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.

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