just when i think i’ve seen it all – heard every scam and silly story out there, another one walks in the door. hosting an open house today for a very special apartment here in brooklyn (special translating to brownstone tall ceilings; deck and garden and beauty and light) in walked a couple both with traditional priest collars around their necks (i have no idea what this is called – but you know, the black and white collar.) she had a piercing look about her and introduced herself as ‘Reverend Gabrielle. [name changed for blog] in fact, that’s how she signed in …no last name. just ‘Rev. Gabrielle’. and she introduced herself – both of them actually – as priests. ok. fine with me. i was raised as a conservative jew but as an adult have left organized religion behind me – settling for equal amounts of a personal sense of spiritualism and a mostly dubious nature. but trust me when i tell you that i leave my own opinions at the door of business. anyway, we are bound by very strong fair housing rules and i believe in them – i believe in the fair housing rules more than i believe in organized religion!!!
around the apartment they walk – i give them a nice tour and answer their enthusiastic questions. they visit the yard – i give them a bit of time to themselves – and then we reconvene in the living room where i say, as always: do you have any questions? here is the part where we discuss what it means to live in a co-op vs. a condo (for those of you not living in nyc, the real estate market here is a very different creature) and why there is tax deductibility for part of the money paid each month. but rev. gabrielle looked at me with her piercing eyes and said (and i have to paraphrase here but the gist is completely there): “We’ve purchased upwards of 20 properties and for each deal, we’ve asked the broker – as a part of the deal – to ‘donate’ 1% of their commission to a charity that we give to. We’re really interested in this property. Would you be willing to do that?”
i stood there. it was an odd, disconnected moment for me – i felt like this was a play and that they were playing out a script that they had acted out many times but one that i was unaware of ever reading. while they had looked around they were more apart – one going here, one going there. but now they seemed to have melded into one entity. and they were both staring at me with 2 sets of piercing eyes and 1/2 smiles on their faces. it was just surreal.
i looked her in the eyes and said: no. i would not give up my commission. it’s how i make my living. they replied that they had had great – really enormous – success with this all over the united states (even connecticut!!!) but as they were looking in new york city, they were suddenly finding unexpected resistance to this idea. i just looked at them and said: welcome to brooklyn.
why would i give up my commission? ‘to make the deal’ came the answer. i would, i promised them, sell the apartment without putting my commission in jeopardy. but mostly i was thinking: what kind of charity? do you think, for example, that i would give you money to make a real estate deal if it meant that the charity was anti-choice? i presumed they did mean that. that i should give a ‘donation’ with a financial gun to my head. hey, i haven’t made it to 51 years old – a crusty old feminist – by bending my deepest values for the sake of a sale. they looked puzzled…and, to tell the truth, i couldn’t quite tell if they were running a scam or were dazzled by their own perceived power.
i looked on the sign-in sheet after they left. some spiritual mysticsm. i really believe in the separation of church and state. it seems i also believe in the separation of church and business.