Would You Hire a Realtor to Cut Your Hair?

Would You Hire a Realtor to Cut Your Hair?

The year was 2005.  The market was hot. White hot.  Jump up and down, and yell I’m a pony! hot.  Everyone within the city limits of Scottsdale AZ had or was in the process of obtaining their Real Estate license.  By July, I had lost former clients to chiropractors, dentists, doctors, doctors’ spouses, doctors’ spouses’ doctors … I thought I had experienced it all.  Mind you, the prevailing thought at the time was that a chimpanzee with a business card could sell a house. And he probably could have with a Multiple Offer Addendum and a cell phone, but I digress.  One day while running my daily search of the new inventory in McCormick Ranch, I see a suspiciously familiar address.  I pull up the listing and do the whole Is that …? No, can’t be.  But it looks …? NOOOO!!! bit.

Sure enough, it was the lovely couple I had sold the home to a few years back and had only recently visited over the holidays.  My mind raced.

What did I do wrong? Are they upset with me? Did I fail to keep in touch? Did I keep in touch too much? Is it because I mangled their son’s name that time we ran into each other at the coffee shop?

After letting my stomach churn over the myriad ways I could have potentially brought this upon myself, I finally picked up the phone. After two rings, a familiar voice answered.  Mindful to make sure that I did not say anything that could be construed as tampering with another agent’s listing, I simply blurted out, “What happened?”

Long story short: The wife’s hairdresser had recently gotten her Real Estate license to use on the side.  Now, in my opinion, the words “hairdresser” and “Realtor” should never collide in the same sentence, but apparently not everyone agrees.  No one would ever in a million years sit down at a chair and let me go to town with a pair of clippers and #2 attachment, but my highly educated clients made the decision to help her out by listing a $500,000 asset for sale and purchasing a million dollar property with her.

Now, I will not pretend that I did not first take the news personally and selfishly. That is a big chunk of business to lose to a hobbyist, and it stung. The value proposition of hiring a full-time, active agent did not outweigh the desire to help a friend get started in the industry. That is not an easy pill to swallow. What’s worse and ultimately paramount, however, is the disservice such a choice can do to the consumer him or herself. When you don’t engage in the practice of selling Real Estate but once or twice a year, if it all, you put the people you represent at an immediate disadvantage. You simply don’t know what you don’t know.

And sadly, in this case, my former clients … ultimately got a bad haircut. 

It serves as a reminder that it doesn’t go without saying to the general public that all agents are not interchangeable. The effect of the misconception that we are can have a monumental effect on your bottom line and long-term satisfaction. As such, I try to use such experiences as teachable moments.

Remember, folks. We all want to help our friends and family members when and where we can, but think carefully before employing someone to guide you through a home sale or purchase if it is just their “side hustle.” This is not a profession that requires an advanced degree or special skill set over and above modest intelligence, tenacity, and a willingness to leverage your knowledge and experience for the benefit of your clients, but it does require practice. Experience. Repetition. Like any other human endeavor performed exceptionally, if never perfectly.

I don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to make a little extra money in their spare time, but I firmly believe there is value to hiring someone who is working in their primary field of expertise. Hire your neighbor’s kid to pull your weeds. Hire your nephew’s girlfriend to walk your dog.

But when you have a major service need, I would advise the following:

  • Need roof work done? Hire a roofer.
  • Need your transmission serviced? Hire a mechanic.
  • Need a haircut? Hire a barber.
  • Need to buy or sell a home? Hire a Realtor.

And not a moonlighter. An active, full-time Real Estate professional who has been there, done that, and won the cheesy t-shirt in a home tour group raffle. 

After all, if you don’t want me fixing your fade after spending my evenings learning the craft via YouTube, you probably don’t want your hair stylist selling your house. 

