A few times a month the office phones are forwarded to my cell. It’s a way for me to meet potential new clients and a way for my broker to evenly disburse leads to members of his brokerage without the overhead of hiring a secretary. My brokerage doesn’t have a bricks and mortar office (the closest thing we have is probably the bar we have the quarterly ‘staff meeting’ at), so the calls are all from my broker’s website. My broker happens to be the king of SEO and the granddaddy of real estate blogging, so any time you Goggle an address or almost any term relating to real estate in connection with Arizona, the top result is going to be his website.
The point is, the ‘office phone’ gets a lot of calls. In my recent experience, the callers consist of:
A – 50% renters, looking for info on a house they drove by or found on the internet
B – 10% agents who Googled an address on their phone and think our brokerage is the listing agent (idiots)
C – 15% people actually calling on one of our listings
D – 7% solicitors trying to sell my broker some sort of blog service he already has, has designed himself and does better than they’re offering
E – 5% people calling about houses for sale who already have agents assisting them, but who are either excessively proactive or who have a lazy agent
F – 10% actual buyers who don’t have representation needing help
G – 3% crazy people
So one of the first things I always do when a new call comes in is attempt to categorize it. B and D are pretty obvious because they usually introduce themselves. Because I’m representing Thompson’s Realty I try to stifle the urge to hang up on them immediately. The renters and the people calling on our listings are also fairly quick to suss out after I’ve put whatever address they give me into the MLS. I help these people out the best I can by putting them in touch with the Thompson’s agent they need or referring them to one of our saintly agents who regularly show rental properties.
That just leaves E, F and G who can be difficult to discern from each other. Take the call I got the other day, for instance.
3:05 PM – My cell phone rings. I’m sitting on the couch with my two youngest doing 15 minutes of reading with them before we head out to pick their older brother up from school. Reading has been a difficult subject in our house lately, so I choose to ignore the ring for the moment and not interrupt the work we’re doing.
3:06 PM – My cell phone rings again. I’m trying desperately not to be distracted by thoughts of real estate emergencies that could potentially be happening that I’m not attending to.
3:07 PM – The cell phone again. Now I’m starting to get irritated. It can’t possibly be a life threatening family emergency because everyone who would need to contact me in the event of something like that also has my house phone number and would know to try that right after unsuccessfully trying my cell. It’s obviously some real estate jackhole with a need so urgent it can’t possibly wait 5 minutes.
3:08 PM – My cell phone ring is really annoying, I’m now realizing. What made me think some kind of tribal flute with a folksy guitar wouldn’t make me want to kill myself eventually? I need to look into a new ringtone. I’m going to hope this is just a coincidence that several people called me right in a row and it’s not some nut stalking me.
3:15 PM – We’re done reading and I hop off the couch to check my phone. When I pull up my missed calls menu, I’m disheartened to see the same number, four times in a row. It has a Dallas area code, but it’s not any of the people I know in Dallas. I also have two messages. From the same person, presumably, left within 4 minutes of each other.
Sighing heavily, I call my voicemail.
Message 1 – Hi, I’m interested in one of your listings. The MLS number is 5553472. I’m really interested in this house. Could you please call me back immediately? My number is 214-555-5678. My email address is *email@example.com*. Call me back. As soon as possible. I really like this house.
Message 2 – Hi, I just called. Can you call me back as soon as possible? 214-555-5678.
From the voicemail, I’ve eliminated B and D. All the rest are still in contention, with G making a strong surge in the polls. I enter the MLS number into the flexmls system and wait for it to pop up before I call her back. I’m guessing it’s an $800/month rental property in Surprise. Possibly a $40K resale in Laveen. One of the two.
You can imagine my shock when what actually appears on my screen is a 3 million dollar house in Paradise Valley. I’m suddenly feeling very willing to forgive the woman I was thinking of taking a restraining order out on 10 minutes earlier. I do some quick mental math on the commission for this property (which I realize is putting the cart so very far before the horse, but Bitches Please. How can you not?) and realized I had just ignored a $90K phone call. It’s possible the words, “haminahaminahamina” escape from my lips.
