Saturday, September 16, 2017

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire -Getting my Bearings

Getting My Bearings
Over the next number of days I was introduced to all the other realtors in the office. There must have been at least twenty – five of them. They came in all sorts of shapes and sizes and all from different backgrounds. There was an old truck driver, another, a structural engineer, an economist, an agriculturalist odds and sundry housewives looking for adventure and even a teacher or two.
It took a little while to get used to this collection of adventurers, certainly a different bunch of people than any I’d ever worked with. Largely, they were friendly enough, even helpful at times, but I’ll get back to them. There are certainly enough stories about them to fill a book.
It turns out the boss was right. The phone WAS my friend (from time to time). I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Not wanting to appear too obvious, instead of saying “Do you want to sell your house (or buy one) I opted to firstly announce that I was in the business and depending on the reception that prompted I would say something like did (whoever was on the other end of the line) know of anyone wanting to sell or buy. God help me if someone said yes.
Within two days someone did say yes and I was in for experiences I never would have imagined.  The owner of the house had a rental property right next door to his home and he was sick and tired of nonpayment of rent. He was an accountant so we never had a problem of establishing the value of the home. The place had been vacant now for about a week or so and the only problem he did have was to clean the place up so it could be shown.
Well actually, there was more than just one problem. Already the middle of December, it was a little chilly out and I could hardly wait for my sign to go up with my name on it. In the meantime, there was a little black mongrel dog lying beside the door on a raggedy old blanket, shivering coldly. He looked like he was on death’s doorstep. It was obvious that his owner had left him there for some sucker like me to pick him up – so I did, blanket and all, and put them in the back of my car. We hadn’t had a dog in a while so I had to stop and pick up some dog food, dishes, a leash and supplies. Finally getting home to our ten acres in the country, I let the dog out of the car, taking the supplies into the house. While I’m busy doing this, the dog takes off across the field and I figure that’s the end of him. I put his raggedy blanket out on the deck in case he comes back and continue bringing things into the house. Next trip outside and I see the dog come roaring back to the house and he stops dead in front of me. In his mouth is a yellow tennis ball.
I guess the heat of the car had revived the poor little critter enough that now he wanted to play. Where in all that ten acres he’d found my daughter’s tennis ball I’ll never know. She’d lost it about five years earlier and he honed in on it. We played ball until it was time to go pick the Missus up from her job. Both of us were exhausted.
Ah but I digress again. Proud as a peacock, I visited my “For Sale” sign every day, just to see my name on it.  I must have thought myself to be a rock star. It wasn’t too long before my seller had found a “buyer” himself. The only problem was, he had no down payment.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I had befriended a mortgage broker and a lawyer and with the help of my broker, I put together a deal where I contributed a dollar to make the deal binding and the seller would take back the whole mortgage for a year at which time the buyer would find his own mortgage. Well, fair enough, the buyer jumped through all the hoops, bought his own insurance, paid the legal and land transfer fees and I managed to put a sold appendage on my precious sign.
Two days later the seller phones me up and says: “Come look at your sign.”
“Uh oh, what’s wrong?” I wanted to know.
“Just come and look,” laughs the seller.
I go streaking out there like a bolt of lightning because I know something’s wrong with my precious sign. No, there’s nothing wrong with the sign, but the house behind it no longer exists. Well, a small pile of rubble and ash does but little else. The Insurance Company apparently vindicates the buyer and the seller and forks over the settlement out of which the seller gets his mortgage paid, the buyer ends up with a twenty-five thousand dollar vacant lot and I end up with a remarkable dog.

That’s as far as I want to go in analyzing this transaction.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

