My “Spidey sense” says something is about to happen. I paced the hallway outside the brokers office door. I heard some raised voices and then a loud crash.
Master Ed. A Tai Chi master lived and taught Tia Chi in a Baltimore row house. It was a peaceful sanctum with hardwood floors, exposed brick and mature bonsai plants. Master Ed was huge. He looked like an Irish Catholic sumo wrestler. It was amazing to see how powerful and graceful he was.
So, I was his student. From the start I arrived without wearing my right arm prosthesis thinking my right hook would not be useful in learning Tia Chi. I learned to feel my center of gravity and to feel the weight of my extremities as they moved through the motions of “The Cat.” Master Ed asked me to wear my hook to the next session.
When I arrived wearing my prosthesis Master Ed ask me to remove it. I did, and Master Ed took it and then held it up to his arm so that my right arm prosthesis was parallel down the length of his right arm. He began to move through “The Cat” feeling the weight of the hook at the end of the arm. As he spun on his own axis the inertia forced the mass of the hook outward. He felt the arm shudder as the elbow joint stopped the range the arm would bend. He spun again and used that force to impact the hook on some padded bars used in sparring. He smiled.
Master Ed asked me to put the arm back on. Then he and I went to “push hands” a two-person exercise where each pushed the hands of the other testing and deflecting the weight and balance of the opponent. Master Ed showed me how I could throw the mass of the stainless-steel hook. He showed me how to turn in any direction throwing the mass of the metal unit while keeping a calm center of balance.
After most classes Master Ed would walk us down to a corner neighborhood bar. We got to be regulars there all decked out in our black Tia Chi uniforms. We were a bunch of guys lined up at the bar drinking Heinekens dressed in black Gi’s. Even though it was a rough area at night in 1970’s Baltimore somehow we never had a problem.
26 years later I am in my real estate office when a couple comes in. They are not my clients. They seem disturbed and ask for their agent. I watched them closely as their agent lead them into the managing brokers office and the door closed. My “Spidey sense” says something is about to happen. I paced the hallway outside the brokers office door. I heard some raised voices and then a loud crash.
I pushed open the door to see the agent had been slammed against the plate window and had blood coming down her face. My broker was reeling back in her chair and looming over her was a very large sumo wrestler of a woman who had grabbed a long gold pen from its stand on the brokers desk. The women’s arm was raised in the air using the gold pen as a dagger, her back to me. With a calmness and no fear, I swung the mass of my stainless-steel hook and caught the neck of the women knocking her off balance. She tripped backward towards me. I deflected her weight. As her husband came towards me, he eyed my hook. Hookie! he yelled. I served in Viet Nam! You people can’t treat us this way Hookie!
By that time others were in the room and the man and his wife backed out of the room. The receptionist had called the police and they quickly escorted the couple into two separate police cars. I don’t need to explain why the couple was there. Nothing they did could be justified. The woman would spend some time in prison. I spent some time thinking about my time in Baltimore with Ed, the Irish Catholic Sumo Tia Chi Master.
The guy who sat next to me was a black guy. Very friendly. Very inner city looking. His dress was over sized baggy hip/hop. I was your typical white guy, beige chinos, blue shirt and blazer. No tie. Very hip. Not much hop.
I always thought I was savvy. I was going to use my many years in real estate to my benefit. Each city holds tax auctions where they sell off property that have unpaid property taxes where the owners never paid up. I got on the published list and then went about determining the value of each property on the list. There were about a hundred properties in Chesapeake, Virginia. I did my due diligence. Researching the multiple listing system and the city tax records and then driving around to each property to get a look at them. I had my target list of the top dollar I would bid for each property. I was ready.
I sit down front in the conference center as the room filled up with about 200 people. Man, I thought. I armed with the best data you could have on these properties. The guy who sat next to me was a black guy. Very friendly. Very inner city looking. His dress was over sized baggy hip/hop. I was your typical white guy, beige chinos, blue shirt and blazer. No tie. Very hip. Not much hop.
I ask him if he had been to these before. He said yeah, he had bought a lot of them. He asked me what I did, and I told him I was a Realtor. He told me he got his GED and then worked for a fence company installing chain link fences around industrial sites. But said he works for himself now buying property and renting it out.
