How I ended up meeting Lenny and trying to broker a one-bedroom for $150,000 in Kew Gardens without ever having to actually go to Queens is sort of a long story. It was a terrible idea from the start, as I didn’t even know where Kew Gardens was. My only excuse is that it all started as a favor.
My referral client, Kaz, was getting bombarded with calls from other brokers. I’m talking 20 a day. A friend of a friend, he had started his search without a buyer’s broker. Qualified and motivated, the listing agents were drooling over the possibility of a no-split commission. He only wanted the heat off and I was simply to provide a little cover. My job was to make a few calls and set up the appointments. I may have been able to squeeze out a commission, but I wasn’t there to demand one. In all likelihood Kaz would throw me a few bucks. And this is basically how I met Lenny.
I’ve tried to imagine Lenny’s former career, but the only thing I can picture is leg-breaker or bookie. He had the kind of voice a comedian would use to imitate a lazy New York mobster, but had Lenny himself auditioned for the “Sopranos,” they’d have thrown him out for laying it on too thick. No one talked like that, only bad actors and … well, Lenny.
Our relationship started with his refusal to disclose the total commission. He, and not the seller as he put it, would pay 2 percent. His end was his business. He went on to say that this was how real estate worked in Queens. Fair enough.
Had I been along for anything more than the ride, I would have dumped his listing and moved on. It made no difference though, as Kaz wanted to see his place. I set up the appointment and told Lenny I wouldn’t be able to make it. The big fellow was naturally upset, but gave in and agreed to show it without me.
This was a really bad idea. Before they met, I had them exchange phone numbers in case one of them was running late. Lenny then took it upon himself to call my client a few times a day. I had to politely ask Lenny to back the fuck off, and Lenny, acting as if we were somehow blood related, demanded to know if I really thought him capable of screwing me over. The impossibility of that happening was not the point. Beyond it being completely unethical, unprofessional, crass, ignorant, overly aggressive and desperate, his attempt to contact my client defeated my entire function. Ah … the irony, and yet we went further.
After the initial view, Kaz was, in fact, mildly interested in the apartment. He was also unfortunately under the impression that Lenny may have been related to the owner if he wasn’t actually the owner himself. I was a little confused until Kaz explained that when he got to the apartment, Lenny was sitting on the couch drinking a beer and watching television. He said Lenny looked awfully comfortable in the space, and stayed behind when the tour was over. He may have had another buyer on the way, but we quickly realized how unlikely it was that Lenny would have any other buyers.
Kaz was still interested enough to see how low this guy might go on the price. It was supposed to be a brief discussion about the remote possibility of a very low potential offer. We really only needed to know if there was enough room to work with. If the price was firm we didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. But the moment I uttered the word “offer,” Lenny said we could have the whole deal wrapped up that very night. Simply put, he was insane.
Lenny started hard and fast with a story about the owner’s sick wife, and how this should really be done as soon as possible. If the sick wife, God forbid, got any sicker, the owner may pull it off the market. Around that time we were inexplicably disconnected … sort of, but it was the only way to get rid of him. I jumped on the train and was home in 20 minutes. In that time, Lenny had left four messages, and had already talked it over with the owner. Kaz then called in a panic, demanding to know what was going on. Apparently, Lenny had called him too. Go figure. It seemed Lenny was going ahead with the negotiations, and only wanted to let Kaz know where we stood on the numbers. It was unbearable, and it was hysterical at the same time.
Needless to say Kaz’s momentary hint of interest evaporated quickly. Lenny stayed true to form and left unreturned messages for at least another week. Kaz eventually found a place but the listing agent flatly refused to co-broke it. At least she was honest. Her refusal officially ended my adventures in Queens. I hadn’t collected a commission, but I hadn’t left Manhattan either. I was also afforded the opportunity to work with perhaps the worst real estate agent ever … so at least that’s out of the way.