Let’s continue pulling back the curtains behind the scenes of luxury real estate. Joining Valerie Fitzgerald and Bob Hurwitz in this episode is Michael Eisenberg. Michael shares a couple of great stories across his journey in real estate just to get that listing—from the extreme to the weird. Have you tried literally FedExing yourself to someone’s office? How about buying a concert ticket in exchange for an offer? Michael has, and he is going to tell you more about them. Plus, discover the reality of being in this part of real estate. Uncover what goes on behind the glitz and the sleeve rolling it entails just to get through a deal.
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Pulling The Glittery Curtains Behind Luxury Real Estate With Michael EisenbergWe have a special friend and colleague, Mike Eisenberg, who does a ton of business. Buckle up and let’s share some stories.
Mike, we are super excited to have you here. You’re an all-time pro and I’ve known you for many years, a class guy and deal-maker all the way.
Mike, we love to share crazy stories. We talk about live showings, opens, what you do to get a listing, and crazy moments that happened. It’s like pulling the curtain behind the scenes in real estate. I’m sure you’ve got some good stories. Tell us something funny that’s happened to you throughout your career.
In this city, you have to have an open mind because you can’t make this stuff up. This is stuff that legends have written about. I had an Academy Award female actress who gave me the listing on our house in Beverly Hills and said, “Here’s the key.” I said, “That’s it?” She goes, “Be mindful of my Oscar and my husband is your problem.” I’m thinking, “I’d make sure the Oscar is there when the showing starts and make sure it’s there when the show is over and I’m good. Your husband, that’s going to be easy. No problem.” He’s a guy. If I got a showing, he will leave, come or whatever. No. The guy wanted to be there every time. That happens sometimes. Sellers want to be there and want to overhear what you’re saying.
It wasn’t so much that he was there. He wasn’t present. He was there in body but not in mind. I’ll give you an example. I came back to the house for a second showing. I come and go when I want because I have the key. I watched the Oscar. I come in and I find him laying on the couch butt naked with a bottle on it. I know these people are two minutes behind me coming from another showing. I freak out and go, “What am I going to do? What am I going to tell these people? ‘Sorry I can’t show the house?’” Nope. Quick thinking, I moved the coffee table, grabbed the area rug and draped it over the whole couch with him underneath it.
Did he move?
Not a move. When they came in, they go, “Why is the rug hanging over the couch? What’s going on here?” I said, “It was cleaned and it’s drying.” No problem. They’ll buy it. The PS to the story is they bought the house and the PSS is I left them like that. That’s him. If he’s going to ruin my showing by laying there butt naked like that, let him figure out how the rug got on top of him and let him figure out how to get out from underneath the rug.
What a visual.
Was the dude sleeping or just drunk?
He was drunk at 3:00 in the afternoon. This guy had every hair on his body that he was born with like a bear. There was no manscaping anywhere.
No wonder she said, “Deal with my husband.”
That was a disclaimer. She knew what I was getting myself into.
Maybe the guy didn’t want to sell it.
I’ve had that where they’ve made a mess. I’ve walked into houses where there’s writing on the wall, “I do not want to sell my house,” in crayon or in lipstick. Bathroom mirror in red Chanel lipstick, “I do not want to sell my house.”
We’ve all dealt with divorce situations and the like where there is one party that wants to sell it and the other one doesn’t. We have to walk that minefield but that can be weird. The guy is laying there nude in all fur.
Like a bear on a couch covered with a rug. Luckily enough, the rug was wide enough to make it from head to toe. It was enough to drape over either edge of the couch so you couldn’t tell. It would have been worse if he would have woken up in the middle of the showing and freaked everybody out. This guy from under the rug pops out.
You have to think fast on your feet sometimes.
That was probably the quickest. I don’t think I’ve ever been any quicker than that. The PSS is it’s done. The escrow closes and the people call me. They say, “There are no lights in the house.” I said, “What are you talking about there are no lights in the house? Has the power got transferred?” “Yeah, the power got transferred. What do you mean?” “We’re turning all the switches and nothing’s coming on.” The guy took all the bulbs. He figured they were his.
Sometimes, developers cut a deal with one to get more.
