REAL ESTATE!

(Jobs! Jobs! Part 1, cont.)



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September 11, 2001

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A Piano Teacher in Gomorrah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seemed a stroke of pure genius. Anybody who could sell a thing as unmarketable as piano lessons, as successfully as our little teacher had, would be a shoo-in for big bucks in the real estate industry. All she had to do was learn her stuff for $385, take an exam for $185, pay for memberships to the National Association of REALTORS ($425/yr), a Multiple Listing Service ($138 quarterly), and a brokerage ($100/mo) and she'd be on her way. She had arrived.

What a relief!

Before relating any of the specifics regarding our heroine's jaunt through REALTOR-Land, let us clarify for you, dear reader, just what a Real Estate career is, and isn't.

  • It isn't easy. The licensing exams are genuinely hairraising for anyone who neither grows up around Realtors, nor cheats. The legal forms that you'll be explaining to people are convoluted enough to daunt any attorney; and you have to know a whole lot of medieval legal terminology like "metes and bounds," and "easement appurtenant." You'll even have to know what they mean. You're not a lawyer (Realtors who forget that fact are the ones in jail), but you do have to know the laws--which are forever changing-- like the back of your hand.
      • It is extremely high-stress. You will constantly be dealing with time-is-of-the-essence legal deadlines, and the pressure can be horrific--particularly when you're coddling really testy clients, trying to cope with Blaster worms, and your cell phone cuts out on you smack at the critical moment.
      • All REALTORS aren't crooks.  Only about 94% of them are. Our little teacher met some genuinely fine people, who were Realtors. Two, in fact.
      • REALTOR is not the same as "Broker."   One candidate for governor, last election, ran under the guise of "Commercial Real Estate Investment Broker."   He was only an agent with tons of gall. (And he nearly won. Nobody cared.) A comparable situation would be for somebody with a B.A. to broadcast himself as a Ph.D.
        • Yes, it is glamorous. Conspicuous Consumption was invented by REALTORS. And store clerks who had hitherto treated our piano teacher with disdain suddenly morphed into blushing, slavering servants at the sight of that Realtor's pin on her lapel (even though the lapel hadn't changed). Realtors get invited to all of the Bigwig Breakfasts and Events. They have civic clout, and they thrive on feeling famous. Networking lunches and parties are frequent and very fun. If you drink. Those who don't drink find church membership extremely profitable and fulfilling.
        • Yes, you can get very, very rich selling real estate.  Teacher might have, had she stuck with it. (Blame Aunt Ramona, below.)  But anyone with a genuine gift for gab, a love for driving and exploring, a knack for numbers and legal forms, and the ability to fake it in a pinch, can do very well indeed, in real estate.
        • No, it isn't a good place if you're seeking security.   You will always be at the whim of the markets, and that can be very,very scary sometimes. (Like...at the time of this writing.)
        • No, it isn't a good place for introverts.   If you are one, you may excel, but you'll be miserable.
        • No, it isn't a good place for naturalists.  If you are one, they'll call you a "tree hugger" and they won't say it nicely. You need to be the kind of metabolism that drools, rather than weeps, when it sees ancient forest clearcut for a new housing development. Remember, "land" itself is the least part of any property valuation. The BUILDINGS are where the "value" lies, and they're called "improvements" no matter how awful they are.

        So, how did our little duckie do?

        Suffice it to say that she might have done well to heed the signs, when they handed her Test #13, at the Exam. And driving in to take it, her wracking sobs over the dead opossum that she'd just passed on the freeway, might also have served as a nice little heads-up.

        Oh, maybe it was just the murder, did it. The buyer on one of her listings waited until closing day to default on everything, then promptly dashed off to slash an entire family to pieces, in pursuit of a 4-carat diamond. (According to the lender, he had over $2,000,000 in one of his accounts. He also had about 13 NAMES. Thank you, lender.) All of it particularly painful when little teacher's seller was the kind of man who responded with an accusing, "So you haven't sold my condo?" And who, when she quickly found him another buyer (rather than hole-up and puke), with an offer $5,000 over the asking price, expressed his relief with, "So that YOU can collect extra commission!   No!  I'm not accepting this." (He did, in the end. Under threat of...)

        Or perhaps it was the Fijian prince who pestered her for months to find him a $10,000,000 apartment complex...without any earnest money; and let's don't ask any questions about the "private" lender, please. His mysterious lender was a "foreign national, an extremely kind old man."

        Maybe it was just the scared look on the faces of friends, when they saw her coming.  She really didn't care for walking around with that stigma that reads, "Hi there...I'm a crook! What's in your wallet?"

        But no, it was none of the above, really. By themselves, none of the negatives could have ruined all prospects for a lady who had experienced uncanny good luck overall, during her first six months as a REALTOR.  She could have gotten so rich. {sigh}  She'd gotten comfortable with those awful legal forms, kind of liked the Old English legalese, and she enjoyed the swagger and the sense of belonging, if not the greedy lifestyles and gold hood ornaments of her cohorts.

        Unfortunately, she made a fatal mistake by going to visit her eighty-four your old auntie, who owned forty deeply wooded acres near the beach where Teacher had spent summers, growing up. The salt-air aroma struck our heroine so poignantly, when she approached the place, that she nearly fainted from the sheer relief of it. And when Aunt Ramona told her, "Go ahead! Enjoy the big trees! Take a walk if you like!" our heroine immediately took her up on the offer.

        The only problem with Aunt Ramona's woods was that they...frightened our poor Realtor, this time. There she stood, with paradise towering all around her, the afternoon's sunlight streaming down through gossamer webbings while insects drowsed. Yet she felt oddly uncomfortable. The trees seemed aloof, darkly forbidding.

        "What is the matter with me?" she wondered. She had never been able to get enough forest, for most of her life.

        What was the matter with Teachie-poo?

        Well, it took her awhile, to figure it out. But in the end, it boiled down to the swagger.

        No, she hadn't been swaggering in Ramona's forest. You can't "swagger" through bracken and a forest floor that's deep with leaves, duff, and protruding tree roots, even if you try. "Swagger" is a frame of mind. And those trees were letting Teacher know loud and clear, that they really didn't like "swaggering" going on under them. (Gee. I wonder why.) Put another way, REALTORS and wilderness don't mix. Period.

        And so the little piano teacher went home.   She thought a lot. She kept on working, even attended extra classes and a huge convention in hopes of bolstering her spirits. The 2-day convention was a "must-go" according to her boss, Broker Burt, because its host was Broker Burt's absolute idol.  Its theme was, "Your friends and your family ARE YOUR DATABASE." It was so inspiring that quite a few people from the office joined thousands of others, signing up for the coaching it promoted. ($400/mo for monthly phone counselings. Yearly contract. Success guaranteed.) Teacher opted out.

        She went back to visit Aunt Ramona's forest, instead. And then one crisp, cool day that autumn, our heroine surprised herself. She turned around, canceled her real estate license, put her home of fourteen years on the market, and started to pack.

        Little teacher needed to live closer to Aunt Ramona's trees. She needed her friends back.

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