Rental Dementia: Blame it on Bob

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Bob is the reason I sometimes hate real estate. I’d go so far as to say that Bob is responsible for almost everything that is wrong with the rental business. It’s Bob’s fault that agents lie, that they are overly aggressive and that they care more about their own commission than finding renters suitable apartments. Bob is also the reason you are paying an exorbitant and non-negotiable fee. Bob is ruining it for everyone. I suggest someone talk some sense into him before he takes down the entire industry. He needs to be stopped.

Bob needed an apartment and after only an hour of showing him around, I realized his tragic flaw: Bob couldn’t make a decision to save his life. When asked even the most routine and innocuous question, he would hesitate. I could see him formulating the correct answer before he spoke. I’d ask, “How you doing today?” His eyes would shift a bit as he pondered the question, “Pretty good, I guess … not great.” He wouldn’t commit either way. Bob made monsters out of real estate agents.

He had seen around 20 apartments in total, half of them with me and two of which he really liked. This is after he changed his neighborhood three times and his price range twice. Each day he discovered a new neighborhood and I was given a new territory to search. After wavering, floundering and debating, he filled out an application on his top pick, but still wasn’t completely sure. He wanted to see his second choice again, but by the time I called, it had already been rented. He was distraught. Even with his list narrowed down to one possibility, and the reality of the market smacking him in the face, he couldn’t pull the trigger on his first choice. I had never seen anyone so upset about losing an apartment that they were getting ready to pass on.

He had me call the building again to make certain it was rented. I did. Then he asked if I would check again the following day. I would. Then he called later that night after seeing the space still advertised on Craigslist. He couldn’t let it go so I told him he should have taken it when he had the chance. I was trying to convey to him a sense of urgency. I pleaded with him to act quickly on his first choice. He could still get it if only he would act quickly. He wouldn’t. I got half an application and he would try to get the rest of it the following day.

He had lost one already and had half of an application on another, but still wanted to see more places. I had one more unit so I met him there. While we were entering the apartment, my cell phone rang. It was the super from the one he had lost. The other renter had backed out. The apartment was on the market. We could have it, if we acted fast. At that point, I expected him to be really motivated. But he took the information in stride.

We hit the street and in typical Bob fashion, he could only muster a, “Well, that’s interesting … hmmm.” I told him we needed to get over there and start the process. He hesitated, before saying he needed some time to think about it. I stared at him in disbelief. He looked a little embarrassed and strangely confused. He said he couldn’t make a decision because he needed to know what his “options” were. “What do you mean by options,” I asked. It was tense. He replied, “You know … what apartments are available.” I said, “Besides the 22 that you’ve already seen?”

Yesterday he was desperate for it, but now he’s shuffling his feet. I brought up his disappointment, and his phone call. He shook his head in acknowledgement. Then there was a long pause. He looked really uncomfortable, and I think we both understood that this was weird territory. He finally said—almost confessed—that he was seeing a few more places that afternoon with another broker. It happens all the time but in this particular case, I was furious. I had accommodated every one of his inane requests. For instance, while looking at a perfect little place on Mulberry, between Prince and Spring, he’d say it was great, but then he’d ask if I had anything on Prince or Spring.

It was hopeless. Bob was hopeless. I simply walked away as he told me he’d call later. I grunted something, and hoped I never saw him again. After seeing a few more places with another broker, he called that evening. He wanted to see the two apartments … one more time.

So occasionally we lie. Sometimes we push too hard. We are often overly aggressive. We charge large fees no matter how little service we provide. We don’t always spend the time we should exhausting a search. It’s all to compensate for the likes of Bob. You can’t really blame us. Sooner or later, we all run into a Bob, and we are never the same afterwards.

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