I’ve seen some weird stuff. I had this guy in Bel Air once. It was interesting. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to sell the house but every single step of the way, he was super irritating. I’ll never forget, the first time I ever had this with a client, the deal was about to close. It was a great deal for him. It was some Russian client represented by somebody else. Their money got held up because they wired in an excessive amount of money than what the purchase price of the house was. It was held up by the FBI or whatever because it could have been money laundering, which it wasn’t.
I remember I was in this vitamin store and the seller was so irritating. We’re about to close this deal and he was getting more than the property was worth. He is taking stuff that you’re talking about like all the bulbs and other stuff. I had enough because everything was a problem. I started yelling at the guy. I’m in a vitamin store. I go, “Are you a brain donor? I don’t understand. You can’t take everything out of the house that’s attached.” When I was done, the guy in the store that ran this vitamin store gave me some calm down drink. He goes, “Was that actually a client?” I go, “Yeah. It’s not my normal demeanor.” I wouldn’t deal with him again no matter what. It was crazy. We’ve all had those weird experiences.
Bob, this one got worse. I’ve had light bulbs. People take light bulbs, speakers and TVs. Unless it’s nailed down, they don’t take it. This guy was a little bit spiteful because, after the light bulbs, he took the ice cube trays. It gets worse than that. Do you know the roll that the toilet paper spins on?
He took all those. It doesn’t get much kookier than that. That was a head-scratcher wondering, “What planet was this guy from? What planet is he going to?”
Have you ever had an experience where you’ve done something extreme either to get or sell a listing, something out of the box?
Other than FedEx-ing myself to a guy’s office.
Explain that one.
He was an investment banker in Beverly Hills. The guy wouldn’t take my phone call and wouldn’t return an email. I said to the secretary, “How does this guy communicate with people?” She goes, “He does everything by FedEx.” I said, “What do you mean?” She’s like, “He gets his FedEx deliveries and it makes him happy for the day. He reads what he has to read with the contracts.”
I waited for the FedEx guy to come to the building. He had one of those hand trucks. I gave him $20 and I got a FedEx address label filled out with a plastic thing. I said, “Here, slap this on my chest and let me stand on your FedEx hand truck.” I got in the elevator with him and he said, “Are you sure?” I said, “I’m sure.” He rolled me right into the guy’s office. The guy looked at me and I go, “I’m here. Who’s going to sign for me?” I got the listing.
That is hilarious.
That’s thinking outside the box.
That is a good one.
The secretary gave me a high-five. She told me what to do. It wasn’t like it was a secret. She said, “He does everything by FedEx.” I’m like, “Okay.” There I was standing in his office. I went to the office multiple times trying to get in. “You don’t have an appointment.” The guy said, “If you’re going to go to that trouble to get the listing, I know what you’re going to get in trouble to get it sold.” That’s what did it. The house was sold for over the asking. It was a high sale.
At the beginning of my career, you guys would know who he is and he’s now a billionaire. He had a house up in the hills. I would go there and my daughter was a toddler at the time. He was a slob so I used to throw all his clothes into the shower and close the door. He had a couple of big German Shepherds and the hair was everywhere. I have to vacuum quickly and all that. My daughter would be tootling around in her diapers. I would change her and I put the diapers in the garbage, and then he would call me up screaming at me, “Don’t leave her diapers in the garbage because my girlfriend doesn’t like it and my mother doesn’t understand it.”
He had this bird that talked. I’d be in the kitchen because the bird was screaming all the time. I would say, “I hate this frigging bird,” in the right word I would use. I’d say it on the phone to someone I was talking to. The bird started saying, “I hate this frigging bird.” This bird was his prized pet. He’d come home and the bird would go, “I hate this frigging bird.” He wasn’t very happy with me.
They say there are two things in this business you’d want to avoid working with, that’s animals and children. You can’t control either of them. You have no control over what a cat is going to do. They tell you, “Be mindful of the cat.” What does that supposed to mean? Is it an indoor cat? Is it an outdoor cat? Do I have to get on the cat level? “Cat, is it okay to show the house?”
Kids are like bombs and you don’t know if they’re going to go off. Especially with buyers, they’re the ultimate bad mavens. I grew up sharing a bedroom with my brother and sister. Here you are showing a $20 million or $30 million house. There’s a giant suite for an eight-year-old kid and he’s like complaining about stuff. It’s like, “Give me a break.” It’s so weird.
It’s hard to put it in perspective.
