Does playing beer pong with your real estate agent make you hate expensive middlemen less?

Today's Appraisal column in the Times notes the phenomena of a few of the city's 52,000 licensed real estate agents and brokers opting to engage with their clients in "activities normally reserved for actual friends." So instead of shaking their client's hand and going straight home to type Craigslist ads in all caps, climaxing to photos of a $2,800/month Chinatown sub-studio taken with a fisheye lens, or dreaming up new neighborhoods, they'll take their marks customers hang gliding, or to an exercise studio, or a bar.

Beth Benalloul, a Corcoran Group broker and former personal trainer, has often “hyperventilated” with clients in exercise classes. Michael Mansfield of Citi Habitats has gone kayaking in the Hudson River, and Michael Rubin of CORE has tried turkey hunting. “I love playing beer pong with clients,” said Kendrick Reinsch, a 25-year-old agent at Citi Habitats. “Which sounds crazy.”

Not as crazy as renting in Manhattan. Agent Sarah Rose Katz seems to have this "friend" thing down, given that she buddied up to a client who is nearly fifty years her senior. How did she manage it?

But in the case of Sarah Rose Katz, a Citi Habitats agent who is also 25, client bonding arose specifically because of an age difference: Her client, Doina Stoiana, 73, who owns a small rental building on the Upper East Side, received an iPhone and iPad as gifts, and it was Ms. Katz who taught her how to use them.

“It must have been 100 hours,” Ms. Katz said of their technology tutorials. “I spent a ridiculous amount of time there. But then we became very close.”

Ms. Katz is now the exclusive rental agent for Ms. Stoiana’s building.

Usually we go with the Robot Insurance pitch, but this seems less evil.