Brokers as Shrinks

There’s the misery-loves-company technique.

“By relating the experiences of other clients without mentioning names, they generally feel good knowing that their peer group is going through the same sort of stresses,” Mr. Weiss said. “That they’re not alone. They’re absolutely not alone.”

“People are sort of looking around and wondering if they are the only ones who are feeling the pain,” agreed Daun Paris, president of Eastern Consolidated. “And we both know there is a lot of pain going around.”

There’s also the slap-the-patient-across-the-face technique (perhaps best demonstrated by a nun in the seminal 1980 comedy Airplane!).

“If you called me a therapist, I’m more of the get-off-the-couch-and-pull-it-together variety,” said one prominent office broker. “Trying to keep a client happy, that’s the type of therapy I won’t do.”

For his part, Ted Rotante, also of Williams Real Estate, advocates a complete-and-utter-honesty approach. 

“You’ve got to tell them what you really think,” said Mr. Rotante, one of whose clients actually refers to him as her “doctor.” “I’m not going to anticipate something in their favor. I want them to have realistic expectations. We all know where the market is going. It’s just a matter of how far it will go down and how soon.”

There’s also the stress-the-cyclical-nature-of-the-economy approach. 

“‘We’re almost at the bottom; this is just an in-between.’ I keep saying that,” Ms. Consolo said.

For his part, Mr. Freedman tells clients, “‘We are in the part of the market cycle that’s most disquieting, because we’re still ratcheting down. It hasn’t bottomed out yet.’”

Of course, absent a triplicate prescription pad, there’s only so much a broker can do to calm a client’s nerves. And, thankfully, not all clients are equally panicked. The more experienced among them are often just calling their brokers in search of every last possible tidbit of potentially relevant information.

“All that’s happening now is that people want information,” said Simon Wasserberger, senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis. “They want to know every little thing that is going on in our world. If a deal got done in a different type of building in a different part of town, they want to know about it. The desire for information is paramount.”

Mr. Wasserberger added, reassuringly, “Nobody’s jumping out a window, at least that I know of.”

Brokers as Shrinks