I went on a listing appointment in Bel Air, one of the bigger, higher-end, expensive homes, $20 million or $30 million. This was years ago. My daughter was probably about 7 or 8. I had to take her with me. I didn’t have a babysitter. I’m talking to the guy about his house, this and that. She goes, “Eww mommy. It smells like somebody died in here,” during my listing appointment.
Out of the mouth of the baby.
Have you guys ever had anything super weird that in order to close a transaction, they either do something bizarre or wants something included that wasn’t part of the deal or whatever that was out of the left-field on the buyer side?
I’ve always had buyers ask for cars that were in garages.
That’s happened on multiple occasions. What are they going to do with the car? I’m like, “Don’t worry about the cars. Buy the house.” “No, I want the car included.”
I’ve done a deal with some guy who was unable to sell this weird castle property in the valley. He wanted me to list it after I sold his property built up in a canyon. I said, “It’s bizarre. Why don’t you give two round trip tickets anywhere in the world first-class to whoever agent brings in the buyer or the buyer that comes in?” He goes, “Great.” That worked. We got Stevie Nicks in the house, strange enough. Later on, I had this other guy with a house in Bel Air and I suggested the same thing. He goes, “I give my Lotus to whoever the agent is.” I go, “Let me have the Lotus.” I wanted to walk that back of it. Sometimes it gets strange.
I had this one music producer once up in Malibu. He’s one of the top music producers. He comes in, digs the house and goes, “Bob, every house I bought, I have to sleep in the house before I close the escrow.” I go, “You’re not going to sleep in this house. They’re a super conservative couple.” He goes, “I’m not going to buy it.” I go, “Come with your girlfriend. You can hang out all day long but you cannot sleep in this house before we close the escrow or else it’s not going to happen.” Ultimately, he bought the house.
I had one of those. It’s Eva Longoria, who years ago bought a house in the Hollywood Hills. My developer builder was building all these crazy vertical houses. It had a swimming pool. You could look at the window and see everybody’s legs under the water, that type of thing and all that. He handed over the keys for a week so they could stay in the house, entertain in the house, enjoy the house and get the experience of it for a week. They ended up buying it. That was without an offer. I was shocked but it worked.
That’s big. I got one where an A-list and well-known female musician wanted to take a bath. I said, “When?” She said, “Now.” I said, “Are you serious?” She says, “That’s how I determine whether or not I like the house if the water is warm enough, quick enough, and the tub fills up fast enough.” I said, “Let me call the seller.” I called the seller and said, “Let her take a bath.” I know she’s clean. She bought that.
Did you wait outside the door while she took a bath? Is that showing
I waited outside the door.
Is that showing? You have to wait outside and waiting for the bath.
Exactly. We’re trained monkeys. You know the expression, “Anybody can sell a house.” Give them a key. I made that deal. I had another one. He said a funny request, “If you do this and get me this number, I will send you to Paris for lunch.” I told my wife, “We’re going to Paris for lunch. She’s like, “Great.” The house sells, closes, I get the number, and I get two airplane tickets to Las Vegas. I called him up, “What’s this?” He goes, “I didn’t say Paris, France. I told you the Paris Hotel.”
Staging would give that image of an environment where people feel how the house will be.
I had a buyer and we were about $300,000 on a deal, the commission apart. He knew that I knew the head of this record company. You know how the record company, when well-known bands come in and they practice their new songs, it’s a private affair. People invite their friends, family and people like that to come in and listen to new songs that these well-known bands are doing. He said, “If you get my son invited into the Coldplay preview when they were first practicing new songs, I will accept the offer for a $300,000 reduction,” and I did. We made that deal.
Here’s another one. Some of these musicians can’t see houses during the daytime because they’re in the studio or they’re traveling. It’s weird hours that they want to see houses like 11:00 at night, which is fine if it’s an empty house. If you go to a home and they’ve got kids, it’s hard to invade at 11:00 at night on a school night. It was Chris Cornell when he was alive, a musician of Soundgarden. He said, “Mike, this is the house I want to see. Get us in at 11:00.” We go up to the house. I already worked it out with the husband and wife. I said, “There’s one room you can’t go into because they have a daughter and she’s going to school the next day. You can’t wake her up.”
