Saturday, January 20, 2018

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Opinions of Value

Opinions of Value
One of the things about becoming a broker is the basic appraisal course which arguably allows one to value properties from different perspective. A friend and client of mine who worked for a financial investment organization had a wide network of clients in the Whiteshell chain of lakes, he himself owning a cottage on Lee River and being involved in all kinds of recreational activities. How he became a client of mine and how we struck up a friendship is a story for another time.
In this case however, we were dealing with a tax situation involving capital gains on cottages after 1972. What was needed was a valuation to be declared for the purpose of recording such capital gains after that date. It was called valuation day or V-day. As a real estate broker, I was allowed to give my valuations on cottages or secondary homes (but not other properties requiring a licensed appraiser) at a pittance of the cost of a licensed appraiser.
My financial friend did a good job of setting me up with a number of appointments so I got busy designing forms to use in the exercise. This was going to be some adventure. Of course, these appointments had to be on the weekend while people were at their cottages. It would cut into my regular real estate business, but it was regular money and it was a chance to explore the chain of lakes traveled by the Ojibway of the long distant past.
So, bright one Saturday morning I set off past the Sagkeeng First Nation, turning east up Hwy. 317 at Libau and heading into lake country. Each of the lakes was rather small and somewhat enclosed by bush and trees, surrounded by cottages and trailers. It was an idyllic setting. I went to work with my brand new forms and it turned out well. Within half an hour I was out of there and on my way to two lakes further down. It was such a beautiful sunny day that I almost missed my turn off into the next lake which was larger and more treed. It was obviously a more popular lake.
I pulled up to the address I was given and couldn’t believe my eyes. Here on the front porch was old George Mathers sitting in a chair beside an aluminum ladder, a paint tray and roller on the table beside him, having a cup of coffee. George was a painting contractor I had known for years when I was in the glass business. I hadn’t seen him for a long time, yet I recognized him immediately. He hadn’t hardly changed at all except maybe a little more grey hair. By now he must be in his mid nineties, yet here he was, painting the eaves around the cottage.
“Just what in the world do you think you’re doing?” I blurted out.
George just smiled. “You’ve got to keep things up you know. The kids are inside waiting for you.” Well he was never much of a conversationalist. I went inside to see his daughter and son-in-law who were well into their seventies and seniors in their own right.
Once I got done at the Mathers’ place I headed straight for Falcon Lake to my next appointment. There was no problem finding the place. It was a giant edifice on the lake front begging an invitation. The owner’s name was Johnston.  There was a great big “Dorwin” sign on the property, so I knew immediately who it belonged to. The old man was long dead, so this must be the son. The place had all the attributes of somebody who knew how to make a buck.
Don Johnson was waiting for me at the door and on my introduction got right down to business.  He told me this was serious business and asked if I was a straight shooter. I had expected this and replied that all my life I had never knowingly lied to anybody . . . . until I met his father.
“WHAT?” he exploded, although there was a smile on his face.
“He was the king of all liars and he could do it so well, it took me a while to catch on.”
“How did you know him?” Don wanted to know.
So I explained to him how we were working at competing glass companies and we used to check our glass quantities with one another to make sure we didn’t really make a mistake. If we found that to be true, we’d simply withdraw from the bidding (which was allowed) leaving the other bidders in place to take the contract. Once I caught on to that it became a contest of who was the bigger liar.
The grin on Don’s face broadened considerably. “Yup, that was dad alright”, he confessed. Well after that we got on like a house on fire and the visit became longer than intended.

It was strange that my visits crossed paths with so many people out of my past, but it was a good time with lovely scenery and a good income. What more could you want?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - The Group of Seven

The Group of Seven
Well, I walked right into that one didn’t I? Now I have to tell you about the adventures of the engineer that brought him to his real estate affair. This is not really a deal that I was involved in, but it is worthwhile telling.
It seems that there were seven fellows, all professionals who wanted to have an upper class lifestyle. So they banded together and rented a place on Wellington Crescent in the older section of stately houses. Well, you’ve all heard the stories about young engineers. It seems that their parties were a little too energetic for the neighbors and the complaints against them got them booted out of the neighborhood.  Undaunted, they scoured around the area and darned if they didn’t come up with another address even more stately than the one they had been evicted from.
A place like that didn’t come cheap either. Very few people could afford to rent a place like that on their own but with a consortium it was possible. It had its economic benefits for the owner too. Almost everyone was happy and if one person left, another would take his place. Each person had his own bedroom or suite of rooms and the common area was by arrangement.
That’s how it was the night he invited us to his place after the annual Hunt Club Ball at the Canoe Club. He wanted to show us what life was like in the “upper class” I guess. So a few of us went over to see this lifestyle. I was the only one who knew he had bought the place in our neighborhood.
We gathered together at the front door, that being a giant verandah that swept across the front of the house in magnificent Tindal stone construction, and entered at the engineer’s invitation. Well! We had never seen anything like this except perhaps on television. It was indeed a grand entrance sweeping around in a semi circle and leading to two sets of stairs that led to the main floor reception area and what I assumed to be a ballroom or large public area. I looked around to see every one of our company’s mouths agape (as was mine I’m sure) at the sight that beheld them.
The engineer took us on a tour through the dining hall, the sitting room, the massive kitchen to the servants stairway, now unused, and back to the sitting room where we parked ourselves to comment on the evening and the elegant home of the engineer. He told the rest of the group that this elegant lifestyle was now marked off his to do list and he would be joining us in more subdued surroundings in the park area. He was looking forward to it.
Time passed and the engineer moved into his new digs, making a considerable number of changes to suit his lifestyle. He built a barn to house his two horses and generally settled in to life near the park.

