One cycle ends as the Montclair, N.J., house slips through my hands. My mortgage connection, the lender who brought me the lead, had been very interested in helping me see the house before Christmas. But we had never been able to get in, and then the mortgage broker had disappeared for a couple of weeks, and I just found her again.

She apologized for having been out of touch and said she’d been working on a FSBO.

“That’s okay,” I said, thinking, “well, honey, I’m not running off to make mortgage loans.”

But anyway, I smiled into the phone, and she said she hadn’t talked to the owner, and I finally said, just give me the owner directly. And I called the owner and she said she was no longer interested in selling the house, and I thought, that’s that.

I’ll follow up with a letter to her house – something she can keep around just in case – but I wonder if I blew it. Should I have contacted her earlier?

I got a letter from a reader asking if I needed a coach and I didn’t answer it because I’ve been mulling: do I need a coach? Does trying to buy homes at good prices involve fine emotional issues that you have to play on the fly or is there a coachable psychology to it?

Along those lines, I asked my partners again for something I’ve long wanted: a senior agent to follow around for a couple of days.

When I started out as a reporter, that’s how I learned my trade, by imitation. At Fortune, my first day, I was put in a room with a senior fact-checker and I learned how to ask questions by parroting her phone conversations. Then I worked my way up to actual reporting, which involved following around really senior people (think 30 years’ experience) and carrying their briefcases. But in the course of this, I would hear someone who was really good interview, say, the CEO of IBM, and I’d think: that’s how they do it.

Real estate, I feel, must have a little of the same art, and I want to see what the experienced people’s scripts are.

Other than the disappointment about Montclair, things seem to be on a roll. My non-New Jersey life, which has been a string of disappointing pitches, is now full of so many fun projects it could add up to multiple full-time jobs. After hearing “no” so many times, it’s nice to have my ideas received with warmth and excitement. Example: every year my friends and I do an Oscar jokes site; we’ve been doing this for eight years. And one year Entertainment Weekly wrote about it, and we thought we were going to be real comedy writers. The next year, nothing. This year we got some New York press, and somehow that brought us visitors from France and from Australia. How cool is that? (Blatant plug for comedy: check out

Meanwhile back in Jersey, I’ve been invited to present my venture to my firm’s sales force. Tomorrow! I’m trying to design the take-away right now, trying to figure out what sort of thing would make every agent drop what they’re doing and generate leads for me. (There’s a financial incentive, of course; but I also want to get across the idea that this will be an easy deal that will close quickly and get them points in Heaven . . . while not overselling! You see the problem.)

I posed the problem to one of my favorite editors, and she brought up an old rule from Public Speaking 101: “Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em; tell ’em; then tell ’em what you told ’em.”

So tomorrow, I’m gonna tell ’em.


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