As some of you may know, I was a realtor for a while. Fifteen years to be exact.
I remember the first home I sold like it was yesterday. It smelled of urine. Not a pungent odor like one might imagine in a stable during intense summer heat, but a full-blown jet sprayed-up-your-nostrils, head plant into a NYC subway urinal scent. The owner had died in the house, but obviously not before he had a chance to adequately mark his territory. His family called to tell me that my name was specifically mentioned in his will as “the crackerjack sales gal who could sell a sweater in hell.” Oh sure, a seasoned agent might have bolted, particularly when the family described the home as “somewhat rustic, but in that distressed FUN sort of way!” When it was offered to me I didn’t care how they described it…I was going to sell that piss-hole!
From that moment on there was no stopping me. Newly divorced with three small kids, I set out on a mission to sell any plot of land I could jam a FOR SALE sign into. That’s right…there would be no rest until my name and power pant-suited mug shot were plastered on every shopping cart and bus stop bench in the city limits.
Unfortunately just a few weeks into the new career I learned that my cold-calling skills sucked. I would pull out the phone book, close my eyes and point to a name. Once the number was dialed, I became painfully shy, apologizing profusely for interrupting their day…at which point they usually hung up.
Next, I decided to go door-to-door. Since it was Christmas time, I thought a gift might be in order. I bought and distributed three thousand small bags of mistletoe, accompanied by my own little jingle, “Hang the mistletoe up, put a log on the fire, and next year if you need it, I’ll find you a buyer.” Now possibly if I’d done my homework I would have discovered that mistletoe is a parasitic plant and highly poisonous if ingested so it is not something you want to leave unattended at a front door. I received my share of complaints from angry pet owners and little old ladies who did not appreciate an aphrodisiac on their welcome mat.
Then I resorted to mailers…A supposedly non-intrusive way of soliciting business. My first attempt was a postcard sent to homeowners offering a free market analysis.
A few days after my snappy promotional advertisement went out, I got a call. A man asked if I could come by and tell him how much his place was worth.
That Saturday morning I showed up at his house. A nice looking middle-aged man wearing pressed jeans and a Polo shirt (collar up) met me at the door. He smiled…and immediately whisked me up a flight of stairs to a makeshift addition with two chilly bedrooms. I could tell he was proud of the expansion, and surmised he’d done the work himself.
“Would the value of my house improve if I was to add a bathroom up here?
“Where?” I asked, looking around the two small rooms.
“Well, there’s this area over here.” He bounded over to a door and opened it. The closet was no bigger than the bag of golf clubs he had jammed into it, which exploded onto the floor rocketing the entire set of Ping irons and a Big Bertha in my direction.
“I’m assuming you’re thinking half bath.” I asked.
“Well, you’re the expert but I don’t see how a shower or tub would fit, do you?”
“I’m not even sure a toilet would make it.”
We get these questions all the time and it’s fairly annoying because folks that ask us to crunch housing numbers rarely have any intention of selling. Most people want a market analysis so they can calculate their net worth, or insure they’ll make a return on the remodel. In other words, they pick your brain so they don’t have to take the bitch slap later for making a poor investment decision. But there is always the odd chance that they will list, so you have to keep playing the game.
So I say, “Of course I’m not an architect and that’s not why you brought me here. You asked if a bathroom would add value to your residence. Well, why don’t you give me a tour of your lovely home so I can make an educated decision.”
His expression of disappointment turned into a smile as he realized he was being asked to show me around his man cave.
We walked from room to room filled with mounted moose heads and twisted horn caribou (I’m guessing here.) The whole place was a testosterone rush…the hunting dogs pacing in their outdoor crates, the pine paneled library and bear skin rugs, rifles on racks and fishing poles hanging from beams. I took notes on a tablet – a list of things that would have to be removed if he actually did decide to sell. No question the whole place would have to be depersonalized.
Then he guided me down to the basement. The first thing I noticed as I rounded the corner was a bulls eye about 100 feet ahead in the garage. My eyes moved from the target to a high-powered bow and arrow cradled in a rack. Probably expensive as those things go. He followed my gaze, picked up the bow and arrow, and proceeded to pierce the target. Nailed it…in what I could only assume would be the heart cavity if I were given a ten second lead.
“Nice shot,” I mustered, “but what if someone happens to use the Stanley Garage door opener and pulls in during hunting season?”
He smiled a wide grin and said, “Well, then they may be pulling an arrow out of their lollapaloozas.”
I freaked…Cut the pleasantries, and went professional.
“What’s in here?” I asked, opening a vaulted door. There hanging from a meat hook was some stiff animal carcass. I closed it fast and made my way to the staircase.
“By all means add that bathroom,” I began.
His eyebrows raised. “You really see the value?”
“Most definitely. Upside galore. A bathroom is going to really tie this place together.”
He loved it, babbling all the way to the front door about his keen intuition and how he’s rarely off the mark when it comes to investments and people’s character.
When we reached the door I shook his hand and told him I’d be writing up a market analysis in the next day or so and would drop it off for his review.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that,” he said, still holding my hand.
“Of course I will. That’s my job.” I said.
He paused for a moment, staring into my eyes.
“You know, don’t bother working too hard on anything. You see, I was at a cocktail party the other night and someone brought your name up telling me that I should contact you because we have so much in common. I suppose this may be an awkward way to do it, but I was wondering if I could take you to dinner, and if all goes well I thought you might enjoy a trip to Alaska with me next week. I go every year to watch the brown bear mate.”