Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Inman News on Nov. 1, 2004, just before the National Association of Realtors’ annual convention in Orlando, Fla.
I was single when I attended my first Realtor show nearly 25 years ago. I was having a drink at a “B” hotel, near the “A” headquarter hotel. An older, top-producing Realtor from Beverly Hills was sitting at the bar alone in a gray fur coat. We both drank too much red wine and wound up in her hotel room in a queen-sized bed. She was a tall, tanning salon-toned woman, not as young looking as her business card, but very attractive.
Undone in the morning, I scrambled through the lobby, trying to avoid contact with the association gang that I traveled with to the real estate show.
Months later, I was in Los Angeles and visited this tall TP in her lacey condo and again we crawled into bed. That was the end of our little soiree. I am not the only member of the Realtor show-connection society; let’s call it the Open House Club.
This weekend, 25,000 Realtors will descend on Orlando, Fla., and some will join the Open House Club. I have a theory about why there will be a healthy amount of sex among causal acquaintances. More integrated than most industries, real estate has a proportionate number of men and women, which increases the odds of some instant late-night flings. The builder, mortgage banking and Urban Land Institute show attendees are mostly men.
Plus, hard working Realtors who routinely ignore their personal life–many of whom are divorced–get away from town with like-minded members of the opposite sex. They do what comes naturally with more abandon than they exercise under normal circumstances.
Of course, a secret tryst is easier away from home.
One state association committee chairwoman once told me that the only time she took off her wedding ring was for quarterly director meetings.
Booze also is a contributing factor to the let-loose mood.
AA meetings will be held at the NAR show, just look for “Friends of Bill” sessions on the show program, but this crowd will not measurably diminish the amount of alcohol consumed this weekend in Orlando.
Word is that Orlando, being a family town, will not be as raucous as New Orleans, Las Vegas or San Francisco.
At the NAR show last year in San Francisco, the bell desk received dozens of business cards from female Realtors with their room numbers and even room keys to give to actor Fabio who was the celebrity working the eNeighborhoods exhibit booth. I doubt whether this year’s eNeighborhoods personality Richard Simmons will incite the same level of passion.
Check out the speed-dating section of Match.com for Orlando, starting Thursday or so, and my guess is it will display a couple of instant Realtor matches.
Though, oddly enough, online dating may be doing such a good job of satisfying the libido that convention matching may lose some of its luster.
But some of these liaisons are like the 1979 movie “Same Time Next Year” with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn who would rendezvous every year at the same hotel in Mendocino, Calif.
I know one Realtor liaison that has been going on for at least five years. The only time they get together is during the annual Realtor show, and the mid-year NAR conference in Washington, D.C. They have a routine, which includes avoiding each other in public, but meeting in his room at 11 p.m. sharp the first night of the show.
On day two, they meet somewhere away from the show such as a park or theater and enjoy a good part of the day shopping, going to museums or a movie. They go back to the hotel separately but meet up later that night.
Novelist Richard Ford wrote a fictional variation of this narrative in a short story for the New Yorker magazine where two Realtors from the same office in Arizona hooked up at the Arizona convention. But like many sexual affairs in novels, short stories and in real life, this one ended badly with the woman agent falling off a cliff when the two decided to visit the Grand Canyon.
A friend of mine who used to work for one of the big state associations was nearly stalked at conventions by a female association leader who would call up late at night and urge him to visit her hotel room. She would talk naughty on the phone and lure my friend over to her place–of course he loved it.
One large regional association president told me about a top association president who routinely found friendly women Realtors to pick up.
Association staff liaisons are also common. Many marriages were first spawned by a touch on the hand in a hotel bar at a Realtor show. And of course, these sorts of relationships can blossom or turn ugly and they have done both.
I read an online review of the DVD on the movie “Same Time Next Year.” The reviewer wrote, “it is imperative that the thinking viewer always remember that the film is about adultery, betraying the fidelity of marriage, and the “glossing” of this subject.”
A friend of mine who used to be a serial trade show lover said times have changed. “Folks do Yoga now, have found a spiritual path, have more values, are less careless and take their profession more seriously,” he said. “People are different now.”
I do not believe that for a minute.
Ben Arnold Clark is a pseudonym. The stories contained in this article are true accounts of a real estate tradeshow attendee.
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