-But I said, “no, no, no…”-
Truth is; I can barely swing a hammer….Let me rephrase that; I can swing the hell out of a hammer but just not in a constructive way. I am not the fixer-upper type, in case we haven’t met. I probably err to the side of demolition, if anything. Clearly, I’m a real estate blogger.
That being said, my lovely Wife (and occasional muse) found a possible second home that, in theory, could fulfill our retirement needs during those forthcoming platinum years that the late Dennis Hopper used to pitch on those Ameriprise commercials. All things equal, he was my favorite corporate sell out so far this century, that Dennis Hopper. Cool, quirky and rich (until the very end) beyond words, for sure.
“Sixty is the new forty,” exclaimed my man, sharply dressed in black, The Spencer Davis Group blaring in the background, and looking unlike any be-shaded 72 year old cat I’ve ever met. And I was all over it. According to the departed DH, I still have forty more good ones ahead of me. According to his math and blueprint for living (oh well), I’m barely thirty-four. When he used to appear on the plasma in high def I got a sudden urge to run out and invest in something spectacular before I lost another precious second. I yearned to join the expedition, or at the very least, embark on the journey to financial freedom. After all, one man’s destination is another man’s starting point. Ask any truly wealthy person (nine figures+ by my definition) and I’m certain they will tell you as much. “It’s the journey, not the…” whatever.
But the ‘hidden gem’ my Wife came across this past weekend, a shack on the Tennessee River, needs some serious attention; more attention than I’m prepared to pay for, quite frankly. She found it on the Film Location site our own house is registered with (unbeknownst to me until a few months ago). And in case you didn’t know, there is a market for short term property rentals (upwards of $30,000 a month–the first 14 days tax-free) ‘wherever motion pictures are regularly filmed near you.’ And guess what? We qualify! Hell, everybody who pays the $199 enrollment fee qualifies, come to find out. It’s the Barbazon School of Modeling for overly proud home owners. Our modest, generally untalented house is the white picket fence version of Little Miss Sunshine. Sad but true, I’m a default stage parent by the sacrament of Matrimony, although I’m pretty sure I may have been ex-communicated two marriages ago.
So, after discovering this (our house registration, that is) and upon further examination, I found that the Film Home Locator is just another portal for slinging rental property for a nominal listing fee. A smooth talking ‘location consultant’ named Bud convinced my Wife, in a weak moment, to fork over our Amex card info and enroll our own humble residence in The Directory. So much for the Parental Control field I activated on my laptop although it is only the two of us living there. (And just for the record, eight movies are being shot on Chicago real estate this year and not one Hollywood Director dropped by the crib with our 30K.) Anyway, some other mullet that Bud clubbed over the head is trying to dump a river house on the same site and this immediately caught the eye of my Wife. My Google History report tells me she logs on to The Directory nearly everyday, checking out the visitor meter and counting the unique clicks to our own home page, no doubt. Poor thing. She yearns so badly for our house to become famous.
“Maybe we could have mom and dad drive up and take a look,” she offers over our morning coffee, standing at the bistro table next to the chairs I’ve been meaning to fix.
My in-laws live in Dyer, Tennessee and would love nothing more than for us to buy a house on the river, only a few hours away from their own home town. They are wonderful people, my Wife’s folks. My father-in law bought me a $300 24 position adjustable and expandable ladder from Home Depot as a house warming gift. My birthday present from my Wife this year was a Makita 13mm 1500 rev per minute Lithium powered 18 volt power drill kit. I’m afraid to take either one out of its box although, since the gun laws are so strict in this city, I have considered using the Makita as a weapon in the event of a home break-in or unfriendly intrusion. (Note to self: better read the instruction manual, just in case.)
Buying me an expensive power tool is somewhat equivalent to giving my cat a steak bone and a Kong, presenting a piccolo to a professional rugby player or convincing Amy Winehouse (too late, sorry) to….well, you know what I’m saying. Some things just aren’t in our inherent genes and for me, it’s the art of construction; or lack thereof.
“Honey, I’m too old to fix up the house we already have… much less rehab a lean-to in the woods eight hours away from here. In fact, according to any 30 year amortization schedule I’ve seen, I may even be too old to buy anything that doesn’t have 4 wheels and a radio.” I just don’t have the tools.
“I bought you that drill,” she said. “Dad bought you that ladder. Your boss bought you that power washer.”
Just a quick aside: I do love that power washer although, much to my dismay, it doesn’t do a very good job of blasting snow off my sidewalk. (But then again, neither does the leaf blower my own parents bought me back when I had a much smaller house and a much bigger wife.) Anyway, I wasn’t referring to the physical tools. I have a whole basement full of those. The tools I was referring to have more to do with talen,t and my true real estate talent lies in the art of negotiation, to be sure. I just need a level playing field and a willing partner…
“Baby, why don’t we just find a nice condo in Naples instead,” I finally bargain, not sure the compromise will fly but throwing it out there, just for openers.
“Florida or Italy?” she asks.
See what I’m up against?
