This time of year, my workweek never ends.

When the weekend comes, I notice it because of the difference in the traffic patterns — and because my schedule is a little fuller.

Various electronic gadgets help me get through it all, but none are as useful to me as having a sense of humor.

Sometimes I am lucky, and I get to spend my time with the wonderful people I call clients. Other times I am not so lucky.

There are lots of things that my clients don’t tell me. My job is about solving problems, and fixing things. It is full of surprises. No two houses are the same, and neither are any two transactions.

Here are a few of the things my sellers don’t always tell me:

  • The house has a $10,000 lien against it but they figure they can sell it without anyone noticing.
  • They don’t really own the house.
  • One seller is legally married to someone but it isn’t the woman he is living with. She doesn’t know he is married until they get to the closing.
  • The roof leaks, but the sellers figured they could hide the damage with a little paint. The paint did not stop the leak, but the sellers did manage to move out of state before the ceiling fell in.
  • The sellers forgot to mention that the sink is a family heirloom, and they are taking it with them. Buyers discover this on the final walkthrough before the closing.
  • The money and drugs hidden in the wall were from a previous owner. The sellers did not know anything about it. But potential buyers did, which is why the house got so much attention when it came on the market.
  • Sellers have not paid their mortgage for three months.
  • One of the sellers son’s lives in the basement and doesn’t want to move.
  • Sometimes the seller’s dog bites real estate agents.

Sellers will ask real estate agents to reduce their commission if, for some reason, they can’t get enough money for the house to pay off their mortgage and leave the closing with some amount of money that they need. It isn’t hard to say no.

Buyers are full of little surprises, too. Here are a few real-life examples:

  • Buyers have a large extended family. They will inspect any house that the buyers are interested in putting an offer on. They show up only after we have spent weeks or months looking for that perfect home.
  • Two or three appointments will be needed at different times to accommodate the large extended family. Most of them will be available only during the evening rush hour, or on a Saturday night.
  • Some members of the large extended family will need to use the restroom in a home that has the water turned off.
  • Some buyers have evil children who run through the house screaming and unlocking doors.
  • Parents of first-time homebuyers often know less about construction and the homebuying process than they think.

Some folks think that being a real estate agent is about using technology. Others think it is about lead generation and marketing. Some think it is about sales or branding or social media. But it’s really about problem solving.

Real estate agents need to be able to deal with most any situation that arises. We have to be able to go anywhere and talk to anyone and to explain anything and to take charge. We are forever solving problems and fixing things.

We have to be prepared to walk into a room where there is a ferret, or a home where the heat’s turned off and there’s ice on the kitchen floor. We need to find answers to the most ridiculous unanswerable and unknowable questions.

We need to take care not to even crack a smile when we turn on the light in the basement and there is a fully dressed mannequin in the corner, and the man we are showing the house to screams. (You just can’t make this stuff up.)

Sometimes homes are sold because two agents work together. There is a willing buyer and a willing seller and some problem arrives during the transaction that brings it to a screeching halt. It usually has to do with a “principle.” The transaction is salvaged by two agents working together and coming up with creative solutions.

There really isn’t any amount of training, certification, designation or licensure that can prepare a person to handle the types of experiences we have as real estate agents. I fix things and solve problems all day long and on weekends and national holidays, too. I’ll quit as soon as I lose my sense of humor.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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