Paul has been selling the greater Phoenix area as a full-time Realtor for over 20 years now. For all of your Scottsdale AZ Real Estate needs, please visit him at www.scottsdalepropertyshop.com

The Frankenstein House

The Frankenstein House

“Three fifty? Are you out of your freaking skull,” the rotund, little man bellowed beneath a reddening bald pate.

“You disagree with my analysis,” Maxwell Listers surmised. He was not unaccustomed to the question, though twenty six years of patient rebuttal had him rethinking the answer some days.

“You call that an analysis,” Ollie Meanders dismissed. “Even my senile mother in law could tell you this house is worth five hundred grand, and she thinks you can still buy a ticket to a picture show for a nickel.”

“I see,” Max replied, organizing the stack of comparable sales he had spent the past half hour explaining in excruciating detail. “Your mother in law would no doubt be swayed by the thirty two hundred square feet you claim to possess.”

“Damn straight,” Ollie confirmed, puffing his hirsute chest beneath an overmatched, crumpled white undershirt.

“Why, that three thousand square foot house one block over just sold for four eighty after all, and it didn’t even have a fireplace, did it,” Max agreed, leafing through his stack to the appropriate property listing.

Ollie stared at the agent with suspicion roiling in his beady eyes. He knew he was being taken for a ride, he just didn’t know where.

“Of course,” Max continued, “that was all original square footage …”

“So,” Ollie challenged.

“So original square footage is more valuable than added square footage,” Max concluded on cue, his silver hair lending more credence to the proclamation than the dirty blonde it had crowded out a decade earlier.

“What the hell is the difference,” Ollie pressed. “Thirty two hundred feet is thirty two hundred feet!”

The cords in Ollie’s sausage forearms rearranged themselves into angry knots beneath his taut, freckled skin.

“Think so,” Max asked, his arched eyebrows issuing a direct challenge.

“Well, sure,” Ollie sputtered. “Who cares … I mean, what does it, uh, matter if it, um …”

“Remind me, how many bedrooms do you have, Ollie?”

“Four,” the homeowner boasted, jutting his chin at the listing in Max’s hand. “Same as that one!”

“And did I miss the formal dining room somewhere when you were showing me around?”

“No,” Ollie said with slightly less confidence. “That’s where I added the fourth bedroom.”

“And how many baths?”

“Well … still just the one and a half,” Ollie admitted.

“How about parking,” Max asked.

“I, um, enclosed the garage to make the game room.”

“And this kitchen,” Max continued, looking about the small galley.

“Installed the granite counter tops myself,” Ollie crowed.

“And they are stunning,” Max allowed. “But does this room strike you as the hub of a thirty two hundred square foot home, or would you agree that it more closely embodies your home’s former life as a seventeen hundred square footer?”

“It might be a bit on the small side,” Ollie acknowledged. “But I converted the laundry room to a pantry for extra storage.”

Max scribbled something on a manilla folder marked “Meanders, Ollie.”

“These low ceilings ….”

“No, I don’t have the big, fancy vaults that some of my neighbors do,” Ollie ceded. “But do you have any idea how much it costs to cool that extra space?”

“And the back patio … wait. Where is the back patio,” Max asked, craning his sinewy neck to look past the homeowner.

“I enclosed that, too,” Ollie replied, slowly being sapped of his pugnacity.

“Ah yes, I see,” Max nodded. “That would explain the step-down and the funky slope to the roof line. A shame how it darkens the family room and eats up the backyard.”

“Should I put in some skylights?”

Max shook his head.

“You’d just be throwing good money after bad,” Max advised the crestfallen homeowner. “I’m afraid you have a Frankenstein house, Ollie.”

“Frankenstein house?”

“A Frankenstein house,” Max confirmed. “You took a perfectly good little home and created a monster – a big, sprawling octopus of a property, one incongruous addition at a time.”

“But the bigger, the better, right?”

“No, Ollie. Not necessarily,” Max corrected. “Your house doesn’t fit the needs or expectations of a larger family despite the raw square footage, nor does the new layout fit the single or couple to whom it would have originally appealed. You are stuck between buyer demographics. Homeseller Purgatory, if you will.”

