Sunday, June 11, 2006

Lazy Sunday Open House

If you hold a house open, and nobody comes, does it make a sound? Can you sell the house, or in this case, the condo? Will you get any new clients? Or did you waste four hours preparing for and then holding a place open (not counting ironing time), only to find yourself with a bad case of the lonelies as the minutes tick by.

And whose fault is it? I just got off the phone with this place's listing agent, the guy who let me hold it open. Between us, we had no clue. If nobody shows up, it's not because they find the place unappealing. They have to find the place first in order to find it unappealing. Was it overpriced? Not according to the research done by the listing agent when he took the listing.

I find the whole thing odd.

Things to do when nobody shows up to your open house:

1) Use the bathroom. This is only advisable if, like me today, you are holding open a condo with a front gate buzzer. It is inadvisable to use the bathroom if there is any chance that a potential client could sneak up on you while you're in there. Also, you must remember to wipe down all surfaces and remove evidence of running water before exiting the bathroom.

2) Read whatever they have around. I got lucky today. The condo, owned, as far as I could tell (and later research would reveal) by and older, gay couple who were moving to Palm Springs, were movie and music afficianados. My time passed much more quickly while I was absorbed in the "Rolling Stone" 1000th issue and Kenneth Turan's "Not Coming to a Theater Near You." Naturally, thanks to my front gate buzzer, nobody came into the condo to find me sitting at the owner's desk, reading his "Rolling Stone." The few times the buzzer did ring (five in total), I quickly returned the magazine or book to its original spot, and then buzzed in potential buyers.

3) Google the owners on your PDA. This is the real reason why realtors have Treos. Not so we can be reached and check email 24/7, though that helps. No, the real use of the Treo is to google the property owners during slow open houses. It helps if the owners have uncommon names. Today, for example, I learned that our owners, a Naturopathic doctor and a long-time professor of music at Notre Dame de Namur University, were moving to Palm Springs, where the music teacher hoped to continue teaching, though privately, and also acting as music director for small theater performances, something he has done often in the past.

4) If you have no Treo, or if the owners have very common names, you can also find clues about their lives in the property itself. Note that this is impossible with staged properties. Even before I googled them, I knew that today's property owners were spiritual seekers, Catholic-educated (Loyola, 1958) Jews interested in the true role of Christ, Buddhism, alternative cures and the cultural impact of marijuana. I also learned that they enjoy classical music and fine art, potted plants and have each and every light in their place on a dimmer.

They are fastidious. An entire wall of their office was taken up by files and plastic drawers for office supplies. They sometimes work from home and have to fax things. Each of them, that is. There were two faxes. They like to read, sometimes fiction but more often non-fiction. The fiction they do read is usually gay-themed. And they travel extensively, usually picking up a keepsake ranging from the extravagent (art, African masks) to the kitschy (a Buckingham Palace snow globe).

Unfortunately, they are not selling their house today, which must be adding a layer of stress to their Palm Springs move, a step they have probably been planning for years.

5) Look out the window. This, of course, is only possible if there is a view. Today there was. Though much obscured by fog, there was still enough of a panorama to reveal a strange, castle-like building flying a Canadian flag down the street. Our boys had a flag pole, but no flag. Did they sometimes fly the stars & stripes? Or were they more likely to unfurl the rainbow flag of gay liberation?

6) Stand quietly, watching the minutes tick away.

Naturally, there are limits to what you can and can't do in an open house. Early in today's stint, I was forced to open a desk drawer in search of tape. I didn't feel good about that. You can't invade. After all, they're trusting you in their home. So even if there's a big stack of mail sitting on the desk, or closets just waiting to be glanced at, you have to remember that you are a professional. And that the owners could possibly drop by unannounced, front gate buzzer or no front gate buzzer.

So today's open house was unsuccessful, for me, for the listing agent, and for the sellers. Now we huddle and try to figure out a way to get people to drive up that windy street, climb the three flights and check out the place. These are the mysteries of real estate, why you can't just take a 4-week class, get business cards and start selling houses.

Oh, wait, I forgot; you can.


Anonymous flush puppy said...

I don't know about down there, but most people up here surf the house online these days, and if they find a possibility, go look at it with their agent later, not at an open house. Just a theory, being that I neither own a house nor can afford to visit one with an agent.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You better be careful what you write about open-houses, people will talk, and you could get in trouble. And I may come dunque on you.



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