By Steve Cash / Detroit
The author selling the same clients' home more than 30 years apart; Left photo is from 1986; right photo is from 2020.
I have been selling real estate for 45 years. As you might imagine, I have had some laughs with clients along the way, as well as some wacky experiences. Without further ado, let me recap a few of my greatest hits.
In 1982, the real estate market was bad. Interest rates were approaching 15 percent, and nothing was moving. My associate and best friend Marc and I were working together at the time and trying desperately to drum up some business.
We called a for-sale-by-owner we saw listed and the young couple invited us over. We did a presentation for them, and to our surprise, they listed with us right on the spot and immediately put up a FOR SALE sign. They mentioned that they had interviewed several realtors and were very impressed with us.
We got back to the office and with some arrogance and lack of humility, bragged to each other about our great accomplishment. Twenty-four hours later, as we were inputting the listing into the multi-list, the phone rang.
The man identified himself as Mr. Kanter, said he was an attorney and reference the home we had just listed. He told me that he had just seen the sign and wondered who had authorized us to list the house. With supreme confidence, I told him the sellers’ names.
The attorney informed me that it was a vacant home and that the seller had not lived there for four months. That’s right–you guessed it. The listing I was so proud of and gloating about was given to us by squatters Not only had they snuck into the house, they had also attempted to scam their way into making some money with this farce. I was ordered to remove the sign at once and tear up the listing.
Humiliated and mad, I called the squatters and let them have it. They admitted it was a farce and said a drug problem was part and parcel of their deception. They apologized and said they were sorry but wanted me to know that they were not lying about liking me and Marc, and had they really owned the house, we would have been their first choice to sell it. Call me ungrateful but somehow their compliments were not much consolation.
I have always been proud of my commitment to my clients. I try and look out for their welfare and do what's best for them. I consider myself an honest and good realtor in most areas. What I have never been, though, is a sharp dresser. I've sold thousands of homes and my lack of interest in proper clothing has never really hurt me...until two weeks ago.
An attorney friend called me recently with a lead for a nice house in Novi, Mich. He set up a meeting with the owners. It was an estate, and I was to meet with the three children of the late owner. It was an informal meeting just to say hello and take a look at the property. We met on a Wednesday, and I thought things went well. We talked about the home, talked about sports, and talked about life in general. They had to do some repairs on the home and said they would call me to list when they were done.
Two days later, I received a call from my attorney friend. They had decided not to list with me. I said, "I thought they liked me." He said they did like you, they thought you were knowledgeable, but they noticed the bottom of your pants were frayed and you looked disheveled. I was bewildered. I mean it was probably true, but as far as I knew, I had never been penalized before for my apparel indifference.
I sent them a letter to try and rectify the situation. I told them that I had sold thousands of homes and many of them while I was improperly dressed. I documented the times I went on appointments unashamedly wearing two different socks, baggy pants, and once in a pinch my wife's girdle. I begged them to judge me on track record and accomplishments, but alas, they could not see past my lack of fashion sense.
They listed with someone else. putting me out in the cold. I’m not bitter, though, and if I have a buyer, I will not hesitate to show the home. You damn well better believe, though, I’ll be wearing those same frayed pants and unpolished shoes during the showing. Perhaps if I bring the sellers a full-price offer, my frayed pants will look a little more stylish to them.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
Anyone who knows me knows I am old-fashioned and to a degree living in the past. This fact became all too evident a few years ago. I was showing a young couple various homes for a few months. The man was the son of a client I had worked with 30 years earlier, and I came highly recommended.
We all got along famously and after showing them several properties, we were able to find the perfect home for them. They applied for a mortgage, got approved and we set up a closing.
The closing went well, and we all shared a glass of wine. Upon saying goodbye, I shook the young man's hand and as an aside, asked him if it would be “okay to hug his wife." He said that would be fine and I approached her with what I thought was an innocent gesture.
"What do you think you're doing?” she yelled. “This is not 1957. You don’t ask my husband if you can hug me, you ask me. And incidentally, the answer is no,” she said emphatically.
I was dumbfounded and hurt. I thought I was showing appreciation for the home buying experience. Instead, I was now feeling like a 68-year-old pervert. I pulled back and apologized profusely.
In a semi-kind manner, she lectured me on how the world has changed and how I should not be so presumptuous in the future. I was blindsided but let me tell you–her words hit home. I haven't shown any affection to a client since this incident, and I’m so snakebitten that I even hesitated to hug my wife on the occasion of our recent 40th anniversary.
In 1980, I listed a beautiful ranch home in Southfield, Mich. The owners, whom I’ll call Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin, were originally from Ilford Essex, England. Mr. Baldwin was an unbelievably articulate gentleman with a sly sense of humor.
He called me one day soon after I listed his house and in his best cockney accent, he said, "Steve, some twit from your office just showed my house." I replied, “What's wrong, Mr. Baldwin?” he said "Well, she keeps restating the obvious She said to the buyer, ‘This is the fireplace.’ What did she think it was-–the entrance to Hades?”
On another occasion, a cooperating broker, Mr. Smith, brought us an unacceptably low offer, but tried to convince Mr. Baldwin that it was a sweet deal. Mr. Baldwin looked at the agent and said, “I think I've seen you before.” The agent said, Really? Where? "In used car lots all over this country,” Mr. Baldwin snickered.
Mr. Baldwin like to drink a little and eventually turned his wrath on me. The house was not selling, and he began criticizing my sales technique, His wife said scoldingly, “Leave Mr. Cash alone. He's a nice man.” Mr. Baldwin screamed, "Mr. Cash hides his devilishness behind sort of a boyish veneer." He had me pegged.
When I mentioned to him that I was getting married, I showed him a picture of my future wife. I said to Mr. Baldwin, “Even someone as cynical as you cannot question her beauty. " It’s not her beauty I question” he replied tartly. It’s her judgment and eyesight.”
I eventually sold their house, and never forgot his biting humor. It was an honor being humiliated by him.
Steve Cash is originally from Oak Park, Mich. He is a longtime real estate agent who used to do stand-up comedy in L.A. His claim to fame was winning The Gong Show in 1977, and working at the Comedy Store with such greats as David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Michael Keaton. After watching those brilliant comics perform, Steve realized he’d better make a beeline back to Detroit and get back into real estate. Steve has had articles published in a number of publications and enjoys writing and trying to make people laugh.