The good-looking real estate brokers on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York” always seem to be flirting with their clients. While that makes for great TV, agents need to be careful when it comes to workplace romance.
Real estate, more than some other industries, affords plenty of opportunities to find love. Because agents are independent contractors, few firms have official rules against fraternizing with clients or coworkers. And brokers meet plenty of new people each day.
“Being a real estate agent is a great way to meet your significant other,” said City Connections CEO David Schlamm, who met his wife, Jill, when she called his office in 1990 looking for a rental apartment.
Schlamm said his firm has no official rule against dating clients or other brokers. And in fact, two City Connections agents, Ivy Paterni and Daniel Dmitry Kramp, got engaged in mid-September during a trip to Italy.
But dating can interfere with the business of doing deals, Schlamm said. If a broker’s romantic advances make a client uncomfortable, for example, that client is less likely to want to do a deal with the firm or refer the broker to friends.
To sidestep these issues, Schlamm said he resisted asking Jill out until after she signed a lease with his firm. Nowadays, he urges his agents to do the same thing, “I tell the brokers here never to mix business and pleasure,” he said, “and if you are going to go on a date, to do it after business has been completed.”
New York state law doesn’t specifically prohibit brokers from dating clients, said attorney Neil Garfinkel, who serves as residential counsel to the Real Estate Board of New York. Still, he said, brokers should “exercise good discretion” to make sure romantic relationships don’t interfere with their fiduciary duties to clients.
And while workplace dating may not be illegal, it can lead to distracting drama. Schlamm said two of his agents dated and it ended badly, leading one to leave the company.
Claudia Saez-Fromm, cofounder of residential brokerage Mark David & Company, began dating her now-husband while working with him at CitySites New York. Initially, they kept the relationship quiet to avoid distractions on the job. “You have to get deals done,” she said.
And while her firm also does not have any rules about inter-office dating, she noted that it’s not for everyone. “Some people can handle it,” she said. “Some people can’t.”