Lights, Camera, Fiction
By Homer Guthrie
Our son Freddy is one of those young people for whom the bumper sticker “Hire a Teenager While They Still Know Everything” was created. Perhaps that’s why he can’t get a job, now that he’s no longer a teenager.
“Dad,” Freddy said when I last broached the subject of employment. “Real estate. Think about it.”
As an expert homeowner I think about real estate every day. I have tremendous respect for the many real estate people I know. They are self-starters, highly self-disciplined, driven to succeed and if they don’t close the deal, they don’t get paid. There’s no room for slackers in this real estate economy. They scrap for every little deal they can get. Didn’t sound like the Freddy I know.
“Are you sure? You know, times are tough. Why don’t you try something easier, like selling bunk beds to the kids your age who are going to be living at home until they’re 35?”
“No way, dad. Hey. I’ve been watching TV. Real estate is hot.” Freddie likes to speak in very short sentences.
My wife and I like Dancing with the Stars and she goes for Bachelor and I try to sneak in an hour of Wipeout now and then. So to encourage our son’s newfound ambition, we checked out his favorites: “Power Flippers,” “Rip and Rent” and “List it or Lose it”. Few topics have such dramatic opportunities as real estate. I steeled myself for teary families reading the sheriff’s notices nailed to the front door of their homes, black mold ravaging flooded basements and the heart-rending frustration of a mortgage rejection letter when you’ve found the dream house of your life. Perhaps with an intro featuring a helicopter-shot montage of foreclosure ghost towns like Mirage Mills, where we live, and otherwise known as the Chernobyl of American real estate.
But reality real estate on TV portrayed a different real estate reality. Fresh-faced rehabbers spoke in short sentences, just like Freddy, and swooned over discounted granite countertops. Chatty designers shared cute tricks that made closet-sized room look larger and oversized closets look like an extra bedroom. Agents spun deals by manipulating their sellers to accept reality and list for less. Rapacious buyers were cautioned against greed. Onscreen graphics calculated vacillating commissions as uber-agents did batter with each other. Best of all, buyers were always found for projects that end up way over budget and sellers were always grateful to settle for something less than they after they stood at the brink and peeked into the abyss.
When we flipped off the tube, Freddy was standing there smiling. He had no ear buds in his ears. It was one of those rare opportunities for empathy between parents and child.
“Dad, now that you see how cool it is, wouldn’t you like to get in? Can you stake me $10,000 to buy into an awesome deal on Millstream Road?”
I had a better idea. Before the day was over, Freddy was the newest sales intern at the small agency owned by my friend Bea Meriwether, broker-owner of Plan Bea Real Estate. She put him to work sorting through lists and making cold calls to Welcome Wagon clients and older homeowners who haven’t more in ten years or more. At first, he moaned and groaned; we figured Freddie’s fictional real estate world was getting a cold shower and he wouldn’t last long.
Then the grousing stopped and we heard nothing out of him for several weeks until Bea called me one day.
“Do you know how hard it is to find sellers today? Inventories are down, prices are up, buyers starting to smelt the coffee but sellers are off in fantasy land. Even harder is finding motivated sellers who have their heads screwed on straight when it comes to pricing. Six years of a buyers’ market has turned sellers into an endangered species.”
I pled ignorance. Felicity and I are deeper underwater than the Titanic and our odds of selling are about the same as winning Mega Millions.
“Do you know what you son has done?”
Uh-oh. Here it comes.
“In just one month, he has single handedly turned Plan Bea into that hottest listing agency in town.”
“You sure we’re taking about the same Freddie?”
“He’s amazing. We’re getting twice as many listings each week as any other agency in town. On our site he created a local List It or Lose It blog with a contest for the seller who can generate the most offers. Each month the winner gets a free cruise. Stars from the show are posting videos and the producers want to come to town to feature him in an upcoming segment. The blog gets thousands of hits a day. Even the Mirage Mills Metro is doing a story on him.”
When he got home from worth that evening, Freddie’s hair was moussed like Ryan Seacrest’s and he had been promoted to agent, pending passing the licensing exam. “Hey dad, I need one more passive investor for that REO on Millstream. Let me know fast. Are you in?”
“Hey, I’m all in. Let’s do it.” I was so proud of my son.
To contact Homer Guthrie, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.