Category Archives: Random House

November 29, 2009

The proper establishment and maintenance of reasonable boundaries is an occupational hazard for many Realtors. Although you aren’t likely to see CAL-OSHA jumping in to legislate anytime soon. The blurring of the lines between a client’s and a professional’s needs,  goes part and parcel with important work that involves helping people navigate through big transitions in their lives.

Unfortunately, early on, most Realtors gravitate towards one end of the spectrum of possible choice or the other – which means, that they often get stuck in a lopsided position in the end, with almost no choice available that will allow them to adjust and adapt appropriately to different situations, as they arise in the course of a normal day’s work.

Some Realtors forget or don’t bother to establish strong enough boundaries in the beginning. Their personal containers are so porous, they end up taking on most of the heavy duty trials and tribulations their clients are experiencing. It is not unusual to hear stories about them waking up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep because they have become de facto dopplegangers, sympathetic twins, destined to live out their client’s worries.

Other Realtors,  as soon as they feel the initial pangs of a tough situation approaching. one that may demand a  heightened degree of empathy and require them to walk some distance in another  person’s shoes,  react with a swift preemptive, defensive strike, shutting down and hunkering down into their own human bunker mentality, deciding that it is probably safest to treat people like they are all widgets driven off the assembly line of life.

To be a good Realtor, you have to be able to consciously expand and contract the apertures on the exoskeleton that surrounds you like  a net that both connects you to the world and protects you from it at the same time. If the openings in your net are too small – almost nothing gets in or through. It is hard to help someone when you are closed off to the touch of a reasonable feedback loop. For others, the spaces in their nets are huge and  gaping  24/7 –  practically big enough to drive a Mac Truck through on a moment’s notice. Its impossible to be a great helpmate to a someone when you are always in danger of a head-on collision.


What’s wrong with this picture?

You make an appointment to show a 2,000 square foot house with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths.  When you get there, the “motivated” sellers are camped out in front of the TV, watching Wheel of Fortune in the great room, which comprises roughly 800 square feet of the available 2,000.

Either someone isn’t spelling it out or the word “motivated” doesn’t really apply. The conscious and unconscious message being conveyed is the same: “You can buy this on our terms or not at all. Don’t imagine yourself in our house, because we aren’t ready to let go of it. We are holding on for dear life. Our lives not yours.”

That great room. That beautiful space with the open feeling and soaring ceilings is the one spot that is going to sell the home. I can practically guarantee that most buyers are going to spend about 5 minutes in the most important space of the house even if they love Wheel of Fortune too.

If they spend  more time than that in the house, they’ll spend it cramped in the tiny hallways, or jammed out of earshot and eyeshot of the Sellers,  back in the claustrophobic bedrooms or lodged in the unimportant ante-spaces of the home – like the laundry or the mud porch. These are the places that are the least appealing and the most appalling.

Sellers – if you just gotta be there for some reason. Be there in a different space – far away from the one magic spot that is going to initiate the love affair.  Everyone throws off their own invisible force field  – particularly in our culture. We don’t barter in the bizarre nose to nose with the guy selling the goods. We don’t want to confront. We don’t want to offend. We don’t want to stick our noses anywhere where they might be construed as being too assertive – particularly in the middle of someone else’s sacred home space.

If a Buyer can’t imagine their own lives in your home because there is too much of yours assaulting them with an over-powering vibe, they aren’t going to buy the house.

If they don’t have a chance to just stop, sit down and leisurely, comfortably absorb the space that is the most dynamic room in the home, they aren’t going to buy. If you are going to say motivated to someone, let your ego go and say it with your actions – which will speak way louder than any words your Agent plops into the listing.


Tip for Agents:  Try walking behind prospective buyers looking at a house for the first time. Instead of making yourself the star of the show by jumping front and center to give the grand tour,  bring up the rear and use the vantage point to watch what they are watching. See what their body language says. If you notice that they are all looking up towards that one little discolored spot in the ceiling…time to get the paint brush out. If you notice their bodies constrict and crunch around a piece of furniture that has gradually shifted itself over in front of a sliding glass door, get that piece out of there.  The body language is universal. It doesn’t lie.  Stop trying too hard to sell the thing that, in the end, has to sell itself. Stop talking long enough to pay attention.




Real Estate…The Earlier Origins before the Origin…

The year? 1982, I think.

There I was spanking chickens in the back of India Joze Restaurant with my most constant cohort in art – Fast Edy. Spanking chickens was a process that involved stretching butterflied breasts of chicken out on a piece of crisp white baking paper, on top of a butcher block table and then proceeding to whack the crap out of them with flat side of an ominously large and heavy meat cleaver.