The auction begins. The properties I wanted were all single-family homes. They came up for bid and each one was bid higher than what I felt they were worth. So, I sat on my hands. The guy next to me didn’t bid on any of those properties. In fact, he didn’t pay any attention to those. But he came alive when a series of properties that in my research I had scratched as not worth anything came up for bid.
These properties were mostly very small parcels on busy streets. To small to build on. Some with no utilities running to them. Most of them didn’t have a building on them or maybe an abandoned garage. The guy next to me bid $300 for one. And got it. No other bidders. And $700 for another and got it. No other bidders. And so on.
With the auction over I turned to him and said, “I researched these properties and scratched them. What are you doing with these things?” Big grin. He said “I put chain link fences around them. And then I call the power company and the gas company and the cable company and the city utility department. I ask them if they need a place to store their construction stuff in this area. I got dozens of these all over the place. They pay me $2000 or $3000 a month to store their pipes and wheels of fiber cable. No utilities. No roofs to fix or appliances to replace.
I watched him get into his brand-new BMW as I slinked away in my savvy beige chinos.
I am a word mechanic. I work at my craft. But sometimes I have my failures at wordsmithing. In the early 90’s I was a Realtor with Prudential Decker Realty in Virginia Beach, Va. Later known as Prudential Towne Realty. Now known as Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Towne Realty. Follow that? I am still thriving there.
So the agency was trying something new. Normally on Wednesday’s all the agents form a car caravan and go out to tour the new listings. Instead each agent had prepared a walking video tour of the property. These videos were shown at the Wednesday sales meeting. The agents in the meeting were to fill out feedback slips commenting on the price and adding any suggestions. Just like they did on the caravan tours.
I had a new listing and prepared my script for the walk-thru video. My new listing was in Lake Shores a community built in the 60’s. Most of these homes have beautiful heart-of-pine floors. But in the 60’s wall to wall carpets was the style so the floors were covered. I had my sellers take up the carpet to reveal these beautiful wood floors that had never been walk-on.
In my video I kept referring to these floors as VIRGIN hardwood floors. I received my feedback slips and the comments were as follows. Doug- What are virgin hardwood floors? Are they floors that have never been laid? Doug- What are virgin hardwood floors? Are they floors that have never been nailed? Wordsmithing failure! I have been chastened. Just like my floors.
All you had to do to get a mortgage was breathe on a mirror. If they saw your breath then you could get a loan.
There is a back story to every real estate sale. Marriage and a first house start a new chapter. A second house with kids adds to that chapter. Parents move to assisted living or pass on and something needs to be done with their house. Job losses or job promotions and business success’s open new doors literally. Empty nesters strive for a new life style. Changes in health require new digs. And then there is just crazy.
This is a story about crazy. I got a call from a woman who said she was referred to me. She said she was a navy nurse and was stationed aboard a navy ship. She said she was calling from outside the country but said she wanted to buy a specific condo along Shore Drive in Virginia Beach. She had rented that condo so she knew it well. If it was still available when she got back into port she wanted to see it. We made an appointment for a month later on a Saturday. I pretty much wrote this off but sure enough I got a call from her on Friday. The property was still available and vacant. The buyer was attractive and very charming. We looked it over and wrote an offer after I got her approved for a loan.
The closing date was set two months down the road. We did the walk thru and then I got a call from the buyer’s lender. He said they just did a final verification of the buyer’s bank account and found the funds to close had been withdrawn. We were closing the morning. I called the buyer and she assured me she would have the certified funds to close.
This would never fly in today’s mortgage environment. But this was back when the mortgage application process was minimal to say the least. All you had to do to get a mortgage was breathe on a mirror. If they saw your breath then you could get a loan.
So we closed. Around nine at night I get a call from the City of Virginia Beach jail. A man from the jail says my buyer wants me to come bail her out of jail. What are the charges? I ask. Assault and Bigamy.
It turns out this navy nurse was married to two men. She would tell one of her husbands she had to go to sea and then lived with the other husband. She had borrowed the first down payment from husband number one but then spent it. She borrowed the second down payment from husband number two. But this nurse was not done. She got a boyfriend so she wanted a place of her own. Apparently all three got wind of her plans and a brawl ensued at the condo that afternoon. I didn’t bail her out of jail.
A cherry on top of this story. The nurse never made a payment and a year later the property went into foreclosure. It was listed with my company and I sold it again.