I decided to hit the road this week. Chuck the laptop. Disconnect my intravenous newsfeed. Drag myself out of the comfort zone of the Cra-Z-Boy chair. Venture out into the great unknown of Thursday’s Brokers Open House Tour.
Yep. A chance to go “live.” Put the “real” back in the real estate. Visit a few listings up close and personal. Re-stock the inventory inside my head just in case an actual buyer wanders in out of the wilderness.
Good to double-check. Make sure I’m not falling prey to any bad habits. When seemingly “everything” about “every” property is available via a simple download, it’s easy to get lazy. Tempting to inhale new listings off the MLS with a continuing blitz of virtual drive-bys.
With the best of intentions I scoured the Brokers Tour Sheet in search of excellence. From the a la carte menu, I made a selection and headed out towards a rural estate nestled among the redwoods.
That’s when the road paved with good intentions started to go sideways. I passed 8 open house signs pointing me in the right direction. But they must have run out. By the time I reached the property, there were none to be found. I couldn’t tell which long driveway to turn into.
I took a chance. Parked my car. Summoned that reserve of courage that comes from years of showing the kind of remote properties where banjo music hangs in the air and Rottweilers are always on hand to greet you.
I let myself in the front door and heard a ghostly, disembodied voice say “Come in.” It was a 70’s design where the entryway poses an immediate dilemma. One stairway going up. The other heading down. I had to pick one. A throwback to a time when baby boomers were young. And architects loved multi-level gestalts. Long before the West tried to appropriate Feng Shui for itself.
No booties by the door though. Good sign. Clearly some people understand that too much touring without proper arch support has longterm consequences. Someone should invent a line of disposable sandals specially-made for open houses.
I chose the high road and emerged into the carefully-crafted ambiance of music, a warm fire and the strong scent of plug-in air fresheners. A generous spread of baked goods and beverages beckoned.
I was immediately reminded why conventional wisdom always says the owner should be absent during open houses. In a flash she was on me. Her invisible force field jousting with the fragile boundaries of my own. Her Agent was close behind. And then, a second agent. The other half of the real estate “team. ” I was outnumbered three to one.
Before I knew it, I had a glossy flyer in my hand, a copy of the parcel map, a fresh croissant, mineral water and a long explanation about why I couldn’t see a guest house that was really one of the most wonderful features of the property. I hadn’t even moved five feet from the stairs. Is there a second chance for first impressions?
The owner buoyantly suggested a personal tour. I said no but she kept right on going. The three of them shadowed me, pointing out the obvious the entire time.
They explained that the dining room had been converted into a home office (which accounted for the desk and the computer.) That the house had been totally 70ish before she completely transformed it (belying the huge fake-rock fireplace still dominating the great room.)
The bedrooms got smaller and smaller as the caravansary piled in. When the four of us crammed into one of the bathrooms my glance in the mirror doubled the number to eight. I felt trapped in a bad orgy.
I saw every small closet the house had, along with a freezing unfinished attic space. I got a full description of the time it took to remove all the invasive scotch-broom in the back. The seller pointed to a smidgeon of sunlight peeking through the trees at the top of a shady 45 degree slope and told me I could find the property line somewhere up there. When I commented on the lack of sun, everyone insisted that it was infinitely sunny at midday during the month of June. The fact that it was February probably explains the musty smell.
After 30 minutes, I swear I can’t remember a single important thing about this house. I can’t tell you about the floorplan or what the kitchen or the master bedroom look like. All I know is that the property is hard to find, full of unimportant details, steep hills, tedious maintenance, inaccessible areas, unfinished spaces and small dark corners.
The good news? It has great croissants.