There are around 1.2 million Realtors in the U.S., and three-fourths of them are on vacation.

August is like this in many fields; on Wall Street, where I used to work, it was dead. My shrink goes off to Tuscany or wherever he goes, and my husband threatens to follow. My sponsoring broker spends his time at the beach, but I actually like that, because it gives me the opportunity to show his listings.

And you figure the customers who are going to drag themselves to an open house on a sunny Sunday afternoon are pretty serious customers.

The problem is finding everybody else. I’ve been working with this Canadian, and she’s about ready to throw in the towel on her apartment search because her mortgage rates, as a foreign national, are so prohibitive. (Note to my mortgage broker readers: she doesn’t have U.S. credit, she doesn’t have a “good” visa, and she’s not going to put 30 percent down; please don’t deluge me with e-mail about this.) So anyway, we’re trying to look at one or two last properties before we quit. And me, I’m broke, so I really want to make these properties count.

There was one she’d found herself on a big firm’s Web site, so I called to set up the appointment. I was directed to the agent’s cell phone, which had an outgoing message that said “Open House this Sunday.” But she didn’t call me back, so I got worried, and I called her manager. Things went something like this:

Me: Hi, I’m calling for Abigail.

Manager: Call her cell phone.

Me: Well I did, and she didn’t return the call, so I was wondering if she was on vacation.

Manager: I don’t know. I was just on vacation myself.

Me: Well, I was wondering if you’re having an open house this weekend? Her cell phone message implies it, but there aren’t any ads on your Web site.

Manager: You’d have to talk to her. I just got back. I really don’t know what’s going on. Do you want to go this weekend and see?

Me: I would, but I’ll be on vacation.

So then I was stuck writing a note to my client explaining that she was going to have to take her chances with the open house. (I pointed out that since it wasn’t listed on the firm’s Web site or the inter-agency Web site or The New York Times Web site or on craigslist, I didn’t think it was really going to happen; I believe the phrase I used was, “real estate agents rarely hold open houses in secret.”)

But then I was stuck drawing the distinction between “bad” vacations (careless listing agents who don’t return phone calls when we want to know if we can see an apartment) and “good” vacations (tired, no, exhausted hard-working little buyer’s agents who need their rest and will jump back into the deal after you’ve seen the apartment without them.)

It was kind of a convoluted e-mail. I bet after she reads it, she’ll need a vacation.

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