With my local, traditional news delivery medium now relegated to the equivalent of a letter-sized memorandum of understanding, I find myself relying, like so many, on online sources for my daily dose of breaking events. The lighter "Currents" section I used to enjoy has now been replaced by Google’s "How to of the day" list.

This morning, my attention was drawn to the entry titled, "How to escape from the trunk of a car." "Being trapped in a car’s trunk can be a harrowing, sometimes deadly experience," the teaser read. Maybe so, but my initial reaction was that this does not apply to me.

I have a better chance of fitting into my wedding dress after consuming the No. 3 combo platter (enchilada, taco, rice and beans) than I do the boot of my Volkswagen Beetle. Are they talking about my husband’s car? I’m pretty sure I could crawl over the back seat of his SUV without written instructions.

More importantly, wouldn’t it be better if I just stayed out of the trunk to begin with?

Then they explained. "Sometimes a criminal will force a person into a trunk, and sometimes a person will accidentally get trapped in a trunk, but regardless of the cause of entrapment, a trunk is a very dangerous place to be."

You said it, sister. Now that you mention it, I’ve been there before.

If we are good at what we do, finding ourselves in a tight spot will be an event of rarity. But events of rarity, like crimes, still happen, and they seem to come in waves. Real estate, in particular, is a wacky business of highs and lows. It’s a steady stream of paychecks and then a pipeline of business run dry, and happy clients naming their goldfish after you and then a client demanding a warrant for your arrest.

Mostly, it’s not our fault. Sometimes, though, we just get stupid and climb right in.

This week brought the whole gamut. We were able to help a pair of buyers present a successful offer on their dream home. And there was the other couple who called to see homes and — after two weeks spent bonding with one of our buyer’s agents and her gas tank — they, too, found their dream home.

Only then it happened that, suddenly sensing a cooperative commission up for grabs, they proceeded to inform her that they would be representing themselves. To their credit, being reasonable people and all, they did offer to "maybe" let her list their current home and to even throw her a few bucks because she had been "so helpful." Neither happened, of course, because, alas, she wouldn’t agree to assume the liability and "handle the paperwork" in return.

Forget the buyer-broker-agreement argument. It’s still criminal. And that was just the beginning. …CONTINUED

During our rollercoaster ride we also saw four new escrows, one canceled escrow, three new listings, and one listing from which I was summarily relieved of my duties — stuffed in a trunk, so to speak.

I still remember my first failed transaction. Well, I don’t remember the details so much as the feeling. I moped and whined. I felt resentful and angry, and really, really sorry for myself. I went through all of the stages of mourning, and then my tough-love broker explained how to escape. "Throw yourself a 15-minute pity party, then get back to work," she directed.

If you are in this business long enough, you will eventually find yourself in an unpleasant situation or with an unhappy person on your hands. I guarantee it. Over time, I have mostly learned to take a strictly clinical posture when I find myself in the dark, with my head resting on the owner’s manual. The first few times, though, it was the foreign-language version, and I didn’t get it.

I sold the home too quickly, so I was overpaid, they said. The home took too long to sell, so I was overpaid, they complained. In an appreciating market, the next home sold for more, so I must have underpriced. In a declining market, the last home sold for more, so I must have underpriced. They lost the home in multiple offers because I didn’t advise them properly, or they got the home in multiple offers, so I must have allowed them to overpay. Same argument, different circumstances, and sometimes you feel like you just can’t win. That’s when it’s important to remember that people are as varied as dealer options, and we can’t possibly please everyone every time.

So, I was fired. The almost comical part is that this was the second time this client fired me. The first time came after eight months, approximately 20 open houses, hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, four strong offers and many sleepless nights. Of course, they said they were committed to selling, so we made the decision to take a chance, even though they initially listed just a little too high. And each time an offer was submitted, they considered it just a little too low. Each price reduction was just a little less than we recommended. We chased a down market on their behalf until, little by little, they had had enough. The husband blamed the lousy market, while the wife blamed everything and everyone from the artificial food preservatives to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We parted friends.

One month later, we were rehired. This time, our clients were finally ready to sell. They really meant it this time, they said. And this is where I again found myself staring at the back end of a tire iron. But this time, unlike the last, I crawled in there all by myself. I should have known better. Four more months, one more offer, a couple of thousand dollars more spent on marketing, and we weren’t able to produce a buyer willing to pay what they "needed," which, it turns out, was just a little more than the market would support.

During the exit interview, this now the second one, my husband asked why they thought the home didn’t sell. They answered, "You’re kidding, right?" Ah, of course. It was our fault all along.

Sometimes we climb into our own tight spaces. We knowingly take risks. Other times, we are left feeling like crime victims. We do everything right, and we still get stuffed. Either way, know it’s going to happen. Getting out the first time is hard, but, with practice, you will learn it takes only about 15 minutes. Had I not learned this, I would have still been suffocating yesterday instead of listening to our clients squeal with delight as we delivered the keys to their new home.

I know there will be times I find myself forced out of the driver’s seat. And despite taking all the right precautions, I will undoubtedly find myself in a tight spot again. But when I was enjoying my most recent 15 minutes communing with the spare tire, I remembered that the successes and rewards associated with safely getting my clients where they need to go will always define the journey. The rest of it, well, those are just bumps in the road. In any event, real estate can be quite the ride.

Kris Berg is broker-owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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