I quickly pick up my phone and call *garbled* back.
Me: Hi, this is Elizabeth with Thompson’s Realty, returning your call.
Her: OH HI! I’m so glad you called me back. I’m really interested in that house.
Me: Well I have it pulled up here. My company is not actually the lister on this property, but I’d be happy to help you with obtaining it if you don’t already have an agent representing you.
Her: I don’t have any other agents. (SCORE! E bites the dust. I’m down to just F and G.)
Me: What would you like to know about the property? Would you like to schedule a showing?
Her: I’m in Dallas and I’m an international fashion model. I’ve been looking for my dream house and I think this is it. It reminds me of when I lived in Milan. I want to make an offer. I can come see it next weekend, but I want to make an offer now. Do you think they can put a pool in before close of escrow? I want a pool.
Me: Well… Yes, I’d be happy to show it to you next weekend. I’m not sure about the pool, but you can always have one put in after the fact. It’s on 2.4 acres, so I’m certain there’s room. So you’re really responding to the Tuscan architecture and design of the property, right? That’s actually very popular out here right now. I could set you up with a property search and you might find several you’re interested in seeing. Are you planning to finance this purchase or do you have cash to pay for it?
Her: Oh I’ve been saving up for my dream home. This is it. I have a letter from the bank that says I can pay for it. I will send it to you. But I really want to make an offer now.
Me: OK, well let’s do this. I’ll email you the MLS plano of the property and my contact information and I will give the listing agent a call to see if they have any activity going on with the property and if we need to move quickly. That price range isn’t moving very quickly out here right now. Can you please send me the proof of funds from your bank so I can put it on file with my broker?
Her: I’ll trust your expertise.
After I get off the phone I evaluate the situation. She’s either a legitimate million+ buyer who just fell into my goddamn lap like a unicorn with a purple bow around his neck and a note that reads, To a Sexy Mortal Lady I Have Had My Eye On. Love, Zeus, or she’s a certifiably insane person who is just screwing with me because she’s actually ill, or because she gets some pleasure out of making people feel like they won the lottery and then decimating their fragile dreams. I decide to make a list of evidence for Legitimate Buyer and one for Crazy Pants.
Says she has a proof of funds letter from her bank
Knows what ‘close of escrow’ is
It would be really really really awesome if she was really a buyer
I really want her to be a real buyer
I’ve sold a 1.5 million dollar house once, so I could probably handle this without totally effing it up
I could put a lot of money away for the 85 children I gave birth to and have to put through college if she was a real buyer
(OK, the last four weren’t really ‘evidence’ technically, but the list felt pretty short before I added them.)
The whole obsessive calling thing doesn’t reek of sanity
Calling a random company from the internet on a $3milllion purchase isn’t super normal
Making an offer site unseen is pretty weird on a $50K house, much less one 60 times that price
You’re an ‘international fashion model’? Uh… thanks for sharing? Oh you lived in Milan? Yes, that totally fits with the fashion model thing.
Writing a pool into the offer doesn’t make a ton of financial sense
She said her name was Yvonne, but she spelled it Evonne
I Googled her name and her email address (which she said was her company name) and came up completely empty
Making the lists had the unfortunate side effect of bumming me out. My unicorn gift from the Gods was looking a lot like a donkey with an empty paper towel roll taped to his forehead who just took a crap on my carpet. But I sent the emails to her, crossed my fingers and went to bed dreaming of the super expensive and delicious wine I was going to pay to have boxed up for my fridge when I won the real estate client lottery. Hope still lived in my heart.
Until, of course, the next day at 4PM when I did not receive the proof of funds she spent every hour, all day, promising me, and instead, I got this email:
Hi Elizabeth, my husband saw another house with a pool and decided on that one. I am sorry and did not know he had this surprise. So i have to go with him. Thanks for all your help.
Yes. I got a G. I wanted to believe it was an F, but I should have listened to my instincts. It was a G.