After 20 years in an English Tudor in Westchester's Pelham, Bobbi and Warner Burke decided it was time to "wake up in the heart of Manhattan. We wanted chaos, color and vibrancy where we lived," says Bobbi. Without any leads for brokers, Bobbi—who had been reading the real estate section of the newspaper for a year in anticipation of a move—went into the city and visited The Corcoran Group's Upper East Side location. "I just hit the agency cold," Burke recalls. She was hooked up with Inge LaSousa, a Corcoran broker who happened to be available at that moment. "We started to look at properties that day," says Burke.
Ten months later—after extensive searches throughout many Manhattan locales—LaSousa continued to be the only broker the couple had ever wanted to work with. And, after the Burkes signed a contract for an apartment in The Metropolitan Tower, a 232-unit condo on West 57th Street, Burke says, "Had I not had Inge, we wouldn't have gotten this apartment. She was tenacious, found us the perfect apartment and made the deal work when the seller was wavering."
Ask for References
Not all buyers and sellers are as lucky as the Burkes were in finding a real estate broker without interviewing or researching the individual. Sam Andrews, an accountant who resides in Manhattan, did not do any homework about the broker he is using to purchase a one-bedroom co-op in Forest Hills. Andrews saw an ad for the space in Newsday, called the broker and subsequently fell in love with the apartment. He says he never would have chosen this broker had he not liked what she was selling.
"Her office is in a dump of a building on a very weird street. She gossips about others clients and their deals to me; it makes me wonder what she's saying about me to them. If I didn't like the apartment so much, I would've backed out of the deal because of her manner." Andrews submitted his offer weeks ago and he still hasn't gotten the contract, a problem that he traces to this particular broker.
According to Peter R. Marra, president of the William B. May Company, a real estate brokerage firm in Manhattan, "Our business is really about referrals: 80 percent of the deals we have come from recommendations. Only 17 percent of our clients come from ads." Even when a broker's name is passed on through a referral, very few clients ask for references.