Champagne Wishes? Caviar Dreams?
By Hugo Torres
“Your job sounds so glamorous” is one of the most common phrases I hear from folks when they first learn that I’m a REALTOR by trade.
You know what? It CAN be glamorous and a lot of fun but underneath every great million-dollar listing, lavish Open House, or show-stopping purchase there is a mountain of not-so-glamorous moments that can test anyone’s resolve.
In early 2005, for instance, I was working with a young couple whose budget kept us looking at starter-homes. The real estate market was already in its steep climb in prices and this often had us looking at
homes with lots of deferred maintenance. Over the course of the long summer we had walked in and out of dozens of homes that featured torn carpeting, leaky plumbing, questionable additions, worn out sections of roofs, slight fire damage, heavily stained ceilings and a home that tilted to the north just a bit too much for comfort.
We became pals over this odyssey and after a while found a way to laugh after another challenging showing. The months dragged on and after a few lack-luster appointments they were starting to lose hope on finding a place to call their own. Then, as if by design, an agent in my office talked to me about a home she would be listing in several weeks that sounded ideal for my client. In glee, I asked question after question about the home and with each consecutive answer I great more convinced that I had found “The One.”
The would-be listing agent sensed my excitement and just before I rushed to call them she stopped me in the hall and warned me that the owner (who had recently moved in with family) had owned 5 dogs, kept
years’ worth of purchased clothing strewn in piles throughout the property and that orange shag carpeting had not been seen in some places for at least a decade. In short, the home would not be available for a preview for at least a month and I was warned that I needed to prepare my client for a scene out of a “disaster movie.”
In a split second I took quick mental stock of the myriad of homes we’d encountered and I figured that the positives described outweighed any of the challenges my colleague had described. It was this instinct
that begged the listing agent to give us access to the home and with the delight of a 20-something I called my client and told them all about the needle-in-a-haystack I had just come across.
Our appointment was set noon time on a Thursday. After a 40-minute drive to La Mirada we excited the car and upon arriving I saw a smile draw across my client’s face in the rear view mirror and then her
fiancee and I shared a quick wink before he exited the passenger’s side. “So far so good,” I thought and I walked confidently up the walkway, reaching quickly into my pocket for the key to their new home.
They stood back a bit while I went to open the door and I felt the thrill of them enjoying the curb appeal that my colleague had described which made me take notice.
The first whiff of trouble make once I turned the knob and broke the seal at the threshold. The home had been baking for two and a half months in a sweltering California summer and unbeknownst to me the
dogs that had once lived there had left some hidden “presents” behind that caused a near toxic smell that knocked me back a foot or two. By this point I wasn’t a stranger to odd odors but this was not like anything I had ever encountered before. My hand darted up to cover my nose and mouth and I swung my head around upon hearing “What’s wrong?” from my awaiting clients.
I quickly walked down to them and warned them about the smell and apologized. I told them that I had not anticipated this development and understood if they did not want to brave the interior.
They looked at each other, they smiled and then they looked right back at me. We’d come all this way, the house sounded right, the price was ideal and it couldn’t be “that bad.” They made the decision in that
instance to come in and after taking a long deep breath we rushed inside to see the interior.
As it had been described, the home was a labyrinth of books, knick-knacks, old photos and 35 years of clothes laid in stacks 3 to 4 feet tall in nearly every room in the house. It was painful to walk from room to room. Eyes watered with every pungent breath and we all took the quickest glances possible. They were practiced buyers after all and knew how to size up a house for themselves better than most. In less than five minutes we toured the place and in a near sprint jetted out of the house. I couldn’t wait to lock it.
It took a minute or two for the three of us to catch our breath and regain some composure. It was then when I asked what I considered to be a pointless question. “Well, what do you all think?”
As always, they looked at each other, they shared a wink and in near unison told me that they thought it could be just right. Needless to say I was shocked but as we started driving the long drive back to the
office they explained to me the several reasons why they thought it’d be a good fit and the work of writing an offer before the home hit the market started right then.
We discussed, I drove and with about 10 minutes before arriving at the office I heard a shrill scream from the back row. My client had noticed a few minuscule specks on my tan shirt and then witnessed one
move. It seems like the home had given us all one last gift before departing and a throng of rogue fleas had held on our clothing and would try to make my car their new home.
This terrific pair of people did eventually buy the house and tell their story at dinner parties in the same living room they had once braved that toxic cloud.
For me, these are the adventures and trials that continue to make my career exciting. There is a story to every purchase and sale. They are not all glamorous and a lot of work goes into making home ownership a reality. That is the work of a REALTOR. To manage the anticipated and to find solutions to what is not. To understand possibility and help his/her client see what is not always obvious.
Oh…and from time to time we might indulge in a two hour lunch.