Ollie buried his head in his hands.

“You just can’t juice a little house into something it isn’t,” Max added for good measure.

“All that work,” Ollie moaned. “All those trips to Lowes.”

“Wish you’d called me in sooner,” Max lamented. “Would have aborted Rosemary’s Baby here before it was ever conceived.”


“My apologies,” Max offered.

“Well,” Ollie breathed with a heavy sigh. “I need to move, but I’ve put way too much into it to sell it for three fifty. What do I do?”

Max took a moment to ponder their options.

“How’s your insurance,” he wondered.

“Insurance,” Ollie parroted with evident confusion. “Full replacement cost, why?”

“Fire bad,” Max suggested with a conspiratory wink.

The agent stood and lumbered out of the cramped kitchen with arms extended out in front of him like the monster fleeing an angry mob of torch-bearing villagers.

Selling a Home with a Tenant

Selling a Home with a Tenant

Selling a tenant occupied home … how do I put this delicately … kind of sucks. That’s right, selling a home with a tenant sucks.

Why, you ask?

Because there is little to no motivation on the part of the occupant to participate in the process. Think about it. With zero financial stake in the sale of a property, why would anyone care to have their daily lives disturbed by pushy Real Estate agents and their snooping clients? As such, tenants tend to make home showings more difficult than owner occupants.

You want to show the home in an hour? No, today is impossible.

Tomorrow? No, tomorrow doesn’t look real good either.

Given that a landlord or an agent of the landlord cannot legally enter the premises in cases of non-emergency without permission or 48 hours written notice (under the AZ Landlord-Tenant Act), it is not uncommon to come across such tenant-occupied listings that require 2 days minimum notice prior to showings. These constraints cost owners more than a few showings, particularly those of the spur of the moment, I’m in town to buy a house today variety.

In a market choked with inventory, especially in the lower price points where rental properties typically live, few will bother looking at the homes that are difficult to view. There are simply too many readily accessible options to make special plans to see one nondescript investment property.

So how does the owner of such a home counter the tenant malaise that is killing his/her ability to sell prior to the expiration of the lease (inviting the holding costs and desperate pricing decisions that can accompany a vacancy)? By incentivizing the tenant to participate in the process.

It frankly amazes me that tenant-occupied properties are often so difficult to show when the remedy is so readily apparent: money.

Offer your tenant a discounted rate on the rent or nominal alternative compensation ($500 is a lot of money for the average tenant) if the home sells while they occupy it. By doing so, you will not only encourage your tenant to eagerly agree to the showings that were formerly abhorred, but will provide the requisite motivation for showing the home in its best condition as well. Get the tenant on your side by offering a stake in the outcome and watch the beds make themselves, the dirty socks disappear from the living room floor, the food-caked plates on the kitchen counter find their way into the dishwasher.

When you empower the powerless, everyone benefits. From the only perspective that matters in a Real Estate transaction – yours – that means minimized holding costs and maximized sales price. Cool beans.

Selling a home is not rocket science, just an exercise in the practical study and application of human motivation. For your own sake, you have to step outside of your head every once in a while to learn how to help others help you.

This is your Jerry Maguire moment. Don’t blow it.


The Steadfasts barged through the garage door as the familial octopus they’d become, arms and legs of varying sizes jostling to cross the threshold first.

“Gently, Blaine! Put it down gently,” Alexis bellowed after the seven year old victor who approached the kitchen counter at breakneck speed.

“Mom, Blaine pushed me,” five year old Daniella squealed, already back in hot pursuit of her brother.

The second bag landed with a satisfying crash mere seconds after the first. Alexis had long suspected that Jason insisted on paper for that very reason. She didn’t buy the environmental angle, not when the trip to and from the store was made in an Escalade.

“I won! I won,” the elder child trumpeted.

“Cheater,” his sister shrieked.

