…A time to be born, a time to die. A time to plant, a time to reap. A time to kill, a time to heal. A time to laugh, a time to weep… –The Byrds

The Byrds didn’t mention it in their historic “Turn, Turn, Turn” record, but there’s yet another kind of time. It’s called “floor time”–the time that real estate agents like me volunteer to answer our office’s phones and help potential buyers or sellers who simply walk in from the street.

No one gets paid for floor time. But agents (especially rookies like me) volunteer for it anyway, hoping to catch that one-in-five-hundred-or-so callers who actually are serious about buying or selling a home.

In short, “working the floor” is sort of like what my Dad, who sold refrigerators during the Depression, called “fishing in a shallow lake.” You get only a few nibbles, and even fewer bites.

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It’s also a boring and tedious task, which helps to explain why I can write this column while I’m also answering the phones–when they ring. And that isn’t often, at least for today.

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The last call I got was about an hour ago. It was from a guy who wanted to know whether a home my company advertised for sale at $799,990 was available for lease.

He said he has “a very good income” and would pay “whatever it takes” to rent the house, so I told him that I’d call the listing agent to see if the sellers would consider a lease arrangement or (even better) a lease-option.

The seller’s agent, after lamenting what a slow day it was, too, said the seller would be happy to rent the house out through the end of the year. The seller would want $3,000 a month, the agent said, but would probably accept $2,900 “or even just $2,800, if the tenant is ‘solid.'”

I called my potential client back to give him the good news. “Oh,” he said. “That seems like a lot of money. I was thinking of paying $600, or maybe $700–tops.”

I thanked him for his interest, and then gave him the phone numbers of several rental agencies in our area.

Now he’s their problem, not mine.

On a slow day like this, I do what a lot of American workers do when they’re bored: Surf the Internet.

But even that’s not very fun on a Sunday, because most of my favorite sites (including Inman News) usually don’t post any new stories on weekends.

I’m so bored. I even went to AccuWeather.com to see what it’s like in other parts of the country.

(FYI, AccuWeather says it’ll be hotter than usual in Topeka and Omaha this month, but colder than usual in Klickitat, Wash., and Umatilla, Ore. Adjust your vacation plans accordingly.)

One of the biggest drawbacks of working the floor on a slow day is that most of the people who call in or drop by are mere “lookie-loos” instead of serious buyers. They see a picture of a home our brokerage advertised in the paper and want to tour it, even though 99.9 percent of the time they have no intention of buying.

But our office has a strict policy: If someone wants to see a house, an agent must show it to them even if the salesperson has pre-qualified the client and determined that the home is out of his or her price range.

The policy is a pain in the buttocks for agents like me because we wind up carting people from one house to the next even though we’re virtually certain that it won’t result in a sale.

A veteran agent in the office tells me the policy was created several years ago, when our brokerage was sued because a salesperson declined to show a property to a minority couple.

As the story goes, the couple had a modest $5,000 down payment and had been pre-approved for something like a $125,000 loan. But the house they wanted to look at was listed for more than $300,000, so the agent bluntly told them it would be a waste of both his time and theirs to look at a property that they clearly could not afford.

The couple, angry that the agent wouldn’t show them the house, filed a housing-discrimination lawsuit and supposedly settled it out-of-court for $160,000.

With that kind of dough, I bet they can afford the place now.

Anyway, there’s now only 17 minutes left before my floor-time shift mercifully comes to an end. Afterwards, I have to dash out and meet a potential client who called “the floor” about a property that she saw listed in our newspaper ad this morning.

Experience tells me that nothing will come out of our visit. But, who knows?

Even a shallow lake has some big fish in it. And as my Dad would agree, I can’t catch one if I don’t throw my line into the water.

***

Got tips, ideas or advice for the Rookie Realtor? Send them to Rookie@inman.com.

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