I was watching TV the other day when I came across a show called “Million Dollar Listing New York,” which follows three real estate agents in New York City.
I was half listening to the show when all of a sudden my ears perked up.
“That’s not public record, is it?” one of the agents, Ryan Serhant, asked.
I watched as Ryan used New York’s Freedom of Information Law to help negotiate a deal for a multimillion-dollar apartment. The building manager, Janet, wanted $6.5 million, but Ryan’s client was offering $5.75 million.
Here’s how Ryan used the public records law to his advantage:
Janet: The offer that you presented for this vista is just not going to make it.
Ryan: I completely get everything you’re saying, and I really, really appreciate you taking the time to meet me. I just don’t think it’s worth north of $2,900 a foot.
Janet: There’s no way that you’re going to be able to find an apartment like this at this price range.
Ryan: What’s the most recent three-unit combination that’s closed in the last year?
Janet: How about last week? We sold it for $6.9 (million).
Ryan: And that’s not public record, is it?
Janet: No, no. The deal will be probably signed this afternoon. We have another one that is in the process of closing …
Janet: The process.
Ryan’s voiceover: I understand why Janet is quoting me these pending deals, but the truth is that they’re pending, and a comp isn’t really a comp until it’s closed.
Ryan: What’s the highest price per square foot that’s closed in the last six months, that’s closed publicly? Do you know? There’s (an apartment) that sold at, like, $2,600 a foot, and that’s a public record.
Ryan goes on to tell Janet that he can ask his client to offer more money but that he will not pay $2,900 a square foot, because there’s no public record showing that anyone has paid that price.
Ryan: So, I need a counter (offer) from you.
Janet: The name of the game is let’s make a deal, OK?
Ryan: I like you. That’s the name of my game, too.
Janet: So, let’s try to make a deal, and I’m going to go from $6.5 down to $6.3 (million).
Ryan eventually got her down to $6.1 million, and they closed the deal. He got the apartment for his client at a reduced rate and made $183,000 in commission, thanks to some smart negotiating and a little help from New York’s Freedom of Information Law.