It’s been forty years since I started in the real estate business and fifteen years since I left it behind for my new career of retired. I’ve got to say that both careers are equally creative and inspiring, and at the same time equally challenging.
Given the title of this series, you might not believe me. In fact, I’m not sure I do either, but one way or another, it ought to be a fun adventure. Of course I’m too old and feeble to remember any of the names of my clients and associates, but that comes in handy in terms of avoiding being sued. So the names will all be fictional and the incidents may well have an element of truth in them, they may be by no means fully accurate, but I maintain my mandate of telling a good story regardless of the facts.
Real estate is an interesting career, exciting even. But it’s complicated to say the least. There is a huge conglomerate of entities with a vested interest in the real estate business, each with its own angle to get a piece of the pie. There’s the Real Estate Board for one who provide a service to the general public and to the agents to keep the game honest and above board. Then there’s the Securities Commission, a government agency designed to protect trust accounts and moral obligations of real estate companies and/or their agents. Beyond that you have your various associations, each of which has its own departments.
Well, as a brand new, na├»ve potential real estate agent, the first thing you do is to pay money – to the Real Estate Board for the two week course you have to take in order to obtain your license. Day after day the naive agent is lectured about real estate law, board rules, securities commission rules, property values and appraisals: on and on and ad infinitum.
One by one the novice agents were beginning to worry. When were they going to teach us how to get listings? When were they going to teach us about making a sale? When were we going to find out about doing business?
Well, they weren’t going to teach us any of that at all. Old Albert Schmidt, a bricklayer who was tired of laying bricks day after day was totally disgusted. In his words, what kind of stupid training was that? (Well, those weren’t exactly his words – I know there were a few variations of “Verschissen” in there). I think he went back to laying his stupid bricks having satisfied himself that real estate was not for him.
I’ll never forget the appraisal course I took later to get my broker’s license. There was an eye opening revelation made by the lecturer that proved to be far truer than any other mark of the value of a property. After he had given us all the considerations in the value of a property he said that if a seller complains he hasn’t received enough for his property, and the buyer complains he has over paid, and the deal is still consummated, THAT’S your fair market value. Too bad we can’t hit that mark every time.
But I digress. Finally done with my real estate course, I reported to my office and was shown to a cubicle containing my brand new business cards and little else. Well, now what? It wasn’t really as bad as all that. Our broker welcomed me and we had a nice chat. Then he took me downtown in his big Lincoln to introduce his new agent to the boss at head office. We hit it off nicely and I went back to my cubicle which was about the same size as the one I had left in the Engineering office I’d been bored stiff at. It was still as empty as ever, except for my business cards, oh and yeah, a phone.
“What do I do now?” I asked my broker.
“You see that thing on your desk there?”
“Yeah, that’s a phone.”
“Wrong! That’s your gateway to a great future in the real estate business! Get on it and let family and friends, business associates know you’re in the business and see if you can be of service to them. That’s your lifeline!”
Actually, I was more interested in the coffee machine in the back of the office.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Conscientious Objectors

Conscientious Objectors
You think you know a lot about a particular subject only to discover you know didly squat! That happens to me quite a lot, probably because I ain’t payin’ that much attention in the first place. I figured I knew a lot about conscientious objectors from my Mennonite background. See, back when Catherine the Great invited the Mennonites to Russia, one of the concessions she made among others was an exemption from military service. That blanket agreement changed over time to mean alternative service in work camps, mainly forestry work, and work in the Red Cross, in hospitals and prisoner of war camps. The Mennonites went willingly into that voluntarily. Given their strong morals and work ethic (at that time), them buggers could work.
I never considered it other than what it was in Russia until the subject came up the other day. So I researched it on the internet. Holy crackers! It’s been goin’ on a long time. Some guy named Maximillius objected to a particular war in 295 B.C. Of course he was summarily executed and became a saint some time later. Well it was somewhat the same in WWI and WWII, depending where you were from, although in some cases you could claim conscientious objection based on religious beliefs and I imagine there was a bit of paperwork that went with that. Still there was a lot of executions.
The thing is that in Canada these Mennonites (at least) did a lot of heavy duty work like buildin’ roads clearin’ forests an’ so on. This ain’t no light work neither. They looked after prisoners of war, were nurses in hospitals where deranged people were kept an’ some even served with the Red Cross – all for fifty cents a day.
Yet they’re cast as cowards. They’ll not pick up weapons against another person, but they’re good enough to do all the grunt work left behind by the killers who went to war. I really don’t get it. Oh sure, in the 1940’s we had to get rid of the Nazis, no question about that, but every action since has not been a credible war. Besides which, the Nazis are back now in Canada and the U.S. among other places. Where are the soldiers now I’d like to know?
From up here on the top shelf, I can only shake my head an’ be thankful that I ain’t young no more.

Just sayin’.