A public service announcement

(a true story of real estate bat shittery)

I was working on a TBT post for yesterday, pulling photos of the house the day we got the keys. I spent some time looking through lots of pictures and pulling the ones that I thought would best illustrate what the Pink Lady looked like when we became her caretakers.

For some reason, I didn’t take any pictures of the garden level kitchen before we started working on it, and I wondered if the old listing for our house was still up – you know, the with SOLD in big bold letters where the asking price used to be. Figuring I could still find the old listing, I googled our address. And that’s when things got interesting.

A house two doors from ours has been on the market for a while. It’s a cheap-o flip with a giant price tag, but taste  is subjective thing – so whatever.

(the flipper of that house ripped out an intact Kilian Brothers mantel, the wall where it stood for 120 years is now a featureless exposed brick wall. But again, taste is on the eye of the beholder).

(also, exposed brick in a brownstone? It’s the avocado green kitchen of our times.)

The part that concerns me is that the address of the house in question was actually our address, while the interior photos and the description belonged to the house actually for sale. The exterior photo was of the house next-door.

I called the broker listed, who didn’t seem to think this was a big deal at all. Well, when you’re dealing with real estate agents, who as a group belong in the same realm as used car salesman and personal injury lawyers*,  it is a huge deal. Last time this happened (yes, this is not the first time a  broker used our address for a listing) I ended up with an agent breaking into our house with a client in tow, parading through our home before realizing they were in the wrong house. Yes. that actually happened last spring.

I kept scrolling down the Google results and found another listing, this time for our house and the listing agent was the person representing the seller when we bought the the Pink Lady.  It seemed to be a new listing, virtual tour and all (with the old photos I was looking for). The listing included a random price (not the asking price at the time we purchased it)  and a listing ID. WTF, right?

I called up that broker and left her the meanest voice mail I could muster, which I’m sure sounded pathetic, because I have a cold and my voice is about 3 notches lower than usual – or maybe that made me sound like a rich old lady with her lawyers on speed dial? Anyway, that listing came down right away. Given her lack of skill when we were dealing with her, I’m inclined to chalk that one up as a mistake. The other listing however – the one for the house 2 doors away – I believe is more malicious. I took several calls to get it taken down, including threats of getting lawyers involved. By the end of the day yesterday, the listing was gone.

One would think that that for as much as brokers like to say it’s all about “location location location,” that the ONE THING they should get right is the address of the property they are selling. I was told by a few people who deal with brokers on a regular basis that this is more of a systemic practice. I don’t understand how listing the wrong address benefits them, but I do live in a neighborhood where harassment is rampant, and the calls, flyers and knocks on the door asking whether the house is for sale are constant. There is a lot of shady stuff happening in Brooklyn real estate. Scruples, it turns out, are in very short supply. 

Regardless of whether it’s a honest mistake or something more, I know this much: it’s illegal to advertise a property for sale without the consent of the property owner.

So here is the public service announcement part of this post: if you live in an area where real estate is bananas, such as brownstone Brooklyn, you might want to Google your address on a regular basis. You never know, someone may be advertising your house for sale.

What do you do if it happens to you? If you are a resident of New York state, you can file a complaint against the broker and the real estate agency here. You should also contact the office of the Attorney General and the local real estate board. If you see the add on sites such as Zillow, there is a button to click to report fraud. I suggest you do that, too. It goes without saying you should keep frame grabs of the ads.

This concludes the public service announcement.

* of course, not all real estate agents are bad. My mom was one, as was my mother in law. A dear friend  is an architectural historian  (and a real estate agent).  The nice folks behind House By We, who represented us on the purchase of our house, are professional, competent and honest.


TBT: Wallpaper

I love peeling back the layers of our house, unearthing little clues about the past. In a recent kitchen refresh ( swear I’ll post about it soon), we came across this teeny tiny piece of wallpaper. (Hand shown for scale)


(I really should moisturize)

The little fragment was hiding behind the stove, well, behind where the stove currently is. As you can see from the original floor plan, it seems the stove is now where the double sink used to be. This may explain why the plaster was all messed up and the last little remnant of the long gone wallpaper basically just fell off the wall.

Original Floorplan

(yes, I need to write about finding the original floor plans to our house. I will. Promise!)

Anyway, the wallpaper doesn’t look to be Victorian. I’m not an expert, but to me it looks like something from the 20s or 30s. The piece is so small, it’s hard to tell if the pattern was little, or if the surviving nugget just happens to show a misleading piece of the design. I did a quick check on Second Hand Rose’s website and didn’t find anything similar. Regardless, it goes into the curio of the life and times of the Pink Lady.


Happy New Year

It’s been a while since the last post, a perfect storm laziness, heavy work load at our day jobs and a good amount of House Paralysis. (House Paralysis is a real condition with symptoms including indecision, moroseness, and a general lack of enthusiasm for any and all home projects. Unfortunately there is no cure for this condition, other than time and impending house guests).

After the rush of getting the house ready for guests, the work slowed to a crawl – that is until a few days ago, when our front parlor went from this:

Floor before

Floor before datail

To this:

after first sanding

Work in progress: stripped and sanded (sort of)

We have been meaning to do something about junky parquet laminate for a while. Not only did it give the room a 1970s look, it also was so poorly installed, it kept coming up and getting stuck to our feet. The laminate parquet tiles came off fairly easily. They were glued onto stick on vinyl tiles, which in turn were glued to the painted wood.

(oh how I hate stick on tiles.)

We first pulled up the laminate, which brought with it the stick on laminate. Miraculously, the damage to the wood floor was pretty minimal.

Laminate removal

For some dumb reason, there was one vinyl tile that was glued directly onto the wood with some absurd super-duper glue. This of course was right in the middle of the room (because of course it was):


We then stripped the glue residue and paint using Zip Strip.

Floor stripping

It all came off fairly quickly and easily. The floor definitely shows its age. There are lots of dings and grooves and evidence of some very indecisive furniture placement – “Put that big heavy thing here. No, move it over there. Wait, never mind. Move it back…”

Stripped not sanded

Stripped floor before first sanding. 

There were so many different types of paint on this floor. Strangely, they were not many layers, but different patches of floor, painted different colors. Go figure.

two tone floor

A different section of the floor, before the first sanding

So now the paint is gone and the first sanding is done (it needs one more pass to smooth out some of the rougher areas).  Because the temperature drop just before the New Year, we decided to hold off on the finishing. It’s too cold to properly cross ventilate the house. We have an asthmatic cat, so we don’t want to aggravate this crusty lungs.

Originally we thought our house had hardwood parquet with a two tone border, just like other houses within our row. But our seemingly original baseboards tell a different story. I think our floors were always pine, and perhaps covered with a ground cloth or rugs. Victorians loved their rugs, after all.

Anyway, we think we can rock the pine floors, and have decided to just go ahead and finish them as soon as temps climb a few degrees. After all, we’re pretty happy with how the pine held up in out upstairs bedroom.

Random things I firmly believe in (for now)

In no particular order:

A living room should not have more than one couch.

People who organize books by color should not own books.

Nothing moves faster than lint. Cat hair is a close second.

There is no excuse for recessed lights.

One cannot own too many tape measurers.

It is always the small projects that result in the greatest number of trips to the hardware store.

There is no such thing as a simple project in an old house.

HGTV is the devil. Yet I can’t look away.

When all else fails, turn to the internet.