Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The more personal side of real estate

From page HS3 | September 13, 2013 | Leave Comment

Often my weekly column focuses on numbers. The number of new monthly listings and sales, the average number of days an average home will be listed before it sells and the number of homes that sell at or above the listed price. Those statistics and others, furnished by our local Board of Realtors and our multiple listing service, are important in providing buyers, sellers and their agent’s valuable information in which to base decisions about their real estate. Fortunately, practicing real estate isn’t all about the numbers.

It’s about people and helping them realize their goals and financial independence through real estate. Most agents are initially attracted to real estate sales by the commissions but ask any agent who has been in the business for a while and they will say it’s working with people that keeps them engaged. The satisfaction we experience in solving problems for some and helping others realize their goal of homeownership is more rewarding than the commission. When I look back at the some of the deals I have had over the years, it isn’t the checks I remember — it’s the folks I had the opportunity to work with.

Big Al was from Chicago. A retired accountant who wanted to buy a small secluded summer cabin in the mountains, he was referred to me by a former client who was a federal probation officer. That should have made me suspicious but back then I was new in the business and thinking more about earning a commission than my client’s background.

Showing remote cabins to Big Al was a bit intimidating. He had the physical appearance of a linebacker and his gangster character was right out of a Stephen King mystery novel. We eventually found a place he liked and, by coincidence, the sellers were there packing up a few things. A few days later Al made an all cash offer but for much less than the listed price. When I told Al that I didn’t think the sellers would take such a low offer he looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, kid. They’ll take the offer.”

They did. After closing, I thought that would be the end of my relationship with Big Al but it wasn’t. Years later, after attending a Realtor convention in Las Vegas, I was checking out of the hotel and the desk clerk informed me that my room and charges had already been paid. I asked to see the ledger and across the list of charges was written “compliments of Big Al.”

It was Easter Sunday and I found myself showing houses in El Dorado Hills to a couple from the Bay Area. My attention was focused on locating our next previewing appointment when I heard, “Stop the car. That’s our home!” So I pulled over next to a lovely home with a For Sale sign but not one I had on my list of scheduled appointments. My clients insisted that this was the home they wanted to buy. Today agents can access the MLS with their iPhone but a few years back it wasn’t that easy. Contacting the listing agent on Easter Sunday was fruitless so I did what any agent would do and knocked on the door.

I began apologizing when the seller opened the door. “I’ m sorry. I didn’t have an appointment and I know it’s Easter Sunday but I didn’t have any information on your home and my clients really like the outside and they need to make a decision this weekend and I wasn’t able to reach your listing agent and if you want me to go away I will.”

She welcomed us with both arms. Shelly was a big woman with a big heart. She not only let us preview the home she insisted we join her extended family for brunch. “Now you folks sit down and have some coffee or ice tea. Here’s some Danish. Have some sausage.”

We politely declined not wanting to interfere with this family gathering but Shelly would not let us go. Shelly talked about the house, the neighbors and the high school football team. My clients told her how much they liked the house and had me cancel our other appointments to write a full price offer on Shelly’s home. Since then Shelly and the buyers are best friends and big supporters of Trojans football.

After the loss of her husband, Irene decided to sell her home and buy a small condominium in Folsom. It was during the home inspection on her place I noticed Irene packing up some old books and then loading them into the trunk of her vehicle. “Here let me give you a hand,” I said as I picked up a box. It was then I noticed that in the box I was holding was a High School Yearbook from a small town in Northeastern Ohio where I grew up. “Did you go to school in Geneva?” I asked. She did and tears began flowing as she shared with me pictures of her and her future husband in the senior class of 1968. In the same yearbook were my two cousins.

We are all somehow connected to each other as we travel along the path of life. Everyone has a story and my real estate practice has allowed me the opportunity to discover many and share a few with my readers. Real estate isn’t all property, interests rates and numbers; it’s about people and the opportunity to briefly become part of their life, wherever their destination.

Ken Calhoon is a real estate broker in El Dorado County. He can be reached at


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