Real Estate Stories
Being a rural real estate agent is a big, weird adventure.
Icy country roads are a regular threat.
Moccasins are part of my winter attire.
And then there was the time I nearly got shot.
My real estate agent career is riddled with stories. One in particular haunts me every now and then. I’d been on the hunt for properties for my client when I came across one I thought she’d be interested in. It was an old 1-1/2 storey, and it was vacant, in the process of being repossessed by the bank.
“Yes, you can see it,” they’d said, “but you’ll want to bring flashlights.” We’d been warned.
The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the property was the pile of broken drywall and lumber just beside the house. Before walking into the house, I asked, ‘You’ve got your flashlight?”
“Sure do.” She smiled and waved it.
“Okay,” I smiled too, “Let’s go!” I felt a wave of excitement as I turned the knob, but also a twinge of fear. I’d been to enough vacant, abandoned, and rental properties to know unpleasant surprises sometimes await us.
We entered to discover, thankfully, that most possessions had been cleared out. Even some of the light bulbs. That seemed overly thorough, I thought. I was glad the smell of mildew and cat litter was only faint.
Scanning the living room, it was clear someone had been renovating. Whether things were pulled apart or being put back together though, neither of us could tell. Across the room, one wall featured a smattering of painted images, from clowns to fairies. The painting skill was definitely there, but the sense of interior décor was definitely not.
“Why don’t we check out the basement?” I suggested, hoping to save the upstairs, which I assumed was the best of the floors, for last. She agreed, and we headed for the basement door.
I opened the old wooden door to the basement and, though I knew there was no hydro, was still surprised by the darkness of the stairwell. We clicked on our flashlights and headed down the old plank steps, guiding ourselves with a hand on the concrete wall.
Suddenly a cobweb strung across my face. I tried not to sound panicked as I clawed it away with both hands. Without a hand on the wall or pointing my light, I nearly lost my balance there in the dark.
As we descended, the musty litter smell intensified. In the darkness beside me, I heard her hold her breath. We stood at the bottom landing and pierced the darkness with our beams of light. Low ceiling. One large room. Concrete floors. Dingy.
“Yeah… I’m good.” She said, and hurried back upstairs.
Once back on the main floor, we headed to the stairway to check out the upper floor. They looked rickety. Dirty too. I was the REALTOR®, though, so went first. I gripped the wooden banister and it wriggled in my hand. I froze, looked back at my client, and said, ‘Careful…” and shook it again. How the poor banister had been worked into such a state, neither of us could imagine.
Despite it being mid-afternoon, daylight did little to brighten the house. With flashlights in hand, and feeling rather sleuth-like, we crept gingerly up the stairs. My heart pounded a bit faster as the carpeted steps snapped and popped beneath our weight. The banister continued to wobble. Instinctively, we each put a hand on the wall and moved a little faster.
The second floor was dark. Our small beams of light revealed the space to be vacant except for an overturned cardboard box, and a broken chair in one corner. The carpet throughout appeared to have had sand or gravel ground into it. I shuddered, glad to be wearing shoes. As the floor creaks echoed in the empty rooms, she moved to a bedroom window and inspected it.
“I don’t know…” she sighed and shook her head. “I wanted a fixer upper, but this place needs more than I really want to give it.” She shone her light at the floor and ground the carpet with the tip of her shoe. It made a crunching sound. “And what is that? Not only does the place need a lot of work, but it’s also pretty gross and creepy. I’m about done.”
“No problem. I’m glad to get out of here myself.” I shivered, remembering the cob web.
She cocked her head to the side, seeming to suddenly notice the closet door. “I love those old glass knobs.” We both shone a light on it as she approached. She cradled the knob gently in her palm before giving it a twist. She pulled the door open and shrieked. I jumped, startled.
“What is WITH this place?!”
I hurried over to see. There, in the beams of our lights, stood an old metal trunk. Atop the trunk sat a small plastic person, staring back at us, wide-eyed.
“Wow. Yeah, I’m about done too.” I said.
In moments, we had slapped the door closed, creaked and popped our way down the rickety stairs with our little flashlights, and exited into the rubble-filled yard.
Maybe we’d both seen too many scary movies. Maybe it was the ugliest doll in the creepiest place that got to us. I only know the place gave us both the willies. I wouldn’t trade it though. After all, what’s life without some adventure?
She was single when she bought her first home.