The object was…to flatten out the birds so that they could first be frozen, then defrosted, then soaked in marinade and finally thrown onto the grill whenever a chicken order came up that called for a butterflied breast Tandoori or Panggang style. If they were pummeled into submission, they would cook more evenly when thrown onto the grill.  

And we served a ton of chicken at India Joze. So, we did a lot of spanking. Therapeutic in many ways of course. Not for the chickens though. It got out the aggressions but it also summoned up a kind of muse that enjoyed the foul, the whacked, became the forge that pounded the meat of things out of their normal shape and prepared them for something new and different – the next unknown step in their evolutionary process. You could say those chickens were great food for thought.

Anyway, it was during one of those long, marathon chicken spanking sessions that Fast and I (known alternately as Bathrobespierre, Pope Artaud, Chief Broom and the Head Sanitarian of the Janitorial Arts Collective at the Santa Cruz Art Center), plotted out the next Performance Art Project, that would actually become the centerpiece of the rest of my life up until this moment.

After the Calamari Festival and the Junk Art and the Last Fast Food Festivals and The Eater of Cruelty Poultry Reading and Poetry Eating events, what was next? What local Everests of Art where left to conquer? What was the most improbable, unexpectedly, surprising, shocking thing that I could possibly do using my own life as my canvas?  

The answer was simple. Become a businessman.


Meetings with Remarkable Clients.

One of the most memorable real estate outings I ever heard about was from an Agent in my office.

One day, she got a call, from somebody’s representative and agreed to meet with a prospective buyer, sight unseen, at a large gated Pebble Beach property to start the tour of wealthy homes for sale in the area.   The commission on a  $10-$20  million home?  Too hard to resist the temptation. Gotta show some property to whoever shows up.

Turned out to be the black sheep scion of a well-known San Francisco-based family. He was a trust fund baby and the family’s fortune was centered around a signature product that had been a household name for most of the 20th Century.

Of course, it also turned out that this trust fund baby, was in his early 50’s.  He showed up in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce limo. Silk pajamas, plush crushed velvet smoking jacket. A thin white duke of a man in heel-less slippers, he almost glided across the ground as he shuffled forward, rounding around the side of the car. It could have been Hugh Hefner.  He had that odd caricature-like presence, that comes from living too long disconnected from the bigness of one’s own life.  This Hugh was additionally infused with a heapin’ helpin’ of  Howard Hughes-ness –  a once vital soul snatched up in the jaws of something unfathomable and carried into the dark night of the underworld, living some kind of lopsided, agoraphobic half-life in a twilight existence bound to a strange ethereal state of non-being.

He never went anywhere without his colorful pet duck trailing behind him tethered by a long, silver leash.  The duck was as well-trained as any show dog. Smart and well mannered. It knew it’s place in the hierarchy of things. The uniformed chauffeur following up the rear in this motley caravan of three, carrying a plastic bag in one hand, just in case.

This Agent, showed this client at least 5 different properties over the course of a day in Pebble Beach. She would lead the Rolls Royce through each princely gate, down the long winding approach of the estate driveway. Get out of her car first. Go up to the door and somehow explain to however answered that a man in silk pajamas and smoking jacket, accompanied by his pet duck and trusty chauffeur, was about to come through to tour the home.




Real estate is stranger than fiction. Way stranger. Take a broad swath of people – folks of every size, shape, color, age, education, background, financial status, demographic label – get them interacting with themselves, with each other, with their Agents and the oftentimes confusing overlay of esoteric (as only man can make them) systems that are difficult to decipher – including the marketplace, the economy, mortgage processes, real estate cya-land , insurance, banking ad infinitum ad nauseum and add to this still, the fact that home and money are two of the most highly charged, raw and exposed erogenous zones culturally preordained to stimulate and cause wild swings of emotion in human beings designed to illicit the gamut of good, bad and ugly of human nature and then throw in, for good measure the fact that the majority of people either buy homes or sell homes in close conjunction to some major life transition they are going through by hook or by crook by choice or by fate – i.e. – birth of twins, death, divorce, coming of age, empty nesting, job loss, health issues, marriage, job transfer…and….you have a wonderfully rich, petri dish of an environment, where virtually anything can happen. Just plain old everyday, run of the mill, missionary position real estate is infused and fraught with infinite possibilities that can become strange and stranger-than-strange at a moments notice. All you have to do, to see it, appreciate it, take it all in, marvel at it, thank the cosmos for presenting the lesson of it – is stay awake and pay attention.