Mark Martov, real-estate agent | Corcoran Group, Brooklyn, NY
There is a developer I work with a lot. He’s quirky, like an artist-turned-developer. He flips a lot of homes. He buys places that need renovating or are in foreclosure and he value-adds. Usually, these homes are very high-end.
He did this house, a very cute detached house in Bushwick with a nice front yard and a little backyard. It was very small—about 1,600 square feet. The primary bedroom, which had an en suite bathroom, was on the second floor. The first time I saw it, it was unfinished but all framed. He’s saying, “Should I put in a bathtub instead of a shower?” Ask all the usual questions. But he magically forgets to mention that the bathroom wall is going to be all glass.
I come back when everything is finished. I’m expecting to see a bedroom with an en suite bathroom. Instead, I see all this glass. It’s a see-through bathroom. He’s standing with his hands crossed, looking at me with all this excitement, waiting for me to compliment him on how amazing this was. My first reaction was, “I don’t get it.”
He told me I didn’t have artistic vision.
At the moment, none of this was funny. I was like, “You need to take this glass wall out.” And he was like, “Are you crazy? This is going to attract buyers!”
This developer is a client. I can’t be blunt and say, “I don’t know what you’re smoking.” Instead I say, “I don’t know if buyers are going to share your vision.”
It took four months to sell, which for me is unheard of. Every angle you could sell this thing, I tried. I was like, “Look how European this is!” But buyers were turned off. I had a guy tell me, “Listen, I don’t want my wife looking at me when I’m on the toilet.”
So many people went through this house over four months. I lost count after 70 or 80. The seller was getting frustrated. I’m sending him feedback on Excel spreadsheets and he’s seeing deals are dying because of this see-through bathroom, and he’s taking it as an insult.
Finally, I found the one person on the whole planet who had the same vision. She was an artist, a single mother with a baby. Everything that I was feeding to everybody else, she was biting on. I said, “You can be in the bathroom and still see the baby in the bedroom—how convenient is that?” And she loved it. She said, “Yeah! This is great!”
At the closing, the seller said, “See, Mark? I told you so.”
Chris Chapin, real-estate agent | Douglas Elliman Real Estate, East Hampton, NY
It was a modest ranch house built in the 1960s in Wainscott, one of the most desirable places to live in the Hamptons. It’s got millionaires and billionaires.
This was in the depths of the Great Recession, the autumn of 2010. I was the listing agent. I brought my co-worker. We didn’t know what exactly to expect, but we had heard the owner was an animal lover. We walked in the house. It’s not “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” but the house is in decent shape.
A couple of cats come running up to us. Then we start becoming aware that there are eyes everywhere. There are cats on shelves built onto the walls—and cat towers. There are cats at the 4-foot level, cats at eye level, cats at 8 feet. There were a couple of cabinets in the kitchen that were devoted to cats, with cats sleeping among the dishes. The lady said, “I rescue cats.” She had 27 cats and one dog.
I felt really bad for the dog.
I could see there was something going on in the backyard, like a huge cage with multilevel boxes inside, completely covered with chicken wire. It was the size of a house. There were wire tunnels extending from the house to this outdoor room, with cats scooting along inside. The cats could do a circuit, going out a basement window through one 20-foot tunnel to the outdoor room, then back through the other tunnel. It was like a giant habitrail.
This house—well, let’s say it was for a particular audience. When you have something like this, you’re going to lose probably 80% of buyers. Some people thought it was all a little bit too strange. But at $300,000, it was the cheapest house in all of Wainscott, so do you want it or not? Even in the depths of the recession, that was a pretty rare bird.
The house is still there, although the habitrail is gone. That house is now worth at least three times what we sold it for, probably more. I don’t think it was a cat lover who bought it.
—Edited from interviews
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