A State Over Real Estate – Part III

Nest Seekers viewing, Sept 2023

There are so many things they don’t tell you when choosing a career in real estate – not least, the number of bores, incompetents, and, quite frankly, lunatics you will meet along the way.

Nowhere is this more true than in the area of choosing a sponsoring broker, which is a requirement when you’ve passed your exams.

So, having completed my studies in New York State, endured the trauma of not being in possession of the right pencil during the exams, and passed said exams, it was time to find a broker.

For legal reasons, no companies’ names have been mentioned, the locations have been changed, and, for legal and ethical reasons, the identities of the bores, incompetents and lunatics have been disguised. Only the details of the company and people I eventually went with are accurate because they, quite frankly, were in a different league in every respect. But more of Nest Seekers International http://nestseekers.com later.

I contacted several companies, all in Manhattan where I was living, and also took some on recommendations from people already in the business. I never doubted that I had a lot to learn and was looking forward to doing so alongside people who had many years’ experience on me.

So, let’s just call the teams by numbers, and begin at the beginning. Team One.

The imposing exterior close to Central Park belied an entrance hall and office space that made Alcatraz look like the Marriott. God, it was depressing. Plastic pot plants sat alongside even more plastic looking people, fixed on their computer screens and looking barely a breath away from rigor mortis. Had half of them already been dressed in shrouds, I would not have been surprised.

The meeting, which took place in a small room off the Alcatraz main annexe, was even more depressing than the main building. The main guy did a sort of PowerPoint presentation to me – alas, without any power, few points, and zero presentation skills. I was also regretting I had sat within such close proximity and spitting distance of his performance. I wish I’d thought to take my umbrella along.

They were keen to bring me on board, but I turned them down when it became clear that they wanted all of my freelance writing skills and journalistic contacts for free (see A State Over Real Estate Part II for further details). When you become attached to a broker, you are your own company and you split commission; as a self-employed person, it seemed obvious to me that any freelance work outside of the real estate affiliation was a separate contract and should be paid accordingly.

So, farewell Team One.

There followed a Zoom meeting with a woman (I use the word loosely; she looked and sounded about 12), who had very few words other than ‘amazing’ in her vocabulary. As she listened to me talk about my back story (‘Amazing!’), writing skills (‘Amazing!’), presentation experience (‘Amazing!’) and useful contacts (‘Amazing!), I began to wonder if she hadn’t been long out of the womb, let alone made it to her 12th birthday. I never heard back from her, which I regard as one of life’s greatest blessings.

Team Two approached me at a real estate event, when I was still in the process of considering Team One. It’s easy to get flattered when you’re being headhunted before you’ve even managed to get your first foot on the ladder and, being new to the game, I didn’t know any better (again, see A State Over Real Estate II for details of this one).

I was approached by Team Three who had heard about me from an acquaintance on social networking and, after a very pleasant conversation, was set up with a meeting at their midtown Manhattan offices.

It was clear from the start that the prissy little man sitting opposite me did not share the owner’s enthusiasm and felt under obligation to take me on. The next step was to put me touch with a mentor, a broker affiliated to the company and from whose experience I would allegedly benefit.

I had just disembarked from the plane following a long-haul flight from London to New York when I received a call from the mentor suggesting we meet for a drink. ‘I’m available now,’ he said enthusiastically, despite it being gone 11pm.

Again, being new to the game, I had no idea whether this was the done thing but, being passionate about my new career, agreed to meet.

I got in a cab and headed for a bar in an area outside Manhattan that I did not know. Worse, the cab driver did not know, either. The mentor was in such a temper when I finally arrived and certainly the worse for wear. He calmed down enough for us to have a decent conversation, albeit one that lasted until gone 2am.

There followed a nightmare couple of weeks when he lost me a rental because my clients refused to work with him, having found him obnoxious and unhelpful. I told Mr Prissy that I needed a new mentor and went to the office to meet the new man. He just sat me beside him and went through properties on Rightmove, which I could have done just as easily done myself.

I wrote a kind e-mail to Mentor I, explaining that we would not be working together and received the most abusive e-mail back, telling me that I wasn’t right for the company anyway. I tentatively pointed out that the owner thought otherwise and that hadn’t been the problem.

More abuse followed – with him CC’ing the wrong person with a similar name to Mr Prissy. I replied to them all – journalistic training makes me keep a paper trail of everything – and then had the most furious call from Mr Prissy.

‘I’m maaaaahdified!’ he yelled down the phone. ‘You wrote to a colleague of mine I’ve known for years. I’m just maaaaahdified.’

I explained that the error had not been mine, but it seemed the final straw had been my writing to the mistaken person to apologise for the mentor’s error and copying in Mr Prissy.

‘I cannot begin to tell yah how maaaaahdified I am,’ he continued to bellow, like a poor man’s John McEnroe. I was laughing too much to care and suffice it to say I didn’t want to join a firm who couldn’t even pronounce mortified.

And so, to Nest Seekers http://nestseekers.com. A friend of a friend had put me in touch with them and I was invited to meet John Carbone, Managing Director of Nest Seekers International in New York and based in the Park Avenue office.

Fantastically well-educated, fluent in German, and with a background in the arts and sciences, he was head and shoulders above anyone I had met. We talked about German philosophy, architecture, and he even quoted Aristotle. Wise, funny and personable, he also displayed a passion for his work that I not encountered in the mostly jaded people I had so far met.

I was only too happy to join them but confess to having had a slight wobble when I was again flattered when another firm came knocking. John’s generosity of spirit and kindness in leaving the door open is something I will never forget, and I took no time at all in walking back through that door. I had made an error of judgement and am so grateful to have met with a spirit of understanding, compassion and forgiveness.

When the opportunity to become part of Nest Seekers http://nestseekers.com in London, too, came up (I am spending a lot of time in the UK these days), I jumped at the opportunity. The company is so forward thinking, not only in how it is structured in terms of agents and properties, but its involvement with and development in New Media.

I met CEO Eddie Shapiro when he was visiting London, where Daniel McPeake (Managing Director) and Solly Strickland (Managing Director – UK) head up an incredible team. My mentor, Marc Cottrell, is an inspiration who could not be more helpful and encouraging as I set up my new business.

These are really, really smart people – and funny, too. Daniel, by the way, recently appeared on Crazy Rich Agents, featuring London Nest Seekers London brokers, and his perception, clarity and wisdom are second to none. He deserves his own Apprentice style show.

I had to kiss a lot of frogs before I found my prince.

But now, with Nest Seekers http://nestseekers.com, I don’t feel as if I’m struggling to find my feet; I feel I’ve landed on them.