I was so excited to be able to help her with that. Things have sure had changed since I’d been on my own, wanting to buy a house. Back then, it was nearly impossible. It’s thrilling to see that women have the ability to purchase a home for themselves. It’s more freedom than we had even a few decades ago. Amazing.
Then, years later, the phone rang. It was her.
Time had passed, things had changed, and she was ready to sell the house now.
I was honored that she thought of me after all that time.
Life was completely different for her than when we’d first met.
She now lived in that same house, but with her partner. She ran her hands across her swollen belly. They were expecting a child. They loved the property and had even considered staying there and building on to accommodate their growing family, but had decided to move to a larger place instead.
As I mounted the SOLD sign a few weeks later, I felt tremendously blessed.
I was honored to be remembered after five years. I was thankful for the opportunity to serve her again. And I was especially delighted to meet the man who put a ring on her finger.
To watch families grow and change through all of life’s stages is one of the beautiful joys of my work. It’s personal, heartwarming, even heart-wrenching at times, and completely meaningful and satisfying.
What’s the satisfying part of your work?
Years ago, I had the honor of helping a young couple buy their first home. They were the first, and very proud, owners of that home, and had enjoyed it a lot.
Now, with baby number two on the way, they decided to move. With their eyes on the future, they wanted to live in a community where they would want to send their children to school.
As we checked out a few houses, he carried one child in his arms, and she carried the other one low in her belly. The little one would arrive soon. From house to house she rubbed her belly and pressed her palms to her aching back.
They wanted a floor plan similar to the home they had already lived in, and we found one. They imagined the toddler’s room here, and the new baby’s room there…
Her face glowed with the dreamy expectation of a first-time mom.
This location and home suited them perfectly, so we immediately marketed their home. It sold, and they made an offer on the house they’d chosen.
Then something happened that’s never happened in my career before.
At the same time the conditions on their house were removed, their baby was being born!
It was a doubly fantastic day for them.
Now came the awkward part. I needed to get their signatures to complete the deal on their purchase.
I drove over to the Ste. Anne hospital.
A nurse led me down the hall toward the birthing room. That’s right. I was going into the very room that she had just given birth. It was a generously sized room with high timber frame ceilings.
I felt like an intruder as I entered the room. I felt like a huge interruption to their glorious first hours with their newborn son.
But she held the wrapped baby, beaming. She seemed so deeply satisfied. And my arriving, whether it was the signing of papers or the sharing of the moment, seemed to only heighten their joy.
They were the happiest clients I have ever encountered.
These are the moments I live for!
I adore being part of the process, watching people (and families) grow, learn, and become.
The deepest, most rewarding part of my profession is the people. It’s a deep honor to be invited into these intimate moments, to glimpse people’s beautiful hearts, – even nearly get shot by them! – and to help them find that home in which to make memories.
In ten years, I may forget the addresses, siding, or square footage, but I’ll always remember the people.
I left their house with an offer in hand.
The snow might have been crunching, but I didn’t notice. I was practically floating.
After only seven days, the place was about to be sold. Better than that, both sides had been dreams to work with.
It’s the deal every agent wants. And I got it.
I put the car into gear and grinned while the car radio pumped out the perfect beat for celebration.
It was evening in January, and had been dark for hours. That morning I’d navigated the roads during icy rain, and the roads were a bit dicey now that everything had frozen again.
So I took it slow and steady.
There I was, bopping like a thrilled teenager and driving like a grandpa.
I grinned and danced for a few miles… and then I saw it.
There, in the ditch near the highway, was the overturned car. The wheels were up in the air and the lights were still on. A young man stood beside the car.
It must have just happened.
So I did what anyone else would do.
I drove on by and left him there.
Aww, don`t worry. I turned around and came right back! (I told you it was dark and slippery, right?)
I pulled onto the shoulder and approached the young man. He looked to be maybe eighteen or twenty. He was pretty shaken up but didn’t appear to be hurt.
“You okay?” I called to him from the roadside.
Then it occurred to me someone else could be in that car… and not able to come out. Suddenly I was very glad for my warm coat and moccasin boots – I’d be able to come down and help if need be.
“Is anyone with you?”
“No, it’s just me.”
What a relief.
I offered him a ride, which he gladly took.
He pulled on the seatbelt and looked straight ahead, no doubt stunned by the accident. His request was to be taken home. I wasn’t sure that was better than going to the hospital, but we headed toward his home anyway.
