Open House in the Country
The natty little guy with an armload of degrees had a listing in the country. Now you have to imagine a gentleman’s gentleman (often with a carnation in his lapel) and wonder what in thunder he would be doing with a property for sale in the country. I’m sure he wondered the same thing, but he was a convincing talker and had an excellent reputation. He had booked an open house at this particular place and told me he had a conflicting schedule that Sunday. Would I be good enough to sit in for him?
Would I? You’d better believe I would! There’s an old axiom that says you’re not there to sell THAT house, you’re just there to sell A house – in other words pick up buyers who want to buy something (or sell something). Of course you don’t advertise to your sellers.
I don’t exactly remember what I gleaned from that adventure, but I know it launched my country career in real estate. Suddenly I had three or four buyers looking for country properties. I really felt at home with this country business and things indeed were looking up for me. Not that they were easy by any means, but at least I had my foot in the door in an area I was familiar with.
Well, where do I start with my country adventures? I guess I’ll have to pick them as they come to mind. There was a guy named Penner (I think) who had a ten acre parcel of land on which stood his mobile home and a very large garage that he had fixed up as a second home for his in-laws when they came visiting. He obviously kept his vehicles outside. I don’t quite remember how I latched on to this listing, but it had a fairly long life.
A local horse breeder had just got rid of her husband and was looking for a place to set up with whatever settlement she’d got from the divorce. Well, the place wasn’t expensive for her and it was the right area to do her thing. Well, she bought it and set to work, converting the garage to a residence. She sold the trailer and built a barn for her horses. By this time it was probably August or so and she asked me to come out and look at the place. I did and admired the horses while I was at it.
She had a particular small Arabian two year old gelding I was looking at.
“You want him?” she asked. “He’s green broke and an adventurous horse. I’ll give him to you for $75.00.”
“That’s awfully cheap,” I said.
“He’s also a little bit stupid too,” she laughed. “About a year ago he ran headlong into a telephone pole and put his neck out. He seems to have outgrown it, but you never know. It could come back again. But he’ll make a nice pet.
So now I had another animal at my place to add to the two horses I already had. Well, I won’t go into that, but a while later I get a call from the mortgage company. Apparently this is now going to be a foreclosure. We inspected the property and found it to be in good condition. Okay, no problem. Enter Big Bertha.
Bertha had her house for sale in St. Anne and she was beginning to look around for another place in the country. She was drawn to my sign and the privacy of the property as well as the fact that it had no basement. I understood when I met them at the property.
Bertha WAS as big as her husband Bert was small. He was on disability and not very well while she was full of beans. Having a look around, they loved the place and made an offer, subject to the sale of their house. All fine and good and eventually Mr. and Mrs. Bertha took possession of the property. I get a phone call on moving day saying the water doesn’t work. What the . . . it was working on inspection. Now what? So I called the mortgage company to report the deficiency and they called the pump man. It turns out that the owner didn’t pay the pump man so he sneaked in after she had vacated the premises and pulled out his pump. The long and the short of it was that the mortgage company had somebody else install a new pump.
But Bertha didn’t like the siding on the house. She wanted it to have a stone facing. It should be natural stone from the area she said. I didn’t know how she would accomplish that, but okay – it was none of my business anyway so I left it at that.
First she made some changes to the inside the house. I assumed it was Bert doing the work, but no, he was just too sick to do much of anything. I have to say to Bertha’s credit that she did look after Bert and the fresh air and the trees around the property seemed to breathe new life into him. But no, she brought her good for nothing son home to help with the things she couldn’t manage herself. That didn’t work out too well either, but no matter, she carried on anyway.
It was some time later when Bertha called me. She wanted me to come down and have a look at her handiwork. So I drove out to her place and passed it twice before recognizing the exact location. What in blazes! She’d put up a picket fence across the whole front of the property – some five hundred feet of it. And it was all painted white and straight and plumb as could be. No wonder I didn’t recognize the place.
Well, her son had put in the posts for the fence and Bertha, annoyed with his inability to pound them in straight had taken over from there and finished the job herself. Now she could concentrate on the stone walls.
“Where’d you get the stone? I wanted to know.
“Oh, I got in the truck and went up and down the side roads, picking them up.”
I couldn’t get over her creative imagination and her ability to do whatever she set out to do.
Winter had now set in so she concentrated on her interior alterations and looking after Bert (who wasn’t faring too well). Sadly, he passed away, not unexpectedly, and Bertha carried on. Bert’s insurance gave her a new impetus to live life as it was meant to be. She figured she was getting a little overweight so she bought one of those fitness machines that she could use while watching TV.
She also bought herself a new snow blower that she didn’t know how to use, Rather than call her useless son who was now living somewhere else; she figured I would know how to operate it, so she called me. That was more of an exercise in patience than anything, but I got it done. Well I had a couple of tricks with two cycle engines that I showed her and she never needed me after that.
The following summer after Bertha had finished her stonework on the outside walls of her house, she called me to come have a look. I was amazed. It looked absolutely marvelous.
“Well, now I want to sell,” she remarked. “It’s getting a little lonely out here without my Bert. Besides, there’s not much left to do here. Can we get together?”
It turns out she wanted a two bedroom house without a basement. She was emphatic about that. Well, given her size, I could understand. So I started hunting through all the available listings and found a few. Bertha came in to my office and together we took off to view a few listings I’d made appointments for. I marveled at how my little car listed to port when she got in. Well it wasn’t so bad that it would tip, but just the same . . .
By the time we got back to my office we’d more or less had a full day and I’m sure all the places were whirling around in Bertha’s head. She needed some time to digest it all. Talk about digesting, Bertha was hungry too. She’d just pick up a couple of burgers from George’s next door to munch on during her drive home. Knowing the size of George’s burgers, she’d have to drive slowly to get it all down before she reached home.
At this point things get a little blurry in my mind. As I (think) recall Bertha listed her house (with me) subject to her finding a new place and a buyer was found for hers by another agent subject to the sale of their house and on and on. In the end I think there were some five transactions dependent on each other for it all to fall into place. There was a whole lot of hand wringing, dozens of phone calls and frantic real estate agents down my throat, but miracle of miracles, at the eleventh hour it all came together. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief.
I didn’t hear from Bertha for a while and went about my business which was developing nicely. One day I heard from her. Would I like to come over and see what she’d done to the place. Sure enough, she was up to her old tricks. Fencing had been done, most of the interior had been repainted to her taste, shelving put up in the furnace room, and now she was putting up a backsplash over the kitchen counter out of her favorite little stones, one at a time.
Well that wasn’t the last time I heard of Big Bertha. She had a reclusive sister named Evelyn living in another part of the city. Evelyn was known in the neighborhood as the “cat lady”. In fact, when the SPCA went in to her house they found some sixty-three cats in the tiny little home. They were all well looked after at the expense of the house. The cats were removed by the SPCA, leaving the house empty except for Evelyn. Extensive negotiations between Evelyn and Bertha in the parking lot of a large box store resulted in Evelyn moving into a seniors home and the house being sold for the value of the lot.
It was a bittersweet story between the two sisters. They hadn’t spoken for years. Big Bertha as you have seen was a bundle of energy and common sense while Evelyn was a shy, kind recluse who was fearful of people. The two managed to rekindle a bond (at least temporarily) until Evelyn was resettled. I managed to sell the property quickly and lost my memory of the incident fairly quickly.
As I drew close to retirement, I let Bertha know I would no longer be looking after her and introduced her to one of my other agents. I felt bad as did Bertha, but all things must come to an end. I must say that all my adventures with her were unlike anything else I ever experienced.