“What did I say about slamming groceries,” Alexis admonished. “And, Blaine, don’t push your sister.”

Jason propped the door open for her with his backside as he held two bags of his own.

She scooched past him with the sleeping Anne Marie in her arms.  Already stocked up on groceries for the week, the colicky six month old was the ostensible reason for the redundant trip. It was the rhythm of the road they’d been after.

Tip-toeing past the carnage in the kitchen, careful to give wide berth to the flyers that were strewn all over the floor, Alexis disappeared into the deeper regions of the house.

“How many times do I have to tell you to leave the flyer stand on the coffee table,” Jason moaned, the door slamming shut behind him.

“Not that anyone’s taking them anyway,” he mumbled as he deposited his bags on the counter and began retrieving the forty nine scattered reams of high gloss photo paper. There had been fifty originally, but he’d taken one in to the office to hang on the bulletin board exactly twelve months ago to the day.

“Hey, hon,” he said as he finished up and followed her into the family room clutching one of the flyers. “I was thinking, maybe we could hold some kind of auction or something to increase the demand. Maybe raffle off tickets or …”

The thought died as he turned the corner to find a group of people seated around the sunken conversation pit at the base of the fireplace, staring at him with a tense mixture of anticipation and dread.

“Mom? Carl? What’s going on here,” he demanded.

“Hello, Jason. Please come have a seat. There’s something we’d like to discuss with you,” a stranger sitting slightly apart from the rest of the group invited, his incessant blinking exacerbated by an ill-fitting pair of bifocals. His bald head looked hot in the glow of the 1980’s vintage canned halogen lights.

“Not that I don’t appreciate the invitation to sit down in my own house, but I think I’d rather stand, thank you. What’s this all about, Gerry,” he asked, turning towards the well-groomed man in the grey slacks and pullover sitting closest to the de facto master of ceremonies.

“Just hear the man out, Jason,” Gerry answered.

“Hear him out about what? What is this?”

“This is just a group of your friends and family that cares about you, Jason. Very much,” the stranger responded.

“Oh my God. I’ve seen this on TV. This is an intervention, right,” he asked, panning each face as if he were polling the jury after a guilty verdict.

“If you want to stand on formalities, yes, this is an intervention. Really, though, it’s just a chance for those who care about you most to share their concerns and offer their support,” the stranger replied.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me. Is it about the coffee? I mean, I know I probably drink more than the next guy, but-”

“It’s not about the coffee, Jason,” his wife said from off to his left. He hadn’t seen her reenter the room.

“You’re in on this,” he asked in horror.

“I invited them, Jason.”

He stared at his wife with mouth agape, trying to wrap his mind around the scope of the betrayal.

“Judas,” he hissed.

“Your wife asked us here today because she loves you, Jason. No one is here to attack you. We are here to help. Now, are you willing to listen to what your friends have to say,” the stranger asked, his fleshy Adam’s apple bobbing beneath his double chin with each syllable.

“Not until someone tells me what this is all about,” he answered. “And where are the kids?”

“The kids are in good hands, Jason,” the stranger assured him.

The room fell into a pronounced moment of uncomfortable silence. The assembled guests looked back and forth at each other, willing one another to break the seal.

“It’s your price, Jason,” Gerry finally informed him to the room’s relief. “We are concerned about your list price.” He started to run a soft hand through his slick-backed, black hair before thinking better of it and smoothing the disturbed follicles back into place.

“What about my list price,” Jason challenged his Realtor, crossing his arms in defiance.

“It’s, um, well it’s … it’s high, Jason. It’s just too damn high,” Gerry spilled, punctuating his words with a year’s worth of frustration.

“Too high, huh? Like the Crawford’s place down the street was too high,” Jason countered.

“We’ve discussed this, Jason,” Gerry reminded him. “That comp is three years old.”

“I know what this house is worth. We just need the right buyer,” Jason said.