You know… you can never tell by looking at someone what kind of home life they come from. I wondered about this young man. Would he be afraid to tell his parents about it? Would there be hell to pay when he got home? Luckily, car rides are great for getting to know someone, and I used the opportunity.
When we came to talking about his parents, he smiled and seemed to warm up to having a conversation.
“Oh no, I’m not worried about my dad,” he smiled.
With joy and gratitude in his voice and words, he told me how his dad has always been there for him, and they’re a solid, safe place for him in this crazy world.
I brought him home and waved him off, so thankful and relieved he was safe.
The next day, two exciting things happened.
First, the offer I’d delivered was accepted. Yay! SOLD sign, here I come!
The other cool thing that happened was that I got a phone call from the boy’s father.
He was so glad that I’d stopped to help his son. Not just that, but our conversation had brought peace and comfort to him in a pretty scary moment.
I was thrilled about selling the house.
But the most meaningful part of that day was hearing how anything I did or said encouraged someone else.
I read somewhere that a day’s success should not be measured by the harvest reaped, but by the seeds sown.
To me, that was a successful day.
Forget about money and houses and debt and stress – life is about people, and serving others is my true thrill.
It happened again.
They’re coming for me, and they’re coming for you too.
They go out of their way to drive to your place, and lie to your face.
Money. Envy. A burr in their britches. Self-loathing. Ego.
Who is this insidious creature? Allow me to set the scene.
I recently listed the home of a sweet elderly couple I’ve known for most of my life. The kindly gentleman had been my brother’s childhood hockey coach way back when. In my hairdressing days, this man became a loyal customer. When I moved into reflexology, he was my client there too. Now, I get to be this couple’s real estate agent. I’m so honored to serve them, and grateful for their lifetime loyalty. You can’t buy that, you know?
Days after I met with the seller and discussed when to put the For Sale sign in their yard, a vehicle drove onto their driveway.
The visitor was another agent who had heard they were moving, and he had come with an agenda.
“So, you are going to list with Tina Plett?,” the agent had asked.
“I was just wondering why you wouldn’t choose a local agent…?”
My client, who was confused by this sudden confrontation about his personal choice, replied, “Tina is as local as it gets!”
The agent left, the mission apparently fulfilled. The goal had simply been to undermine me without provocation, even if it meant being confrontational with a sweet elderly couple.
The weird thing about it though, is not that it’s ridiculous, given that I was born in Steinbach, have lived and worked in Steinbach for most of my life and still do. The weird thing is also not that I have listed in and around Steinbach for years, nor is it that I have life-long relationships with several of my clients.
The weirdest part is not even that this undermining tactic keeps happening, or that the very agents who confront elderly couples in order to win some imaginary pissing match also list in multiple towns.
No. The weirdest part is that they think it’s necessary.
Is it that my success is intimidating to people? (Strong women everywhere will know this feeling well) And apparently this intimidation causes them to dive desperately into aggressive behaviour, and they’re okay with whomever that hurts, even if it is gentle elderly couples.
As usual, all I can really do about it is let you, the reader, know this is happening.
Then you will not be shaken by cowardly egomaniacs in suits who come a- knocking to intimidate you. Or perhaps they will try to steal a paycheck from me and use you to do it.
You will also know that they offer only lies.(Well, that and a willingness to intimidate innocent citizens like single moms and elderly couples if that’s what they feel like doing.)
And, most encouraging, you will also know that what I’m doing – my transparency, integrity, forward-thinking tech savvy, and kick-ass marketing – is working, and they want a piece of it.
So take heart, we’re on the right track…
Recently my boss, one of the founders of Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate, passed away. As I reflected on the great employer he was, and all the things I appreciated about him, I remembered how I loved listening to him tell the same story over and over again about how Kilkenny Real Estate became a Sutton Group franchise. So I thought I’d share it with you.
Blaine Campbell was a bit of a rebel. Don’t let his friendly, helpful ways fool you – he was a forward thinking guy who would gladly rock whatever boat needed rocking if it was the right thing to do. How Sutton Group – Kilkenny Real Estate started, for example, had everything to do with bucking the system.
Generally, being a real estate agent comes with a whole lot of expenses. Office space and administrative staff are an expected cost. Back in Blaine’s day, it was also standard to pay high commission splits. No one ever questioned it – like gas or hydro prices, it’s just the cost of doing business. People just accepted the status quo.
