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Brokers Say It Takes More Than Cutting The Grass To Go The Extra Mile

Originally Posted: January 05, 2010

Katy Gurley

  |   19 Comments · Print Article

Broker Bill Stoecker with his partner Jen Wilson. All images courtesy of brokers

Southampton - It's not the babysitting or sweeping a patio or opening the swimming pool that means brokers are going the extra mile for a client. It comes down to something simpler and more complex at the same time: Providing trust and professionalism.

Broker Susan Breitenbach.

"Over the years, I've done everything that you can imagine. A lot of people treat the broker almost like a caretaker. I've planted trees, removed trees, cut grass, swept the pollen off patios, I've babysat little kids and I've delivered contracts at midnight. Crazy things," said Susan Breitenbach, senior vice president for Corcoran.

But one thing she did for a client required the real professionalism that fosters trust: She recommended her clients choose the least expensive of two houses they were considering. One was selling for $15 million and the other for $7 million. The less expensive house was simply a better deal for the clients and Breitenbach knew it.
"You have to be a good friend to your clients and be happy with making half the commission and doing the right thing," she said. "Making money for the broker is sometimes less important than doing what's good for the customer." For her, that is going the extra mile.

Paul Brennan, longtime broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman has done some of the same things as Breitenbach. "I've taken care of kids, pets, cars, delivered money, valuables, paintings, but the most important way I go the extra mile is that people trust who I am and trust that I'll treat them properly and fairly," he said.
The ingredient that defines a great broker over a good one is professionalism, he said. "Doing your job with a passion and being in a relationship with your customers and clients. It's kind of a cliché, but you've got to be willing to do it," he said.

Broker Paul Brennan.

Bill Stoecker, vice president with Town and Country Real Estate, agrees. "I think it all depends on the relationship you've got with the customer and for me the important thing is relationship building or maintaining, so that if I help them out they'll help me out with referrals." He has also done the caretaker thing: "I recall at one point having to get a swimming pool open for a customer. Well, I also ended up assembling a gas barbeque - and I'm not a mechanical wonder or anything - and I delivered the essential food items to the fridge. There's a lot of stuff I've done." Another time he took a prospective purchaser on errands after she saw a house. "I'll end up writing a book when I'm done with this career. There are a lot of interesting tidbits out there," he said.

Breitenbach, who works in a team with her son, Matt, also of Corcoran, said there's another relationship that professional brokers must maintain to really serve their customers, and that is the relationship a realtor has with other brokers in the area. "You have to have a great relationship with other brokers. They are there to help you sell their listing. You have to return their calls right away," she said. And she agrees with Stoecker that if you go the extra mile for your customers, you always get something back in return. From the couple she counseled to buy the less expensive house, she got tons of referrals. So she was able to move on and sell other houses.

Personally, Breitenbach believes real estate is a 24/7 operation, and you have to be available to your customers and clients all the time.

But Brennan says slow down. "You can go 24/7 all day but wind up burning yourself out. In order to do the best job, you have to learn to take care of yourself and you have to be able to verbalize that and get it across to people. And people will respect the fact that you have a life."

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Guest (Miriam) from New York City says::
Hamptons Broker, so not true. That is restraint of trade. There needs to be freedom in the market place with agents, buyer and sellers all having freedom of choice. There are many agencies in the Hamptons who can't afford the $40,000 to join and the brokers and brokerages are deliberately excluding these agencies in order to get their cut of each deal. FOUL!
Jan 19, 2010 1:25 pm

Guest (Hamptons Broker) from Hamptons says::
MLS only serves the brokers and does little for the sellers. The way the Hamptons are set up is that everyone shares with each other any way. The only people crying foul are those who dont live here but wish thatthey could sell here. All these one hit wonders have to do is join a local agency. So stop complaining and get to work.
Jan 17, 2010 9:46 am

Guest (Miriam) from New York City says::
Maine Realtor: Okay DOJ it is, Oh, and I spoke to NAR and Ethics Complaint on the way. NAR has been informed that agents out on Long Island pay dues to LIBOR for access to an MLS that doesn't include the area they live in, most interesting is the $40,000 necessary for access to listings and membership in OREX which is exclusionary and probibitive to REALTORS and hence the Code of Ethics issue. Do not worry you will get your complaints,
Jan 11, 2010 8:37 am