“No, Jason,” Gerry retorted. “You know what this house WAS worth. Lotta market fallout under the bridge since oh seven.  Besides, that home was fully remodeled from the ground up. Yours … could stand a little work.” His eyes darted to the imitation crystal behemoth masquerading as a chandelier in the adjoining dining room.

“That’s not what you said when you took the listing, Gerry,” Jason accused. “I seem to remember you going on and on about our indoor-outdoor carpeting when you were trying to get my signature.”

Gerry hung his head in shame. The reflection in his brilliantly polished black shoes captured an enabler’s remorse.

“He’s a Realtor, Jay. What’d you expect,” the man sitting to Gerry’s right asked. “Look, there’s no excuse for him shining you on in the beginning like that, but he wanted the business. He’s trying to atone for it now.”

“I’d expect this from him,” Jason replied, jerking a thumb towards his despondent agent, “but not you, Carl. I mean, my own flesh and blood …”

“Come off it, Jay. I’ve been telling you all along that your price is stupid, but would you listen to your big brother? Nooooooooo.”

“What do you know about housing values, Carl? You’re in pharmaceutical sales, for crissakes!”

“Doesn’t take an economist to know your house isn’t worth a hundred grand more than you paid for it back in the boom years. Gerry showed me the last round of comps. It’s ugly, Jay.”

“You can’t stand to see your kid brother do better than you, can you, Gerry? It’s just like that time with the bike. I get a new ten-speed when you were still tooling around on a hand-me-down Schwinn, and you manage to accidentally crash it into the Flanders’ queen palm. How convenient.”

“Jesus, not the bike again. It was an accident!”

“Sure it was, Gerry,” Jason snipped. “Sure it was.”

His big brother shook his considerable head and looked to the couple on his immediate right to pick up the baton.

“Bruce? Maggie? What are you doing here,” Jason wondered, taking in their presence for the first time.

“The Maguires are here as concerned neighbors, Jason,” the ringleader interjected, his glowing dome now verging on spontaneous combustion.

The elderly couple eyed each other in evident discomfort, hoping the other would take the lead. Finally, Maggie spoke.

“It’s just that Bruce is getting ready to retire, Jason,” she began. “Now that the kids are gone, we’re thinking about putting the house up for sale in the spring. It’s more than we need, and we’d really like to do some traveling.”

Gerry perked up at that, reaching into his wallet for a business card.

“That’s great, but what does it have to do with me,” Jason asked.

“We’re worried about the effect your home is having on values,” Bruce answered. “You’ve been on the market so long that people are going to start wondering if there’s something wrong with the neighborhood.”

“That’s absurd,” Jason boomed. “You’re coming down on ME when everyone else on the block is just giving their homes away? You should be thanking me! The Smiths or the Gundersons are who you ought’a be talking to right now, not me.”

“I’ll admit that I was happy to see you give it a shot when you first went on the market,” the old-timer said, scratching a suspicious looking cluster of basal cells on the tip of his leathery nose. “Hadn’t seen a price like that in ages. I thought you were nuts, but figured you’d drop the price until you eventually found the market.”

“The market is where we’re priced, Bruce. These buyers and their agents are just too stupid to realize it. If they expect us to give them our house for what the short sale and foreclosure trash is going for, they’ve got another thing coming,” Jason argued.

“For a smart guy, you sure are dumb. The market is what a buyer is willing to pay you, son,” Bruce sighed. “Look, if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for us. We still have a little equity in our place, and we need every penny we can get out of it. Figure at least thirty percent for the down payment on the condo in Sun Lakes, another fifteen thousand or so for the medical bills that Medicare won’t cover and a few other expenses, and there isn’t much left. Every day you sit on the market at that ridiculous price, our golden years get a little less golden.”

Maggie removed a tube of ointment from her denim purse and passed it to her husband. Bruce smiled his thanks and applied a substantial dollop to his angry nose. The musty aroma of wet putty filled the room.