Blaine wasn’t interested in status quo.
He knew there had to be a better way. He found three other like-minded agents to join him in his plan to break from status quo, and together they shared the expenses of office space and an administrator. Kilkenny Real Estate was born. Maybe that doesn’t sound earth shattering, but one does not typically get close and cozy with one’s competitors, especially not entrepreneurs, and especially not in a dog-eat-dog industry like real estate. It would be like Sobeys and Safeway partnering to share a building, office supplies and personnel, but still be individual, competing companies. It just doesn’t happen.
But he didn’t care. This was, to him, a logical improvement. Beyond logic though, he also believed that relationships in the work place should be built on honesty and integrity. When that happens, sharing goes smoother, and synergy happens. (Synergy is the proven idea that a number of people working together can accomplish more than that same number of people working individually)
Other agents heard about this new arrangement and wanted in. Lower costs? Trustworthy team mates? Synergy? Everyone wanted a piece of that. Blaine welcomed them. And more came. And more. … and more. Suddenly the office was filled to capacity, and then some. As demands on their office and staff increased, so did pressure. Synergy slowed, frustrations rose.
Something had to give. Blaine had to either send everyone on their way, and return to the small four agent arrangement or a big change would have to happen.
He then heard about the Sutton franchise. The Sutton pay structure was much like the original agreement between the original four agents. Basically Sutton Group frees the entrepreneurs to keep their income and decide how they want to run their own business. After all, we are independent contractors.
After looking into Sutton Group a little further they decided to go for it. “And you should have seen what happened then!” he told me one day, grinning. Oh, how his eyes lit up whenever he got to this part. The company grew hugely and quickly after they partnered with Sutton group. He never regretted that decision.
I love that story – it is exactly everything I love about Sutton Group-Kilkenny. Integrity, relationship, synergy, and especially freedom to steer my own money, and innovative thinking. It’s everything I ever wanted in a workplace.
And it gets better.
All that innovation and freedom was not just given to the agents, it was also for the administrators. I remember how Blaine told me one day, “The best thing that happened to the office was the day we hired Roberta Talmage.” She is the office manager now, but in her starting out days as administrator, she too had that innovative streak. Roberta created an entire new system of operations and had all the paperwork organized in record time. She didn’t mind changing everything if it was needed. I love that. And the relationship bit was there too. Blaine appreciated that he could rely on her, and that she was not only his valued employee, but also trusted friend.
Even after the huge business growth, Blaine Campbell humbly served his staff. He helped make the feature sheets, the Just Listed and Sold cards, and did all the printing and marketing for us. It was his way of staying in touch with staff. Even though his poor health kept him from the office in recent months, the business was his pride and joy.
I recently sent him a thank you email, and think it’s fitting to close with his humble, team-minded words.
“I’m fortunate to have the best people in the business running the office.
They are the ones who make everything great.”
I’m gonna miss him.
When we first talked on the phone, she imagined our meeting would require her packing up all four kiddos, keeping them up way past bedtime, sacrificing yet another night of Dad time, and desperately trying to keep them all quiet and happy in an office somewhere.
When I offered to come by instead, and meet with her after the kids were in bed, she was shocked. She sighed long and satisfied, relieved. She thanked me profusely. There is so much time-sensitive stuff that has to get done with the buying and selling process, so much pressure and stress. I’m so glad to alleviate at least some of that with in-home meetings.
So was she. She knows time is precious, and we just saved her hours of it.
It reminds me of the last time I spoke with my cousin, who recently passed away. I was in a hurry, wanting to grab a Superstore rotisserie chicken to bring home for supper. I dashed in, discovered the chicken rotisserie counter to be empty, and headed back out of the store. On my way out, I met Steve. I felt compelled to stop and chat with him. We had a wonderful, deep conversation – the kind that makes you think it’s a God appointment. Months later, he was gone. I was so deeply thankful for that time we each took. I would have been disappointed had I chosen to race past. I would have wished for one more moment. Instead, we both decided to use that moment to connect.
Time is precious. It’s a rare commodity that should be respected and guarded, but also given generously. It’s not just our own time that is precious, but others’ time too. Everyone is busy, and wishing for more time.
Whether in your job, with your clients, or with people whose houses you want to buy or see – you’re dealing with people’s time. Respect, guard, and most of all cherish it.
Have you enjoyed a ‘God appointment’ lately? I’d love to hear about it!
