Saturday, January 9, 2010

Baby vs. the Bank-Owned Foreclosure

“You’re a real estate agent?” asked Other Mom, while pushing her baby in Stroller Strides a few mornings ago. “How do you do that...and…well, you know…” she nodded towards Marley who was rolling along in the stroller in front of me. Marley was busy plucking goldfish out of her snack pack one-at-a-time, launching them into the air, then punctuating every throw with a surprised-sounding “uh oh!”

How did I do it? How do I do it? The answer is, I’m still not sure.

I guess it helps that I work with my mom. We divide up our work so I do all of our marketing—the email newsletters, the internet marketing, database search updates, etc. I also work in the office one afternoon a week while mom watches Marley. Mom, on the other hand, does most of the open houses, property showings and negotiations…the bulk (and the most stressful) part of the job. In turn I get a percentage of every sale we make, ranging from 30-40%, depending on who brought in the lead.

That’s unless the client is a friend of mine. In that case, I do all of it myself. After all, it’s not really fair to pawn my friends off to my mom, is it? And besides, my friends know I have a kid, so they usually aren’t annoyed (at least visibly) when I have to take Marley to showings and inspections.

But things have gotten…well, complicated. And I had to learn the hard way to be careful about which clients I could work with.

Take my client Bob. Dear Bob was looking for a single family detached home under $300,000. In San Diego, that means you’re buying a bank-owned foreclosure in the bowels of southeast San Diego. Which means that I spent a good amount of time showing some pretty crappy houses in pretty crappy neighborhoods where no one speaks English. And if they do, they’re drunk, high, or missing a limb. Sometimes, all three!

I knew I had to rethink things when Mom couldn’t watch Marley one afternoon, and I had to meet Bob at a little gem of a house in a very special neighborhood, made special in its distinction of having the lowest-rated schools in San Diego. Marley sat quietly in her baby seat, smiling obliviously while I silently cursed myself for taking on this client and outwardly cursed when I saw the house was located just a block away from a halfway home.
But, I was a working mom, so I pulled over, strapped Marley in her Bjorn and grabbed my lockbox key. When I got to the front of the house, I saw a bum sitting on the doorstep. He was missing an arm, but he seemed to be doing just fine with one. He sat there, smoking a joint and holding a Millwaukee's Best. I turned around and went home.

Things got even more better when my friends Jesi and Brian bought a bank-owned foreclosure out by San Diego State. It was a gnarly transaction and when we closed, I couldn’t wait to greet them at the house and hand over the keys. I pulled up into the driveway with a bottle of champagne in hand, delighted to welcome them to their cozy new home. When I opened up the house and turned on the lights, I had a nice surprise….someone else thought the home was pretty cozy too. I found a bum in the kitchen, cooking himself a frozen pizza for dinner.
Good times!