“Not to be rude, Bruce, but how is any of that my problem? I’m holding the line here so that all of us get the prices we deserve. I’m doing you a favor.”

Maggie patted her husband’s knee as Bruce shook his head.

“It’ll be alright, sweetheart. We’ll just have to wait another couple of years. I’ll ask Agnes about picking up that night shift at the diner.”

“And what about you, Mom,” Jason asked the diminutive figure to Maggie’s right. “You can’t be in on this. You just can’t.”

A single tear started the slow journey from her false eyelash to the point of her skeletal chin, leaving a contrail of mascara in its wake.

“Oh my, sweet, sweet boy,” she blubbered before breaking down into soul-rattling sobs. “How could I have let this happen to you?”

“Don’t cry, Mom,” he pleaded. “Please don’t cry.” His lower lip started quivering as Alexis walked over and put a reaffirming hand on his shoulder. He collapsed into her waiting arms.

“Let it out,” she cooed in his ear. “Let it all out.”

Jason did exactly that. He cried openly for the first time in his adult life, purging his body of the shame and frustration that gushed forth with his tears.

“I’m sorry,” he wailed. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Hands engulfed him as Jason suddenly found himself at the epicenter of a group hug.

“It’s okay,” one voice said. “We’re sorry, too,” said another.

“So what now,” Jason asked of no one in particular when the cluster loosened, all still dabbing at moist eyes.

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Stephan Crawford, of Crawford and Associates Appraisals,” the previously unidentified master of ceremonies revealed. “We have our top residential appraiser scheduled for ten AM tomorrow. It’s all arranged and paid for. All you have to do is be here to let him in.”

Jason blew out the breath he wasn’t aware he’d been holding.

“You mean tomorrow? But I’ve got an appointment in the morning, and-”

“It’s taken care of, Jason. We’ve cleared it with your boss,” Stephan assured him. “Isn’t that right, Henry?”

A dour looking man entered the room from the kids’ wing with Blaine and Daniella in tow. His black on black attire was at odds with the Little Mermaid tiara that sat atop his mussed silver hair. He had the desperate look of an aristocrat who had just spent the weekend in county lockup.

“Mr. Samuels,” Jason gaped.

“Hello, Jason,” the new arrival began. “You are not welcome at the firm until this situation has been … resolved.”  He chewed on the last word as he removed the undignified adornment from his angular head.

“But, sir,” Jason protested. “The Mayfair file-”

“Will be waiting for you when you get back,” his cadaverous boss interrupted. “You’re not doing anybody any good right now. Craig Tallman will handle all of your files until you get your head screwed on right.”

“Tallman,” Jason snorted. “He couldn’t hang a jury with twelve feet of rope and a stepladder.”

“And neither can you in your present state,” the senior partner countered. “The billing errors, the first year lapses in judgment … need I mention the fiasco with the character witness in the McElroy case? Put your house in order so we can get you back to your winning ways. That’s an order.”

Jason nodded his resigned acceptance.

“Besides,” the humorless lawyer continued. “We took a vote at the latest meeting of partners that you managed to miss. One more mention of your house or your lousy agent-”

“Hey,” Gerry objected.

“-and we strap you to the one-way gurney ourselves,” Mr. Samuels concluded behind arched eyebrows. “Understood?”

“Understood, sir,” Jason confirmed. “I know how difficult this has been on all of you. I know I have a problem, and I’m ready to get help.”

“Anything you need, Jason,” Stephan offered on behalf of the group. “We’re here for you.”

“I know that, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me,” he acknowledged, taking a step towards the kitchen. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m parched. Can I get anyone a drink?”

Several requests for water followed him into the kitchen.

“Well, that went about as well as it could have,” Alexis suggested, hugging her children to her hips.

Stephan glanced at his watch.

“Five, four, three, two ..”

Heads turned sharply at the sound of a slamming door. Moments later, a massive engine springing to life preceded the squeal of tires as a vehicle careened down the driveway.

“Jason,” Alexis screamed, running after him.