Sure enough, we got up there. The parents told the kid who was coming so she’s waiting in her doorway. She’s on her phone with her girlfriends, “He’s here.” He grabs the phone from her and says, “This is Chris Cornell. I’m only doing this because I want her to be able to tell her friends tomorrow in school that it’s true that I was here and I was in her room last night.” It was amazing. The girl was like, “I’m in seventh heaven.” She’s on the phone with a girlfriend and the girlfriend doesn’t know who’s there or who’s not there. She can make the whole thing up.
Celebrities buy houses the same way we do. Just a little different timing and you have to work around their schedules. I remember my own house many years ago. My son was in school and I said, “I got a surprise for you.” It’s some young female starlet high up there in his room laying on his bed. I sent him a picture while he’s in school and he was like, “Oh my god.” It wasn’t my idea. It was her idea. “Is this your son’s room?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “I’m going to make him the most famous kid in the school. Watch.” I’m like, “Fair enough.”
It’s funny and it could be the whole celebrity thing. We all deal with celebrities a lot but it can be a double-edged sword because sometimes that can transcend a price issue. It’s something that you talk about, Mike, where the kid was excited because there was a celebrity coming or whatever. I’ll never forget a major star and he still is. His business manager contacted me and said, “We have these two houses we’d like you to sell. Here are the prices but you can use his name.” I go, “The prices are ridiculous in both properties. His name isn’t worth an extra $4 million on each house.” Sometimes their idea of their celebrity status is ridiculous.
Sometimes it does work. When I first came to this business, I worked for a company called Celebrity Properties and we specialize in homes that were owned by celebrities. We got a premium.
Sometimes you can. Celebrity has that vibe.
As long as you have the listing.
Do you remember when the market was terrible in 2008 or 2009? I had the building The Carlyle and it was totally vacant. The building was done and we’re ready to go and do sales, but the world was falling apart. I got Bruce Willis a two-year free lease. He was the only person living in the building and I could use his name. He’d walk out with the full staff, full valet, full front desk and full everything. He and his wife were the only ones living in the entire building for quite some time, but it did bring other stars. It brought Paul Anka, Larry King, Paula Abdul and a lot of people in because he drew names in.
If the security was good enough for him, that’s going to be good enough for them. Sometimes it does work and developers will do that. They cut a deal with one to get more.
I have this one project in Panama we’re doing. In one of the first villas, I’m getting one of my own clients as a major celebrity in because that will establish credibility and a lot of publicity that you couldn’t even pay for. In certain respects, it was very clever, Valerie, that you did that. What do you lose by doing that? Nothing. You just gained. It turns out to be a huge benefit. As long as the value is still there. By the way, Valerie, we did it when I was in Wakaya in Fiji on The Carlyle with me, you and my Colombian buyer. I don’t know if you remember that. It was crazy.
I do. You’re right. I forgot about that.
Mike, it’s funny because Valerie and I talked about this on our show. There are certain agents and the three of us are these types of agents that are deal makers. It’s not as simple as just showing property and if that person likes the property, you do a deal. I remember I was on Wakaya in Fiji and Valerie referred me to this deal. The developer did not want to take my deal because he’s afraid it would set a precedent for a lower price. Somehow, I forget how we did it. Another agent was like, “Forget it. It’s not going to happen,” but we were able to work it out and make it happen. I do remember that clearly.
A lot of people think we’re the most overpaid for what we do, but they don’t realize what goes behind the scenes like rolling up the sleeves and getting through the deal. It’s not for public consumption what goes on behind the scenes.
There are so many additional things that we have to do to psychologically prepare people to handle emotional things. We have to deal with people. We are psychologically balancing two people, lots of people, and some crazy agents as well. It takes a lot.
You have a lot of emotions flowing and you have a lot of opinions. If you’ve got a buyer or a seller, the buyer has got a broker and the seller has got a broker. Everybody’s got an opinion. They’re like belly buttons. Everybody’s got one.
Do you ever give out expensive gifts when you make a sale?
I don’t want to say expensive gifts. I try to be thoughtful and try to listen when they’re there in the house about the things that they want to do. I sold one house to an older guy and he’s had a hard time walking around. He wanted a one-story. I found a large 7,000 square feet one-story, which is rare to find 7,000 square feet at one level. He calls me and he says, “Eisenberg.” I said, “Yeah, what’s up?” He goes, “Where’s the freaking mailbox?” I’m like, “What is he talking about?” He goes, “They didn’t take it, did they?” I go, “No, let me find out.” Sure enough, the mailbox is at the bottom of the driveway. The guy’s like, “How am I going to get my mail? It’s a quarter-mile.” I had a golf cart delivered to him two days later.