Real Estate is a weird industry. Lots happens that would never fly in another industry. If we were all pizza delivery guys for example, the frequent yet acceptable peeve-offs would just not happen.
3 Things That Would Never Happen If We Delivered Pizzas:
1. Last Minute Cancellations
We have been summoned, and in a hurry. We pack our box, load the car, and race off. We dart through traffic, shake a fist at every red light, and hurriedly make our way there. We arrive, tires screeching, only to see another pizza delivery car parked in the drive. Confused, we phone the one who summoned us, to hear, “Oh. Yeah. Umm… I decided to get a pizza from somewhere else. I hope you don’t mind.” Yes. Yes, I mind.
2. Multiple Price Checks
While manning the phone between deliveries, a call comes in from someone with a low, drawling voice – not unlike Rocky – asking, “Yo. How much for uh – an extra large?” We quote, he hangs up.
Every two minutes thereafter, low and drawling calls back with a new question. “Yo – how about two larges?” “But what about three mediums?” “Is there a deal if we get garlic bread?” The poor man is clearly confused, so naturally – being great at customer service – we ask him how many people he is trying to feed. He assumes we’re prying, and refuses to answer. He continues to call though, for another twenty minutes. He never places an order. (We find out later though, that he is a regular customer of a competing pizza parlour.)
3. The Racey Strategy
A pizza order is placed, but with conditions. “I have ordered two pizzas – one from you, and one from your competition. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to race over here to earn my business. We will then hold a reverse auction on my doorstep. Fastest one with the lowest price wins. Ready? GO!” You resent being treated like a circus animal, but this is how pizza delivery guys are treated, so you dance.
Why this ridiculous behavior is par for the course in the Real Estate industry I may never understand. But maybe, with your help spreading the word, we can put a stop to this craziness.
If you know someone who is a Real Estate agent, please share this with them. At the least, they’ll get a chuckle and not feel alone. But they might also share it with their readers and maybe – just maybe – we can put an end to the Mission Impossibles and the Rocky’s who would have us jump through hoops like dolphins.
Whatever your business is – even if you deliver pizza – do you have this craziness in your industry? Share a story! Come on – we know you have some…
Care to take a bit of a tour with me?
I could not just leave these Redneck goodies wallowing in the past. They need to be brought forward once more.
In fact, they demanded it.
Oh yes, these stories seriously required being retold.
So here, in all their glory, the best Rural Redneck Realty highlights of this year.
What’s Awesome About Rural Living: A Photo Tour
The Offer That Nearly Got Me Shot!
A Day in the Life of a Rural Agent – Dabbling In Tourism
Redneck Adventures – You Know You’re A Redneck When…
Rednecks and Potty Humour
Garden Therapy – A Rural Agent’s Lifeline
I hope you enjoyed the tour. Y’all come back now, ya hear?
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Feel like hearing a story about Real Estate life in the Great White North?
I remember showing a house once, where the driveway was covered with a fresh 3-inch layer of snow. It was the gorgeous, fluffy, sparkly kind, and was only marked by tire tracks of the sellers’ vehicle as they had apparently left. My buyer and I each parked our vehicles. I got out, and turned toward my buyer’s vehicle. She stayed in her car. Snow surrounded my shoe and dusted onto the top of my foot. I walked over to her vehicle, creating a fluffy wake as I walked.
Looking confused, she rolled down her window and asked, “Oh. … you’re not going to shovel the driveway?”
I’m pretty sure I was now the one wearing a confused look. I’m not sure exactly what I said – I was confused by the suggestion that I should shovel the driveway. Whatever I said, we braved the snow together, and made it into the house.
Once inside though, the fluffy snow had turned to puddles on our feet. We slid our shoes off, and proceeded to track wet feet through the house. What could we do? Shovel the driveway? Mop the floor? Rummage through the cupboards for a paper towel or a rag or mop? Not likely. So the showing continued and we left our trail of prints. I hated leaving foot prints on their kitchen floor. (What kind of business card is that?) It was just awkward.
So I’m thinking about wearing moccasins. Still, I won’t have extras for my clients. So, if you are a seller (or anyone who is expecting company for any reason?), and you do not prefer wet socks and toes dripping prints all over, shoveling your driveway would solve a few problems for a few people.
What would you do? Would you rummage for towels, or leave it?
More importantly … do you shovel your driveway when you’re expecting someone?