“Let him go,” Stephan advised.

“What do you mean, let him go,” she demanded, stopping to stare at the weary appraiser.

“He’ll come back when he’s ready.”

“But he’s sick,” she protested. “He could hurt our equity!”

“Yes, he could,” the appraiser admitted. “But he has to make the choice voluntarily. All the comparable market analyses in the world won’t do a bit of good if he is not open to the possibility of change. Sometimes an FVA has to hit rock bottom before finding the strength to accept treatment.”

“FVA,” she asked.

“Former Value Addict.”

“And if he never comes around,” she posited.

“They always come around,” Stefan assured her.

“But if he doesn’t?”

“Then we move to phase two,” Stephan informed her.

“What’s phase two?”

“You don’t want to know,” he answered.

The appraiser removed a cell phone from the holster on his belt and made a call.

“Hi, Gloria, it’s Stephan,” he announced to the person on the other end. “I’m at the Steadfast residence.”

He took a deep breath and scanned the eager faces staring back at him before continuing.

“We’ve got a runner.”


Damon’s cell phone buzzed in his pocket as he stepped out of the stately house and into the warmth of late April in Scottsdale, Arizona. Checking the display, he recognized the number from the four previous calls he’d let roll to voicemail. Whoever it was, his mystery caller was pretty keen on speaking with him right now. He sighed as the door closed behind him, deciding to break his personal rule about taking calls while showing property.

“Excuse me for a moment,” Damon said to the young couple waiting on the porch, pointing to the phone.

“No problem,” the wife answered, running a hand over the lone straggler in her otherwise perfectly coiffed, auburn hair. “We’ll go ahead and get Maddux in his seat.”

Nodding, Damon pressed the “receive” button and put the phone to his ear.

“This is Damon,” he informed the caller in a slightly quizzical tone. Not for the first time, he wondered if he sounded helpful or confused.

“Yes, um, hi, this is Peggy Dragic. You showed my listing on Oak? Just curious what the buyers thought.”

The vein over Damon’s right eye throbbed with aggravation as his cobalt blue eyes narrowed to angry slits.

“You’re kidding, right,” he demanded, the sing-songy eagerness in his voice replaced with an icy baritone. “You’ve called five times in the past ten minutes for feedback?”

“I have a very eager seller,” she responded, by way of an apology.

“Look, Peggy, I’m right in the middle of an appointment. If you want to call back with the property address, you can leave it on my voicemail. I’ll review my notes when I’m done here and call you back,” he directed, willing his rigid jaw to relax. The last thing he needed was a trip to the dentist to fix another filling.

“Surely you remember it,” the agent pressed. “8423 North Oak – the beautifully remodeled Tudor with a split guest suite and stained glass clerestory windows in the foyer.”

He glanced at his black Yukon, where his clients were struggling to load their squirming nine month old. He couldn’t help but smile at their plight. Dylan had started reacting to his seat like a cat to an ice bath at about the same age. Damon suspected it was because he didn’t want to face backwards anymore. No longer content within his own little world, he was ready to join the big, forward-facing one.

“Hmm, doesn’t ring a bell,” he lied, deciding to play along. “What day did you say I showed it?”

“Today, between ten and eleven,” the incredulous agent informed him.

Damon pulled the phone away from his ear to check the time.

10:31 AM.

“Today? We must not have gotten to it yet. Nothing but overpriced dogs to this point,” he said. His mouth curved into a toothless grin.

“But I just got off the phone with the seller! She said you were just there!”

“Wait … did you say Oak,” he asked.

“Yes, Oak! There’s a koi pond in the front courtyard,” the agent clarified.

“No koi ponds today, just a stagnant bog that someone is using to brew West Nile virus. Couldn’t have been your listing,” he assured her, looking down at the half dozen carp of varied brilliant colors loitering near his feet.

“She was home when you came through,” the agent insisted. “You were there for half an hour!”

