Love for Sale
Falling for your broker: What happens when your apartment hunt becomes a manhunt.
Broker Nadine Robbins met her husband while showing him apartments almost a decade ago. He told her what he was looking for, then asked her to look at his current place to see where he was coming from. "For some reason I said okay," says Robbins, "and the second he opened the door I felt something."
It wasn't just a prospective commission: Selling apartments is sort of a seduction, anyway -- the hopeful rendezvous, the financial disclosures, all that time in strange bedrooms -- but stronger emotions sometimes intrude. "Giving intimate details of one's life to a broker can be similar to telling a lover a secret," says Corcoran's Frank Torre. "You feel bonded." Robbins knew she was hooked when she was making plans to show her client some places. "I kept saying to myself, 'What am I going to wear for my date tonight?' " He did ask her out; they married two years later.
What with all those long afternoons spent together, it's not surprising that sometimes the match that's struck is not between person and place but agent and client. Corcoran's Kelly Russell says he fell for his current partner the day "I brought him to view an apartment and when a construction worker opened a door drenched with wet paint, he pulled me aside." (The paint was white and he was wearing a black Gucci suit.) They recently celebrated their first anniversary -- in that very apartment.
Last year, Sumitomo's Sachiko Goodman asked her daughter (who has a real-estate license) to show an apartment for her. "She didn't want to, but she was nearby," says Goodman. The client wasn't interested in the place, but sparks flew, and they were married last month.
Lake Shaw of Citi Habitats once dated a client for six months. "If he's Mr. Right," she says, "I don't give a damn." But more often, she has to deal with rejecting an overture without losing a client. "I just keep saying sure, but I put them off. You sort of have to be the yes-man who doesn't deliver anything. Except a great apartment."
LISSA T. RODGERS
The Big House
Rennert's Window Pain
Just as beach weather has begun, construction has slowed to a crawl on Ira Rennert's 25-bedroom Sagaponack oceanfront megabungalow. After more than a year, the window holes are gaping -- still -- which makes finishing the interior impossible. Hamptons sources have it that the delay in Rennert's San Simeon aspirations is partly because of the customized windows, which were customized in a rather unusual way. Apparently the protective UV glaze was applied on the wrong side. And Rennert needs that protection -- the 41,000-square-foot home (plus garage) sits upon 63 acres right on the beach. (Rennert's lawyer said he knew nothing about the windows.) Some say the error could take nearly two years to correct, which would leave poor rich Mr. Rennert paying the Town of Southampton permit-renewal fees for a long time to come.
25 North Moore Street
2,900-square-foot condo. Ask: $1.65 million. Sell: $1.65 million. Charges and taxes: $2,136. Nine months on market.
Last fall, the Atalanta building -- a towering slab of concrete once used as a refrigerated warehouse -- didn't even have windows. This was bad for the sales pitch. When the buyer first saw this loft, she was scared off: As a single woman who traveled constantly, she was daunted by the whole construction scene. But six months later, when she was on her way to see another building on the block, she looked up at the finished Atalanta and said to her broker, Susan Penzner, "What about that building?" "She couldn't believe she'd already seen it," says Penzner. At the end of May, she ended up closing on its now fenestrated expanse.
301 West 57th Street
3,000-square-foot condo. Ask: $6.995 million. Sell: $6.250 million. Charges and taxes: $4,436. Two weeks on market.
AOL's merger with Time Warner has gotten all sorts of tech executives movin' on up to New York. This one's from Seattle; he wanted a view, a new building, and, most important, proximity to AOL's mammoth new headquarters on Columbus Circle -- a development that brokers say is driving up prices in the neighborhood. This guy paid a record per-square-foot price for a penthouse above Goldie Hawn's pad in a building known as Central Park Place.