Guest (Maine REALTOR®) from Sebago Lake Area says::
Sorry AMAZED - I don't think no bucks are passed here. According to NAR, the responsibility of "Professional standards enforcement would be the responsibility of the Board through which the REALTOR® obtained participation rights..." If the participants are not following LIBOR's MLS rules, file a complaint with LIBOR. If they are not following HANFRA's MLS rules, file a complaint with HANFRA. Of course, if no signed complaint is filed, what's a Board to do? There is something called due process in America.... not just waxing and weaving at complaints from the uninformed and anonymous naysayers. Stop passing the buck and file a complaint, that is, if you are a REALTOR® member. Otherwise your recourse is... the DOJ, the DOS, the AG's office or even my board, the Maine Association of REALTORS®, since according to you, one's jurisdiction or participation agreement is irrelevant.
Jan 9, 2010 8:20 pm

Guest (amazed) from east end says::
Interesting. The NAR code of ethics, article 3 states, "Realtors shall cooperate with other brokers except when cooperation is not in their clients best interests." It would seem that the HAMPTONS AND NORTH FORK BOARD OF REALTORS, having members that violate this tenet (irrespective of which mls they use- or REFUSE to use), would file an ethics complaint against each offending member to the NAR on behalf of the rest of their membership- there is NO JURISDICTION for a board over compliance with the COE. Perhaps "walking the walk" would give credibility to HANFRA. That buyers and sellers have no access to the most current property information due to an area that compromises the MLS (either one) for no apparent reason, and against the rules of NAR membership is worth pursuing on behalf of the whole real estate community. Enough "passing the buck".
Jan 9, 2010 7:59 am

Guest (Miriam) from New York says::
Maine Realtor, the fact that you use the word "Realtor" means that unless it hurts the public there should be a spirit of cooperation amongst us. There is no need for OREX or for HANFRA really is there. Everyone could just use the Long Island MLS since you are part of Long Island and operate in the spirit of being a Realtor and following the Code of Ethics. Wouldn't that be nice, buyers could work with whoever they wanted, sellers still get to pick whoever they want. You could just stop the games. Gee, now there's an idea.
Jan 9, 2010 4:28 am

Guest (Maine REALTOR®) from Sebago Lake Area says::
Miriam - Sorry you are misinformed and you missed my point. The reason why HANFRA's MLS, which can automatically feed into realtor.com and 10 other aggregators, isn't functioning is because the South Fork companies refuse to populate the site with their listings, preferring to maintain the status quo OREX/REALNET system, a non REALTOR® system which can't feed into realtor.com. Why, they prefer to pay 40K an office than 4K. Those who use LIBOR's MLS system know there is no penalty for not listing all their properties as required. So why fix the "broken wheel"?
Jan 8, 2010 5:34 pm

Guest (sad times) from greenport says::
I wonder how many of these high end real estate brokers really do that or do they hire some illegal workers to do it.99.9% of the time the brokers cut is more important than doing whats right for the local legit businesses. 50% of everything is done illegally in the hamptons anyway. it's all about money and power out there. people are afraid to ruffle feathers because you may end up with a giant lawsuit or other problems. north fork rules.
Jan 8, 2010 12:45 pm

Guest (Miriam) from New York says::
Sunshine, I had a house in Amaganset for about 20 years and was out there in the 80's. My father bought land and I knew all of the "Giants of Real Estate" out there. Service oriented has nothing to do with the MLS, the homeowners out there still get to hire their agent who must nuture the listing and provide the service. The Hamptons and their way of doing real estate has been fostered by the brokerage community and their feeding into the culture because of double dipping on commission. If homeowners are taught this selling is a home is not a social commitment but a financial one and that it is in their best interests to get their best offer whether it be "ronnie realtor" or whomever the point is to maximize the investment. The culture out there is in the hands of the brokers and they are the ones who prefer it the way it is. Tom D - the brokers will tell me that an agent from Southhampton can't possibly sell in the Hamptons again because they are trying to keep everysale in house, back to the double dip. I lived in the Hamptons for years and know the area intimately but don't llive there now. If I had a buyer who wanted to buy there I am able to sell there. There is learning curve for everyone including the agents out there. A good buyers agent know how to investigate and do their homework, just like every agent working out there now. I would even venture to guess there are new agents working in the Hamptons who are newer and less informed than an experienced agent from Stonybrook. It isn't just about the area but putting a deal together. Hogwash.
Jan 8, 2010 9:44 am

