The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Feral Zombie Cats and Idiot Buttons

Yesterday I showed a house that was listed For Sale By Owner. In the biz we call that a ‘fizz-bow’(FSBO) because we are so very fond of our acronyms and have basically all decided if we just universally adopt our own language with enough confidence people will stop laughing at us. Once I even decided just to make some up and see if anyone called me on it.

Me: Listen, I need you to get me the AQH for this deal. The buyer is using FMO financing, so it’s really important that we get this done FTSB.

The agent I was on the phone with was too intimidated to ask about the first two, but I think by the last one she was starting to get suspicious.

Cross Agent: What does FTSB stand for?

Me: *SIGH indicating rookieness of my competition* Faster Than a Speeding Bullet, obviously.

Cross Agent: Oh, right. I haven’t had my coffee yet today. I knew that.

The key to being a really stellar real estate agent is never letting on you don’t have a clue what’s going on around you.

But I digress.

I have a new client who’s looking for a house in one of the older neighborhoods right around ASU. Because our market is already dry as a bone and additionally the subject area is really limited, we’ve taken to calling FSBOs to see if they’d be willing to work with a buyer’s agent. I say ‘we’ like it was my idea, but actually, my client sent me a picture of the for sale sign she saw while out driving around and wanted to know if I could set up an appointment to view it. Of course I told her I would, but I have to confess, FSBOs make me itch. They’ve already announced by the sign in the yard, I don’t need your help. Your job is pretty pointless. I can do it by self. (That last sentence is what I regularly told my parents when I was two or three because I was a willful and obnoxious child. Apparently I have no one to blame for Jonas but myself.)

But desperate times call for desperate measures, so I called up the number on the FSBO sign and introduced myself as an agent with a potential buyer.

The first conversation with the FSBO seller had its pros and cons.

Pro – She was willing to pay a buyer’s agent.

Con – She was not willing to let us see the property any time in the next week. She had taxes to do and no time at all to clean up until at least next week. She was evasive about even when she could let us in at all.

Pro – She was friendly and had lots of information about the house.

Con – She mentioned ‘feral cats’ she feeds several times, while wondering if my potential buyers would potentially be willing to continue feeding them if they purchased the house. Yes, kindly seller, I’m sure my buyers, who haven’t even seen your house, much less the monsters themselves, would be willing to swear they will keep alive the homeless, probably disease/kitten/yowley voice bearing cats you currently lay claim to. Can we please come see the house now? PLEASE?

When we finally got around to agreeing on a specific day and time to view the property, I was expecting a crazy scene. She’d told me more than once that things were ‘cluttered’, which, in Realtor-speak translates to ‘a hoarder lives here’. Plus, over the three times I spoke with her, she was increasingly difficult to get off the phone with. The last time I had to actually pull a sitcomy “Oh, my other line is ringing, I need to go!” to get her to stop talking. It was either that or “You’re breaking up! *Crumbling paper into the receiver*”.

I warned my clients of the possible atrocities we might witness. The house could be a biohazard site. It was probably riddled with termites. She might have 88 cats. There could even be a zombie infestation. You can never tell. We designated a code phrase that meant ‘Let’s get the eff out of here NOW.’ I wanted to use ‘pineapple’ but my clients thought it might be hard to bring up in conversation. We ended up with ‘interest rates’, which I thought was boring, but hey, I’m not the client. That’s the benefit of working with me; you get to pick the code phrases.

So you can imagine our shock when we entered an immaculate, completely uninfested by termites or zombies, almost adorable home on Sunday afternoon. It was actually sort of anticlimactic. We didn’t even get to meet the feral cats or use the code phrase.

We were, however, introduced to a mommy, daddy and baby pigeon who had nested in the back patio eves. The seller (an elderly Asian woman) had filled the rest of the eves with Kleenex boxes, pigeon spikes and tacked up newspapers to deter other pigeons from following suit, but explained that this little family was smart and had knocked the boxes out of the area and made a nest before she could replace them. She was left with no other choice but to house the poor dears and work harder at keeping others away.

It was after this story I figured out the seller on this house. She wasn’t completely insane. She was just attached, in an arguably over-the-top manner, to living creatures, small or large, feral or rodent of the sky. It was actually sort of sweet. She was doing her best to keep the porch clear of the inevitable pigeon waste. She had plastic sheeting down underneath the nest that she proclaimed to change regularly. She just couldn’t bring herself to evict the damn birds. And while I was peeking at the youngster in the nest from the dining room window, it was hard to blame her.

So, of course, I had to make up for the lack of drama in the FSBO cat-lady house in the next home. It’s my responsibility, as the agent, to keep things exciting.

The next house was a 1950’s ranch home with an almost entirely original interior. The listing agent had explained it included a key-activated alarm system I was to ‘unlock’ before entering and then relock upon leaving. He did not, however, warn me not to push the button above one of the light switches in the living room that looked like a doorbell. In hindsight, I’m probably lucky that it was just a panic button that set off an alarm on the exterior of the house and caused half the neighborhood to come running to see what was wrong. It could have been some kind of electrocution button meant to exterminate dummies who push things just to see what they do. Or it could have been the button to drop the bomb on Russia the President has in all those 80s movies.

In summary, the lessons of the week are:

1.    Don’t judge old ladies who like to chat your ear off as hoarders without meeting them. They may just be sweet, neat and tidy animal lovers.

2.    IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A BUTTON WILL TRIGGER, DON’T PUSH IT. I had to shout that one because some of us are apparently five year olds. ->Me<-

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