That was a good idea. I thought you would have moved the mailbox up higher.
The post office won’t come up. The post office has to be 6 feet from the curb. That’s the postal thing. Somebody’s house is up a quarter-mile driveway. A quarter-mile is only 1,500 feet out of a big driveway in the city. It’s crazy. Sure enough, it’s got more mileage out of the golf cart story. He goes through the country club and he tells his friends, “My agent is the best. I complained about not being able to get my mailbox and a Yamaha golf cart showed up three days later.” I sold three houses from that. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. They all wanted golf carts. If you buy a house with a long driveway, I’ll buy you a golf cart.
Valerie, I can’t tell you how many deals I’ve had that have blown up over things at the house, crazy things like potted plants, barbecues and these stuff in the world. I’m like, “Just leave the barbecue. We’ll buy you a new one.” “No, that’s my barbecue. I know how it operates. I don’t want a new one. It’s dialed in for me. I know everything about it.” I blew this $6 million sale over a barbecue. If it gets to that level, it becomes a pissing contest. “I want it. If I’m not going to get it, I don’t want the house.” I’m trying to talk some sense into them. It’s ridiculous. They get this in their heads.
I have two clients who are super-rich guys, the buyer and the seller, at Mandeville Canyon. They have gotten a lawsuit in small claims court over some wine that was in the wine cellar who is going to get it. It’s strange. I always tell sellers, “Just get rid of it. Get it out of sight if you’re planning on taking it because otherwise, it’s going to be an issue.”
I had one in Bel Air over koi in a clay pot, “You didn’t write it in. Where are you going to put the koi in, a bucket?” I learned if you’re going to offer and there’s a koi pond, you write the koi in and how many there are. You can’t just say koi. You say, “Six koi, 3 red, 2 yellow, 1 white.”
I sold Michael Oldfield’s from Tubular Bells house to Eric Idle from the Monty Python. There was a bunch of koi and it was cool. The koi roll left. There are big ones. They’re probably 300 years old or whatever. After we bought the house, a week later, they’re all dead because he turned off the pump or something like that. It’s weird. They fight over stuff they don’t care about.
We call it glomming. They just want to glom, “Contents aren’t included.” You make a deal on the furniture separately, “No, write the furniture. I want the pool table. I want the jukebox.” Natalie Imbruglia, a singer from Australia, came into a house and she goes, “I love it.” I said, “Great. Are you going to buy it?” She goes, “Not only am I going to buy it, but I’m also going to buy it with every freaking thing in here.” I’m like, “Really?”
Not so much did she buy it and bought it with everything in there. She handed her credit card to the seller’s wife and said, “I want you to finish it.” She goes, “What do you mean finish it? It’s done.” She said, “No, I need sheets and towels. While you’re there, can you fill-up the fridge?” Talk about soup to nuts buying a house and they said, “Just bring your toothbrush.” It happens. They don’t want to deal with it. They want to buy everything. They liked the lifestyle and what they see. That’s a good testament. That pays you a nice compliment. You did a good job. It’s when they walk in and go, “I can see myself living here. Not just living here, but living here on your couch, rug, lamp and the fish tank.” That did happen.
That’s how the staging thing got started. Staging would give that image of an environment for people to feel like this is how the house will feel and live.
It’s better than an empty house.
It’s become so popular.
They are talented people but sometimes they don’t have the imagination when it comes down to, “Where does the bed go?” They need to see it.
Mike Eisenberg, superstar, Beverly Hills, our great friend. Thanks for joining us.
Bob, those were some great stories, don’t you think?
Absolutely. Mike is a trip. I’ve known him for decades. Not only is he a great salesman, but he is funny and has a huge list of celebrity clients and interesting stories. It’s great to have him on board.
Bob, what do you think about maybe some readers could even go onto our website and be a guest on one of our shows if they send in their story?
That’d be great. A lot of them are hands-on. They’ve had situations. They probably would have a bunch of questions they might have for us.
Readers, to apply, go to [email protected]. Tune in to the next show for more exciting stories right here.
I look forward to having you, guys. Valerie, this is great. It’s fun as always. See you next time.