Guest (amazed) from east end says::
Not sure about that, sunshine- the MLS has provides those same (minority in #'s) high end sellers to "opt out" of exposure via the MLS- they just need to give permission in writing. With a median sales price dipping below that million dollar threshold, to blame a few home owners for the climate out there seems a bit of a reach, but it's an interesting justification nonetheless. Not sure that those losing their homes at this point would buy into that theory- were the majority (and they are) of "regular" sellers provided an MLS choice?
Jan 8, 2010 5:53 am

Guest (Sunshine) from East says::
Yes, the MLS is an inevitable reality headed straight for the Hamptons. However, let's not forget- the drive that has allowed brokerages to keep MLS out are the exclusive right to sell, service loving homeowners, many of whom are wealthy manhattanites who have enjoyed the benefits and exclusivity of having a "high end, moderate volume" types of broker representing their property. Many of the old money types did not want Ronnie Realtor trapsing through their homes. They preferred the suit wearing broker with social ties to their world, and insider knowledge of unpcoming listings and whos who information. That is why the hamptons have remained insulated from MLS. It wasnt until the net based, dot com, techonology crew of 2nd homeowners came into town that MLS became such a big deal. Don't believe me? Allan Schneider Real Estate in the 80's. Research it, and love it. The real hamptons lived through and say goodbye to its hayday
Jan 7, 2010 2:31 pm

Guest (Southampton Agent) from southampton says::
Miriam -- Prudential, Corcoran, T&C, and Brown Stevens are under contract to put all their exclusives on MLSLI -- and theey don't -- breaking the law/rules is sn established tradition in the Hamptons.
Jan 7, 2010 11:47 am

Guest (Tom D) from Westhampton says::
Miriam - the "elite" brokers of the Hamptons will tell you that a broker from Stony Brook could not possibly know the area and the properties like they do. Hence, they feel it reasonable to keep their listings out of LIBOR MLS. And the sad part is they perpetrate this fraud on sellers who are dumb enough to believe that less exposure means a greater chance for a sale.
Jan 7, 2010 10:59 am

Guest (Miriam) from New York says::
Maine Realtor. There are several reasons to use LIBOR's MLS. The first is that buyers out of this area go to Realtor.com and other sites to search for properties and the properties for HANFRA's and OREX are not there. This means that lots of buyers are not aware of properties that might be for sale in the area. The second reason is that buyer's have a right to use whoever they want as their representative. By not using LIBOR's MLS loads of buyers and their agents are excluded and don't have access to the listings/properties in that area. If a buyer's agent that deosn't belong to OREX has a buyer for properties they are excluded. So, is that in the seller's best interest? Isn't it in the buyers and sellers interest for this to be opened up to all agents and agencies? Why exclude brokerages? What is an agent from Stonybrook has a buyer that wants to look in those 5 communities --- their buyer does not the freedo to work with who they want to work with because the brokers in those communities are unwilling to share. This is not in the spirit of access to available properties to all buyers and sellers. It makes it unneccesarily difficult for buyers. Why is that necesary??????
Jan 7, 2010 6:45 am

Guest (Maine REALTOR®) from Sebago Lake Area says::
Why use LIBOR's MLS, when the Hamptons and North Fork REALTOR® Association (HANFRA) has been granted a charter by the National Association of REALTORS® to service the real estate industry in the 5 East End Townships. I don't believe LIBOR has the appropriate jurisdication under those circumstances. And yes, they (HANFRA) does have a MLS system willing and able to be populated. Why hasn't it been?
Jan 6, 2010 5:11 pm

Guest (David) from North Haven says::
Bill, if I give you a listing will you open my pool?
Jan 6, 2010 4:49 pm

Guest (Miriam) from New York says::
Amazed I am also amazed that sweeping patios, dog walking, removing trees, babysitting all come BEFORE putting the property onto the Long Island multiple listing service. I am more amazed at the quote: "Making money for the broker is sometimes less important than doing what's good for the customer." For her, that is going the extra mile. SOMETIMES less important??????? So sometimes it is more important to make money for the broker - did she really say that? "For her, that is going the extra mile" Doesn't the public come first, don't we have an obligation to the buyers and sellers and ethically there needs come before ours?
Jan 6, 2010 8:35 am

Guest (amazed) from east end says::
"Making money for the broker is SOMETIMES less important than doing what's good for the customer." What happens the REST of the time? Scary thought. Oh, well- at least they sweep patios.
Jan 5, 2010 6:47 pm

Guest (Miriam) from New York says::
Do the brokers in this article put their properties onto the Long Island Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service so that their sellers get full national exposure?
Jan 5, 2010 2:52 pm


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