Well this is about the end of the story of the engineer who settled in nicely and continued as an active member of the Hunt Club. He also came to my place fairly often to visit and we became good friends. I just wanted to relate the story to show how many things we as real estate agents do well to absorb and learn from.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Liar, LIar, Pants on Fire - Mrs. Greenberg's Adventure

Mrs. Greenberg’s Adventure
People who are not accustomed to reading sections, ranges and townships in the country really have no business being there in the first place. It’s definitely not the same as the street names and addresses they are accustomed to. Time after time you see them winding up within a five mile radius of their destination, not knowing where in the world they are. How to get where they are going, and an incredible fear they’ll never ever get home again.
Mrs. Greenberg was such an agent. She was a dynamic force to be reckoned with in her city property sales. Her powerful personality more or less intimidated people into doing her bidding. In fact, I was in her home office one day and was seated in what she called her ‘Real Estate’ chair.  It was a large, comfortable leather recliner that you sank into while listening to her invitation to sit. The problem was getting out of it without her assistance. She laughed, saying that she was more than willing to help as soon as the client signed the agreements she put before them on her little portable table that was conveniently set beside the chair. Actually, she was only half joking.
Well, Mrs. Greenberg had met a traffic engineer somehow in her travels. She seemed always to gravitate toward people with degrees after their name, having introduced herself as a Real Estate agent (of note, I’m sure), Of course I don’t know what conversation took place exactly, but it turned out that the engineer, a member of the Manitoba Hunt Club was looking for a place in “horse country” to pursue his hobbies, one of them being the apiary business.
“Oh, how interesting,” she exclaimed, smelling a new buyer. “I’m sure with a little research I’ll be able to find something for you. Leave it with me for a day or so.”
What could be so difficult about this, she thought. Real estate is real estate, and she went through the office records to find suitable properties with confidence. She did find several that she thought might be perfect for her new friend and called him. They set up an appointment to view some vacant land.
Full of confidence and anticipation she picked up the engineer in her big black Lincoln and took off for the outskirts of the city. She got to the north/south highway and was intimidated at the speed at which the cars were whizzing by. Finally she roared across the intersection and into the northbound traffic. The city now behind her, Mrs. Greenberg was viewing the vacant prairie, the trees and bushes on either side of the road and everything in the world that was alien to her. More than that, cars and big transport rigs were speeding past her.
As she sped along the highway she was losing her confidence. The Engineer suddenly piped up and said they’d missed the turn off. WHAT? Oh well, she’s just take the next turn off on the divided highway. That wasn’t as easy as she’s assumed. It was five kilometers past before she could swing back. It took some driving to maneuver out of the way of the gravel and transport trucks pulling up behind her and honking her out of the road.  The engineer was yelling, “There it is! THERE IT IS!”
Mrs. Greenberg barely made the corner with gravel trucks still on her trail. They were going to the pits to fill up their loads and didn’t have much time for meandering real estate agents. As she looked up the road to the trees on both sides and the hill going up, Mrs. Greenberg had a sense of foreboding. What would be on the other side of that hill? Still she drove on. Climbing the hill, she suddenly saw a big gravel truck come bursting over the top. That must be a steep hill. She hadn’t seen him approaching at all. By the time she reached the summit, there was nothing but empty space staring at her. Fortunately she had enough momentum to keep on a little further until she saw the bottom. It was a long way down!
Finally there was a road that led off from her path. She took it, swinging back around to the one she had just left and powered up the hill. That’s when absolute terror set in. All she could see was blue sky! Who knew what would be on the other side of it. She was going too fast! Finally the ground leveled out and she was on an even keel again.  Her terror dissolved into tears of relief. The engineer patted her on the shoulder and offered to drive her home. “Oh please,” she whimpered.
Once back in the city Mrs. Greenberg regained her confidence and took over the wheel again. Before she dropped the engineer off, she promised she would find somebody who could help him – which is where I came in to the picture. They had been only two miles or so from where I lived when they turned around.
The engineer was grateful to have found me and I delivered on my duty to find him a place not far from my home. We did become friends and in fact, he put some hives on my property. We saw each other quite regularly and even visited together at the hunt club annual ball.
In the end, I thanked Mrs. Greenberg for the referral and gave her a piece of the commission which pleased her no end.

As for the engineer, I must tell you what prompted him to move out to the country. It’s quite a story. But in the meantime life went on.