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Boomers

May 28, 2007

I’ve been watching a friend’s business while he’s been on vacation. He gets a call off of one of his cards. They are friendly and engaging. They tell me they have been in the house for 40 years. They are the original owners. They bought it for about $25K and now owe over $500K. They have refinanced many times and now have just about maxed out their line of credit. They have been living off of the house for years and have about one more payment worth of equity line. After speaking with these folks for about an hour, it sounds like they need to sell their house before they get behind on their payments and loose what equity they have left. So, I make the appointment.

I get to the house and the first thing I notice are the foot tall weeds and the old cars in the driveway. Walking up to the door, I wonder what this lattice contraption is really for. I know it’s a seating area but, it’s not a simple bench, it’s almost a gazebo except that it’s not round or well made or attractive to look at. hmmm

The couple is charming and funny. They have lots of stories and want to tell them all to me. They have such great memories that I want to keep them there if possible.

We go through the finances and when the reality starts hitting home, the woman says they have to go, they have another appointment. I don’t move and continue gently going through their options. Even if we can rent out rooms – which really worries me with older folks, I think they need to feel safe and if there are problem tenants IN their house it is anything but safe – they will have maybe $2000 per month to live on. So, we go through their bills and there is not a lot left for food after the basic bills – and minimum payments on their maxed out credit cards – are paid.

The husband realizes that they need to sell. We start talking about options; what to do with stuff, where they will go, and how to get it all done before a notice of default is filed. It takes a while but we get through all the paperwork to list the house and as I leave I drop them off at the local shopping center so they can get their errands done.

I get home and work for about an hour and a half – opening escrow, entering the listing, finding retirement communities and service providers.

The next morning I get three calls at 7:30 saying they want to cancel.

Actually, this is pretty normal. Especially for older folks. The morning comes and fear sets in and they want to run.

I return their call all day. No answer and no voicemail.
I go by the house, no answer.
I send them a note.

On day two they shoo away the sign company. I send them a list of items I am working on and ask them to contact me.

Day four I get a message from the son.

This is actually what I needed to happen. After a few days the folks reached out to their support system – luckily they have one – so the son comes in to help. The son will be my measure of reason. My sounding board for what is really going on.

I chat with the son. He’s kind and good – a great reflection of the parents – and he lets me know that there are other options. His folks won’t be losing their house and he is aware of the situation.

Now I can let it go.

I know that many real estate licensees [do you know the different between a licensee and a realtor?] just need the next paycheck. While I live on my real estate income, I also need to feel good about who I am and what I do. I could have dropped the listing when they wanted to cancel, or I could have played hardball and worked to enforce the contract. For me, I needed to know that the people would be ok. For me, the real estate business is not about the house, it’s about the people and how I can help to make their life the best life possible. That’s why I love this business, for me it’s about helping people.

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