Brooklyn Secret Agent: Siblings and Sales

Today we bring you an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
All is us making our living selling real estate here have been hired at one time or another by the children who have inherited a Brooklyn townhouse. It is always interesting to see how the process works amongst them and certain dynamics occur over and over.

Usually we are called in while the children are clearing out the house. As you can imagine, there is a lot of squabbling about who gets what. “Mom always said she wanted ME to have the Danish modern dining set.” Nobody, and I mean NObody, wants the 40-piece Hummel collection. The out-of-town sibling usually gets the worst of the lot.

Then we move to preparing the house for sale. The siblings with the worst financial position always insist the house is just fine the way it is, and imply that our suggestions to paint and polish it are only being made so our selling job will be easy. The siblings who are more financially flush practically want to renovate the whole thing. Is that to show off to their brothers and sisters?

Another thing I have observed over and over again: A house that is being sold by an estate has one of two vibes. When the siblings get along, and are sharing stories of their parent(s) while sorting the stuff or drinking wine and laughing, the house sells higher. Somehow, the happy vibe is discernible to the buyer. When the siblings fight and then leave the disposition of the contents to me, that chilly vibe comes through too.
It is harder to whip up enthusiasm in the buyers, and the price reflects that somewhat.

My favorite estate sale observation is this one, and it always comes if there are three or more siblings: One by one they take me aside and tell me that they have to get a really high price for the house because there are three (or four or five) of them and the money is to be divided. I know my job is to get as high a price as possible, but I gently ask them if the buyer should be expected to pay more for this house than for another just because there are three (or four or five) of them. Usually they understand.

Once we have a signed contract, the heirs are most anxious to close — more so than other sellers. That inheritance is burning a hole in their pockets. And why not? They are lucky that their parents bought a Brooklyn brownstone back when it wasn’t such an easy decision. Every time my own children ask me what our house is worth, I flash into the future and hope that ours will be one of the happy vibe houses.

12 Comment

  • Wait, it wasn’t an easy decision to buy a Brooklyn townhouse then because prices were low and going to keep falling but now it is because prices are high and going to keep rising?

  • The Hummels are worth more than the dining set.

  • this is officially the last broker I’d hire. ever. for anything.

  • Why on earth would your children want to know how much your house is worth?

  • Just to put the “easy decision” into context for those who are only
    familiar with Park Slope in the recent past.

    When I moved to Park Slope in 1977 my aunts regularly lit candles and prayed for my safety, Mind you, this attitude was from ladies that grew up and died living in the West Chelsea section of Manhattan, not Park Avenue nor the suburbs. We lived on Carroll Street between 6 & 7th, there were some burned out/abandoned buildings on that block at that time. 5th Avenue was a terrifying walk from 9th Street to Flatbush – it was seemingly dominiated by drug dealers with beepers.

    When we purchased our house in 1983, we were treated like we were idiots, passing up the opportunity to have a “nice” house in the burbs. Prevailing attitude was for that much money you could have a circular driveway in a good town in that suburbian nirvana called Bergen County. We are close to the 9th St Library, at that time many of the store fronts on 7th Av from 9th St going up to Prospect were vacant.

  • What does “Notice of Trust” mean?

  • So this column is the observations of one broker in Brooklyn? I think it’d be a better column if a question was asked or a concern was brought up…start up a convo and have the broker field questions and concerns about the market or subject matter, that’s much more valuable. Paint and polish is over rated btw, I’d prefer to see an estate sale in estate condition, what will spending a few grand to paint actually do for the sale? I always tell people unless they plan on gutting the house to just leave it as is. It makes more sense to me. Estate sales normally attract people looking to do work, so let them enjoy the house in its original condition. Painting the walls white is like the wizard from wizard of Oz telling Dorothy to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…the house needs work, buyers aren’t blind and the broker should start his description of the house with ESTATE SALE…so buyers know what they’re walking in to. All I ask is that most of the house is cleared out of personal belongings, family pics and any large furniture so the family can separate the sentimentality of it all…I’m selling my grandmothers estate and it took a year for my Aunts and Uncles to clear out all the photos and personal belongings…guess what no one bought the house when all that was in there…now that its cleared out we’ve received multiple offers on it (its not the market either cuz this is in Bergen Beach, and we had 5 ft of water in the house from Sandy)..buyers don’t want to see 40 year old photos and plastic wrapped furniture its tough to picture your self there when someone’s whole life is still in the house…

  • I never would have guessed splitting up an estate would be so complicated! Does anyone care about this topic? I mean ANYONE? I have to stop clicking on these links.

    • yeah, there isn’t any great info in these BS Agent columns. But I did ask a question relating to estates.

      “What does “Notice of Trust” mean?”
      Anyone know?

      • I don’t think it’s a New York term, but when the settlor of a trust (the guy who put whatever assets are in the trust into it) dies in some states, the Notice of Trust has to be filed with the court that has jurisdiction over the deceased settlor.

  • Meezer: not saying it was an easy decision but there is a lot more downside risk now than there was then on a price/income basis despite what the realtors will tell you. I mean, there was a time before the 70s when park slope was nice.