The Real Deal New York

“Diary of a Real Estate Rookie”: A fresh look from the front

October 25, 2007
By Linden Lim

As Alison Rogers indicates in her new book, “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie,” the hottest real estate market in the country is also the toughest.

The former New York Post editor shares her many adventures — and misadventures — as a struggling New York real estate agent during her first year in the business.

Rogers, who got interested in property when she founded the New York Post’s real estate section, then became an agent herself. “Rookie,” which will be released by Kaplan Publishing this month, is part memoir, part house-hunting guide: It chronicles the journey of a real estate newbie and is also intended to be an insider’s guide for anyone seeking real estate and financial advice.

The book is peppered with real estate tips, including how to get the most out of the Web as a research tool, and five questions your agent is not going to have an honest answer to.

“Rookie” is an extension of Rogers’ weekly column of the same name at Inman News, the residential real estate news site. The book takes many angles on the volatile trade, offering, for instance, insight into making it through awkward situations. Rogers tells the story of how she scrambled to hide a stranger’s underwear minutes before an open house, then realized she had entered the wrong apartment.

Publisher’s Weekly recently wrote that Rogers tells her story “with a sharp wit and relaxed style that really sparkles.”

“Those looking for some good information on the real estate industry in a book that doesn’t feel like homework will be hard-pressed for a better choice,” the review said.

Rogers currently works as an agent with DG Neary Realty in Manhattan and still writes her national weekly column. The summa cum laude Harvard grad has nearly 20 years of experience in journalism, including stints with the New York Times, Fortune and Money. She has also served as a consultant for The Real Deal.

Some excerpts:

Now, you have to understand that Manhattan has been one of the fizziest real estate markets on the planet: I have seen sell-out sales parties with water dripping through the ceiling of the display department. I have been in a penthouse where the Corcoran broker, offering the apartment for $3.99 million, had not managed to take away the show sheets left by the Stribling broker, who had offered the unit just a few months earlier at $2.77 million … I was in a model unit priced at $2.3 million, where, I swear to heaven, I could have done a better job installing the floors with a staple gun. The sales agent told me with cool effrontery that they would do a better job in the real units. And such is the mania of the market that I walked out thinking, I wonder if my client can afford to pass this up?

*

Part of my role-playing was shaped by my own experiences of driving around with real estate agents; I’ve found their constant nattering about this restaurant and that tennis club just made my head hurt. I tried to remember the style of Gil Neary, the DG Neary broker who sold me my first two co-ops; Gil would tell me something about a building, and then fade into the background while I reacted to it. I realize now that what he was doing was listening, and I tried to imitate it.

*

At the same time, I tried a third business tactic: infusing the house hunt with a spirit of adventure. We were looking for a summer rental to be a surprise Christmas present from Big Media Exec to his wife — sweet, no? So I started trying hard to make sure that romantic impulse spilled over into the shopping itself. Every house we saw, we made up a narrative of the people who must have lived there before, guessing who made the decision that caused each room to look the way it did.

*

I write weekly dispatches about my real estate adventures, which I had pitched as “trading in my Jimmy Choos for a hard hat,” and this is the first time in four months life really feels that way. Hey, I’m in the belly of the flip. What’s it like? Well, your intrepid heroine is playing a beam of light through a darkened house, and she sees … crap everywhere. Abandoned mattresses, fast-food wrappings, in one case actual human waste where someone had squatted like a dog over a piece of plastic, and then wandered off again. I feel only drugs could have caused people to live like this. I had seen a cr che proudly displayed on someone’s lawn the day before, and what stuck in my head was, “I wonder if conditions in the manger were this bad.” At one point, my partner moves a refrigerator, and a yowl and a streak of escaping black-and-white fur revealed that he’d surprised a cat. Frankly, I was glad it wasn’t some kind of gigantor rat.