Rental Dementia: The Perfect Client

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I was reading the newspaper at the office when I got the email. It read, “Is this listing still available? I’m pretty sure it’s old, but if you have anything like it, give me a call. Thanks!” I had to re-read it a few times. If it was legit, it meant that somewhere out there was a pleasant person who understood that most ads on the Internet were used for bait and wasn’t furious about it. Strange. Even more impressive was that she was right. The ad was old, and I pitched her some other places that were a little more expansive but actually available. She wanted to spend about $3000 for a one bedroom downtown.

She had to have an elevator, preferred a doorman, but those were her only serious requirements. A dream client, who understood the game, I figured she must be working with 12 other brokers and have some kind of hairy mole on her face that had over the years built up an enormous amount of character. We made an appointment for the next afternoon.

While standing in front of the building, I watched each young woman as they approached and wondered: Is this her? I had already pre-qualified her and knew she was young and successful. From her emails, I gathered that she had a really healthy disposition. She wasn’t at all demanding or unreasonable. In fact, she was easy going. As I waited for her on the street, I was thinking that she couldn’t be good looking too, when suddenly a smartly dressed, attractive young woman approached and introduced herself. She must have had the mole surgically removed because I couldn’t find it.
There began my experience with the perfect client. That first apartment had a lot going for it, but the kitchen was closed off and the living room was small. She had the entire month to search, and I certainly didn’t mind showing her around. She could leave the office for about an hour every afternoon, and I would keep that slot open for the rest of the month.

Each morning I would scour our system for anything that even remotely matched her criteria. I enjoyed our regular meetings, and as she was on the flexible side, I had plenty of places to show her. This of course goes against every real estate instinct I have. I tried to get her into at least one apartment a day, which was no easy task. When there was nothing to see, we would send emails back and forth about possible buildings, weekend plans and “how’s the office today?”

One chaotic afternoon, I mixed up apartments and we ended up in the wrong building looking at a dimly lit walk-up studio. Later that evening I sent her a text message, apologizing for the waste of time. She laughed it off and mentioned that I was the only broker she was currently working with. In her mind it helped to see as many places as possible. I quickly lined up a few more dumps for later that week. I’m talking rattraps that I knew she would never take. I told her they were bad, but she wanted to see them anyway. What can I say? Occasionally I’m thorough when the incentive is there.

The month was winding down, and we were already joking about what we would do with ourselves once she found a place. We had narrowed her search down to two buildings around the corner from each other. The units were almost identical; one was a little larger, but the building lacked any kind of character, and the approval process was long and ridiculous. It was also a sketchy co-broke where my fee would get chopped in half. The other unit was nice, it was an easier deal, and I would keep the entire fee. She wanted my opinion on which apartment she should take.

In the rental market, the difference between right and wrong is often a hazy shade of grey. There I was with the nicest client I have ever had, being asked what I thought was the better apartment when my paycheck doubled if she chose the second one. Shouldn’t I at least nudge her in that direction? You want to do the right thing, but on the other hand it’s one less deal I have to make that month … if she goes the right way.

Eventually I did the only thing I could, and told her which apartment benefited me personally. I said it shouldn’t weigh in her decision, but I think maybe it did. When it came time to discuss the fee, this angel of mine said that she expected to pay the full 15 percent. I was once again asking myself where this girl came from. It felt strange charging her at all, as it never felt like work to me. In the end, I chopped over $500 from her fee and asked if I could take her to dinner. But that proved a lot more difficult than looking at apartments together.

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