Movement in the living room window caught Damon’s attention.  A wrinkled face disappeared behind the elegant taupe curtain when he turned to look.

“Tudor, you say? We did see one Tudor, but it needed a lot of work,” he replied.

“My listing has newer appliances and a tankless hot water system,” the agent corrected.

“Well the one I’m thinking of smelled like an old lady’s apothecary chest and had the most garish flooring I have ever seen. The husband called it the “La Vida Loca House.”

“I’ll have you know that is the finest terracotta tile money can buy, imported directly from an artisan in Pienza. Each piece is handmade, baked in the sun for seventy two hours and fired in a 16th century kiln,” she huffed.

“No kidding? It looked like something my kid made in art class,” Damon responded. “And not for nothing, but Michelangelo he is not.”

“Well, what did they think about the kitchen? Is that not a gourmet’s delight,” she asked.

“If you are into cherry wood and granite, I suppose,” Damon admitted. “My people are alderwood and corian people. The kitchen would be the first thing they’d have to gut.”

“You won’t find another piece of property like this,” she pressed. “Where else can you get an acre and a half backing to state trust land in Scottsdale?”

“Maintenance would be a killer,” Damon countered. “My people are relocating from a studio apartment in San Francisco. He doesn’t even own a lawnmower.”

“How about the price,” she asked, hesitating slightly.

Damon allowed an audible sigh to preface his reply.

“You already know you’re overpriced by two hundred thousand, Peggy. No sense belaboring the point. It’s out of their range, but we wanted to take a look just in case it was move-in ready and the seller was willing to deal a little bit.”

“She is open to all offers,” the agent replied.

Damon realized he was pacing and began walking towards the SUV, where his clients had finally wrestled their sobbing child into his seat. He made a mental note to stop for a snack, toy, bottle of methadone or any other anti-tantrum talisman one could purchase at a Circle K.

“I appreciate that, but I just don’t see this house working for my people, Peggy. They want a split master, need an extra half bath, hate stairs …”

“Any suggestions? She really needs out of that house,” the desperate agent interrupted. “Since her husband passed away last year, it’s become too much for her to handle. Her family is all waiting for her back in Toledo.”

“Just between me and you, as a professional courtesy, it’s not going to sell while she’s living there. Her stuff is all over the place, family pictures staring down at you from every wall. Didn’t help that she followed us through the entire house, pointing out where one of her kids bumped his head forty years ago and the laundry room baseboard that Daisy, the Golden Retriever, chewed up in the mid eighties. My people felt like intruders.”

“I know, I know,” the crestfallen agent confessed. “I keep telling her to take the dog for a walk during showings. It died ten years ago, but she doesn’t know that.”

“Put her on a plane to Toledo and crash the price. It’s too far gone for a mom and pop. Your buyer is an investor.”

Damon climbed behind the wheel and buckled his seat belt while pinning the phone between his ear and shoulder in a well-practiced maneuver. After checking his passengers to ensure that everyone was secure, he started the car.

“Well, not what I wanted to hear, but I appreciate your candor,” the agent said, partially obscured by the throaty engine roaring to life.

“No sweat, hope it helps,” Damon offered.

“It does, thanks for taking the time.”

“Sure thing, Peggy. Best of luck,” Damon concluded, terminating the call and dropping the phone into the grey cup holder in the console. He looked in the rearview at the young woman in the back seat, beaming despite the now shrieking child next to her.

“So what do you think, guys? Still feeling it,” he asked.

“Absolutely, it’s everything we’ve ever wanted,” the computer programmer with the prematurely salt and pepper flecked buzz cut sitting next to him gushed, breaking from his usual recalcitrance to answer for them both.

“Terrific, let’s go back to the office and write it up. One thing, though,” Damon teased.

“What,” both spouses asked in unison.

“We’re gonna offer a hundred grand less than we discussed.”

All three smiled as they pulled away from the curb, leaving 8423 N. Oak Drive in their wake.


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