Lightning In A Bottle
Actually, a bunch of big fat liars. I’ll include myself in the group for this exercise (as an embedded observer, of course) although I can state here comfortably–eyeball to eyeball, without flinching and safely nested behind the double locked doors of my home office library–that my truthfulness in business dealings consistently falls within the soupy gray boundries of acceptable sales chatter. In other words, I try not to exaggerate or overblow my Real Estate accomplishments when things fall nicely into my lap nor do I whine and moan (or shriek like a little girl…anymore) at the first sign of a market correction or the foreshadow of a lenghty Listing stint.
The truth is, the Listing Agent who has the signed Exclusive Agreement when the actual Buyer walks through the door is the hero. Period. Don’t let them (us) tell you otherwise. We all know this. I once lost a deal (and one of my best friends) early on in my career two days after an Agreement expired. I had a lot of activity on the property–many showings, loads of interest–but on day 90, my just-married buddy decided that the unsold property was hurting our friendship and yanked the house from me. He fired me over the phone from Vegas–on his honeymoon. (I’d love to report here how that marriage ended up but that would be gloating now, wouldn’t it?)
The new Agent was literally taking down my sign and putting his own up when the eventual Buyer came tooling along with his wife. They wrote a deal without representation (a ‘double bubble’ for the Agent) and Closed in 30 days. That my friends is what we Realtors call, ‘lightning in a bottle.’ And I’ve been the recipient of such happenstance, as well. I’ve just learned not to gloat over it when it occurs nor do I stand outside in the the middle of a thunderstorm (or worse yet, a drought), arms raised to the heavens with coke bottles in each hand, waiting for it to strike again. I have other stupid things I do…
Promising The Moon
…And this is one of them. Not so much anymore but still…I want to be liked. Deep down, I don’t want to be the person to break the bad news…
“You see, Mr and Mrs Climbladder, your house is very beautiful. It’s just 1.2 million dollar beautiful… not 1.7 million dollar beautiful. If it were 1.7 million dollar beautiful it would most likely be surrounded by several other 1.7 million dollar beautiful homes in a 1.7 million dollar neighborhood.”
Blah blah blah.
“Yes, I know it was featured in the local newspaper but no one is reading that particular issue anymore…except of course, you.”
Blah blah blabbity blah!
“And yes, I see you spent a couple hundred thou on the bathrooms and kitchen and I’m sure you have enjoyed them but Buyers expect such finishes at this price point. Like I said, it’s beautiful…it’s just not 1.7 million dollar beautiful.”
“Yes, Mr and Mrs Climbladder…I’m afraid so….blah.”
The point is I try not to promise the moon unless I promise a forthcoming Price Reduction to go along with it. I’m very nice about it, though.
The Sunday Papers
I once heard renowned newscaster, Sam Donaldson, state in an interview, “I don’t go to the casinos because winning a hundred dollars means nothing to me but losing a hundred dollars really pisses me off.” I concur. I also feel the same about newspaper advertising. IMO, it only brands the company name…it doesn’t sell houses. Not here in Chicago, anyway. To spend money foolishly on a longshot bet is one thing, but to advocate such a strategy as a Marketing Plan is cretinous. (You can look it up if you like but it basically means stupid.)
Marketing in this day and age goes well beyond ink on paper advertising. If it is disposable then it will be disposed of. Print advertising is untrackable, expensive, and passive. I’d rather pay-per-click any (every) day of the week though the cost of doing business is equivalent. At least I know my hard earned money isn’t wrapped around a dead fish in the garbage.
I am confident that Internet Channels, Digital Open Houses, and other technologies along these lines are the way of the future, at least in Chicago Real Estate circles. And even as I restructure my own business model for the next five years I’ll still make it a point to tip the paperboy every month when he knocks on our front door. (Besides being an enterprising young kid in the image of you know who, he’s the best hacker I know.)
Ladybug In A Juice glass
I won’t promise ‘lightning in a bottle’ to a potential client but I will pledge to use my resources (spend my own money) in the most efficient manner I see fit. Let’s face it, the Listing Agent is in the hole the minute he walks out the door with the Exclusive and only collects when the property actually sells–correction: …when the property actually sells under his watch. Phone calls from Vegas are never good under any circumstance, I’ve found.
I’ll try not to promise the Moon no matter how much I allow myself to be manipulated by the situation (potential paycheck). And that is why we do it, you know. We Realtors are ironically, the easiest people to manipuate because we count the money before it’s printed. We may say we don’t but most of us secretly do. After all, we have BMWs and college to pay for. (It also stokes our Ego when we nail a Sold placard across the For Sale sign. I usually wait until rush hour so everyone stalled in traffic can watch me perform the ritual. It usually takes a good half hour depending on whether or not I have to find and unbury St. Joseph.)
I may be big, and I may or may not be fat depending on the season or what I’m wearing, but a Big, Fat, Liar I am not. Not all three. I won’t promise ‘lightning in a bottle’ but I will do my best to catch a ladybug in a juiceglass. Oh yeah….and work for free until I get the place sold, just like every other self-respecting Realtor.