I spent a good deal of time this week looking at apartments in Brooklyn. Come February 1st I will be moving in with my longtime girlfriend, Miranda, and in typical New York fashion, we were scrambling to find the perfect apartment with less than 30 days before we had to move.
Manhattan real estate is very competitive and high priced – but it’s also very organized. There is a central registry that more or less all realtors can access. Brooklyn real estate is different. In Brooklyn, a few dozen real estate companies have private relationships with the families or management companies that own different buildings. There is no central registry and in order to find the perfect apartment, you first have to find the realtors that represent the perfect apartment. The whole ordeal is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack – only first you have to find the right haystack.
In our search, we ended up talking to a lot of realtors, walking all over Brooklyn, and signing a lot of documents filled with legalese. Most of the documents didn’t seem to have much importance outside of protecting the realtor’s fee (which is exorbitant) – but one document really interested me. Form DOS-1735-a is required for all real estate transactions conducted by a realtors inside New York City. It’s a very basic form that simply states (with check boxes) if the realtor is working as agent for the landlord, working as agent for the tenant, or working as “dual” agent for both the landlord and tenant. When I asked why this form was required, one of our favorite real estate agents told us about her many years of experience working for landlords and tenants. In her mind, the most difficult role is that of “dual” agent (representing both the landlord and the tenant).
As she was talking about her moral quandary over representing both sides of the same deal, my mind quickly raced through all the similarities between her industry (real estate) and my industry (advertising). Suddenly, I had an epiphany. No matter what business you’re in, there are always three types of roles: buyers, sellers and brokers. The roles of buyer and seller are always clear – but if you’re the broker, it can be very hard to stay perfectly spaced, representing the buyer and the seller equally.