Flys on the Wall

Want to witness an interesting phenomenon sometime? Park yourself  in the corner of a broker’s open house and become a fly on the wall. The Dance of the Realtors is always entertaining.

After two decades,  I still get a kick out of  the little realty bites they deliver up.   Even in difficult times, the banter between colleagues, the fascinating mix of funny-weird, funny-haha and outright gallows humor is life-affirming for the cultural anthropologist in me.  It adds healthy fiber to the steady diet of doom and gloom I’ve been dining on lately – knowing/working/talking with so many people struggling through difficult home transitions.  Nothing like a little real estate lite on occasion to  balance out the existential torture of it all.

I hardly have time to wrestle the plastic sign out of my trunk and get the lock box open before three nosey-neighbors are in the door, roaming like hyper-active children at the Mall.  There’s something about that sign going up.  It’s a beacon.  A gold-embossed invitation. It feels like the entire cul de sac has me surrounded.  They’ve been up since 5am peeking through Venetian blinds. They’ve got their Nike’s on just waiting for that damned sign that says Open House.  They can’t help it.

One Seller, years back, was determined not to give his neighbors the satisfaction of a free-look-see into his private life. Of all the uncomfortable things Sellers put up with, that was the one thing that irked him the most.  I put a person at the front door and asked Agents to present their cards before entering. Wow! Some people really got angry when they were denied a chance to see how the other half lived. They even questioned the “legality” of  keeping non-brokers out of a broker’s open house, feeling their right to snoop was guaranteed by the constitution.

Here come the first few agents breezing through with their salvo of quips.  “Hey, it’s Brezsny in the flesh!  What are you doing working an open house? Don’t you have minions for this task?” My reply: “Elvis has to be in the building before he can leave it.”

“Hey, Brezsny where are the fresh croissants? Didn’t you get up early to bake?”  Sorry mon amis, it’s 2010 and as the other King (BB)  says: “The frill is gone.”  No more free courier service from the title companies. No more free equity lines topping off those liar’s loans. And no more free spreads to lure agents through places that are either going to sell or not sell themselves. The fancy catering gig was always more about impressing the Sellers anyway.  That gig/jig is up.

“Hey Brezsny, how come that listing in Aptos didn’t sell? That was a great house.” To explain that mystery, I can only invoke Dr. John, the Night Tripper: ” Musta’ been the right place. Musta’ been the wrong time.”

Shhh. Here comes, what could be an actual buyer. (I’m not quite sure what they look like anymore!)  She’s looking thoughtful.  She’s drinking it all in.   I can see her communing with the soulful ambiance of this old house offered at the low, low price of $500/sq ft. She wanders over, makes direct eye contact and asks the one question that, for some reason, they all have to ask.  Is there a book  I don’t know about, that everyone else has read, that says, whatever else you do,  always ask:  “Why are they selling?”

The look in most people’s eyes when they ask this, is eerily expectant. Pregnant with pause. It’s hard to tell what answer they are really seeking.  “The teenager next door plays Twisted Sister at decibel level twelve all night long and the Sellers are slowly going insane from lack of rem sleep?”  “Black mold has infiltrated every pore of the home’s hideous wallpaper and six innocent people have already died?” “The divorce is so ugly that if they don’t sell, it might end worse than Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses? ”

How about…”They just want to move.”  It could be that simple you know. Or not.  And how about if we continue to caravan through a few more live open house – open mike moments next week…I’ve hot wired the webcams on about a dozen Agents’ laptops…so we can tune in and sneak alot more peeks.


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