at large.

Instead of a response that shifts blame to other parties Mr. Peters should have offered his sincerest apologies and offer his services free of charge. That's right, I said it. Free. And pay for the other agent's commission if it were to become a co-broke.

When an owner sells their home they are trusting buyers and brokers not to do anything that could be detrimental to the home and to the occupants. A seller has no idea who they are dealing with so they are opening their doors in good faith. Ms. Wang clearly violated the owner’s trust, which is completely uncalled for and low class. Bear in mind brokers are under constant scrutiny by the public and what Ms. Wang did does not help our public image.

Legally, Mr. Peters is most likely in the clear since Ms. Wang is no longer associated with the company and all blame has been placed on Ms. Wang therefore may not feel the need to take responsibility for the situation.

The article also raise more questions.

After speaking with Mr. McNulty, detectives began trying to contact Ms. Wang, but were not immediately able to interview her. "She's still being sought for questioning," said Detective Dennis Laffin, a Police Department spokesman. Ms. Wang returned a reporter's phone calls but spoke only briefly. "I love everybody," she said. "I don't have any bad feelings about anything."

If Mr. McNulty attacked her why didn't Ms. Wang call the police? Why is it so difficult for the police to question her? If she is innocent why isn’t she presenting her side of the story?

He said Ms. Wang admitted that Mr. McNulty had asked her politely several times to leave, but that eventually he became more adamant.
"She told me she was sick and she'd never been talked to like that," Mr. Peters said. "She said, 'I just froze.' "

Why didn't Ms. Wang leave in the first place? What was reason for her frozen condition? She claimed she was sick that day? But what was the nature of her affliction? Was it mental or physical?

Mr. Peters said that after Ms. Wang left the McNultys' apartment, she went to run an open house of her own that was scheduled for the same day.

If she was ill why did she report to an open house instead of seeking medical attention?

Ms. Wang's supervisor, Chris Peters, an executive vice president at Douglas Elliman, said she later told him she had not been feeling well that day and only scratched Mr. McNulty because she felt intimidated.

But was Ms. Wang threatened? Did Mr. McNulty attack her? If that was the case than Ms. Wang would be justified in using force, however intimidation is not grounds for nearly disfiguring someone.

Would this have been prevented if Mr. McNulty had hired a broker in the first place? Probably not, but it would have been the broker who would have been in the line of fire. If any damage occurred, the seller’s broker would have been held liable. Money, convenience and safety are issues sellers need to examine when pondering the FSBO option. The Grunt doesn’t discourage FSBOs. Whatever a seller decides to do with their property is their right and to hell to anyone else who thinks differently. But everything has its pros and cons.