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Inside Job: Real Estate Agent

Rachel Bachrach

Three real estate agents talk about why it takes far more than giving a tour to make a house go from “For Sale!” to “SOLD”

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

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SMALL-TOWN LIVING The wildest request I ever got was from a client who was looking for a house with enough land for goats, sheep, horses, and chickens,” says Lakewood real estate agent Malka Mandel. “I was wondering what their neighbors would think of that….”

L ooking to buy a home on this block or with that layout? Or to sell for this price and in that timeframe? Enter the real estate agent, whose mission is to help you navigate the housing market. Three agents talk about what every frum woman wants in her home, how they help temper unrealistic expectations, and why it takes far more than just giving a tour and talking up property value to make a house go from “For Sale!” to “SOLD.”


MALKA MANDEL, 35, is a broker/agent at Imperial Real Estate in Lakewood, New Jersey. She’s been working in the field for four years.

Nobody ever finds the perfect house. True or False?

True. I always tell clients there are few things I can promise in life, but I can promise that the house they buy will have drawbacks; you’ll either know about them going in, or you’ll find out about them soon enough.

No house is perfect; it has to be right for you. Large families need sufficient space and washrooms, older families with married couples or hopefully soon-to-be-married kids need an attic for additional living space. One client needs a first-floor master bedroom for a special needs child, another doesn’t care about the inside of the house as much as a huge yard with lots of space for the kids to run around.

Some want really good neighbors, they’ll check out the neighbors like they’re checking out a shidduch. Someone I know thoroughly checked out that each family in the project she was looking into was suitable for her values. In the end, someone else who bought there ended up renting it out to people the first lady felt had questionable values, but it was a done deal. Yes, we do our hishtadlus, but a healthy balance is important — you do your best and then let go.

The best and worst seasons for a real estate agent are…

In Lakewood, August bein hazmanim is quieter than the rest of the year, though not as quiet as it used to be, because we now have lots of clients moving from New York. Yom Tov time is also quiet — if I call people between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they’re not interested in hearing from me. Same to be said for Erev Pesach!

I once called a non-Jewish agent on Thanksgiving morning to follow up on a house, and she answered the phone like it was her Succos. It’s funny sometimes to realize that they have an entirely different set of holidays — all regular workdays for me!

ALIZA KLOMPAS, 47, is the owner of Aliza Realty in Ramat Beit Shemesh. She’s been working in the field for 10 years.

The three things every frum woman wants in her home are…

In Ramat Beit Shemesh two sinks are a given, so what women ask for are enough rooms for the children so everyone can have their space, and a large kitchen with room for a table that everyone can fit around, and a place to build a big succah. After that, it varies based on culture. For Israeli families, well, they’re very practical: the bedrooms need to be able to accommodate a bed, a closet, and a desk for homework; they usually won’t buy an apartment if there’s no storage, because they keep a lot of stuff in the storage space — their apartments are neat and well kept; and they need a place to hang the wash, as they generally don’t use dryers. For olim, it’s often a guestroom for the grandparents; for South Africans, it’s outdoor space. And here everyone dreams of a Pesach kitchen, but that’s not often a practical reality.

I know we’re in for a long haul when a client tells me…

“My bathroom back home is bigger than this main bedroom!”

People often come with unrealistic expectations; because I work with many olim, it takes time for them to understand how it works here: Israeli rooms are smaller, and big beds don’t work so well, for example. It takes time to adjust your frame of reference; that’s understandable, and I just say, “Yup, honey, I shrunk the house.” They also often don’t understand that there are no appliances, because sellers take them when they move. I tell clients, “You buy the walls and the floors.”

Aliza Klompas, a Ramat Beit Shemesh real estate agent, explains that, “When you find the right home, you’ll have that “wow” feeling the moment you walk in, and the positives will outweigh the negatives.”

Life is different here. Yes, I sell very large and luxurious homes, and then baruch Hashem people can often replace what they had back home — that’s one of the reasons this area is popular with olim, they can find homes that suit their needs — but even if it’s large, you can’t have the same standards you had overseas, which is a challenge. I see this as my mission, helping people with their aliyah process, and I just keep emphasizing that the sacrifice is worth it.

BRACHA SWIGARD, 62, is a real estate broker at brokerage firm John L. Scott-KMS in Seattle, Washington. She’s been working in the field for 22 years.

When people say, “So you just show people a few houses and you get this huge cut?” I feel like saying…

You’re paying for a level of expertise. Nationwide, only about eight percent of homes sell by owner, and half of those are to family. The reason: The buyer and seller are at odds with each other, emotions come into play, and you need someone experienced to keep the two parties rational so everyone walks away saying, “It basically worked for me.” Otherwise the deal can blow up over myriad details. Take a call I just got, someone wants to know why he has to put the screen door back on; it wasn’t on when he moved in. I said, “You’re talking a sale that’s a quarter of a million dollars; if the buyer wants the door on, just put it on!” The agent provides the homeowner with a reality check so the sale doesn’t fall through.

The wildest request I ever got was…

At a time when two-bedroom one-bath houses were selling for $225K or $250K, a couple with ten children was looking for a house — they needed to move to the frum community because they wanted to convert. Their budget was $250K. My husband and I thought they’d be our clients forever — how could we find them something? Within a week-and-a-half, a house that had been on the market for a while dropped in price. It was 2,400-square feet, three bedrooms on the main floor and a completely developable basement, where the husband, who was handy, could build three or four bedrooms. It was amazing! Hashem sent them to our neighborhood, and He sent the house. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 545)

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