I had the most glorious Fourth of July weekend. I took the entire three-day weekend off and lounged poolside at a beautiful golf community not far from home.
Of course, as a Realtor it is really hard to take time "off," as demonstrated by my self-imposed silence when an out-of-state vacationer at the pool began giving the rest of us a lesson in Oregon real estate.
Oh, I wanted to butt in — I really did. But I didn’t. I dug my fingernails into my People magazine and took another swig of Diet Coke.
Anyway, I was having a lot more fun watching an awkward melodrama unfold in the pool. A blossoming 14-year-old girl and her best friend were trying to stay atop a large inflatable whale while a hyperventilating 13-year-old boy bobbed alongside in the deep end, desperate to start a conversation somehow. He had very thoughtful advice.
"I think you should get out and try to get on from the side of the pool," he said to the girls, who were not listening. "You guys would have a lot more luck if you let some air out," he said a little louder.
Finally, he crawled out of the pool, took three steps backwards, a deep breath, and launched himself out over the water with one leg outstretched and hands clenched in jabbing fists. The subsequent splash got every one’s attention.
"What was that?" asked the girl in a red bikini, wiping the water out of her eyes.
"Oh that?" said the boy, "That was a karate kick. It could break an arm."
"Really," said the girl, "how do you know?"
"Well," he said, "I do karate. I can break bricks and pieces of wood in half and an arm isn’t as strong as a brick. And I’m going to be a karate master and run my own dojo when I get older."
"Really!" chirped the girl. "What’s a dojo?"
And so it began. Awkward karate boy explaining the fine points of muscle control and the life of a peaceful warrior and the girls of summer listening patiently to a guy they wouldn’t have given a second look to five minutes ago.
I was really pulling for the skinny saucer-eyed boy when the unthinkable happened. His mom marched into the pool area and started calling him home: "Matthew! Matthew Williamson! It is time to come home now!"
I just about got up and shushed her. But it was too late. Spell broken, game over.
On the walk back to the house that evening I passed five bare lots for sale. Despite my ban on real estate, I couldn’t help myself. I stopped and pulled fliers from each one, incredulous at what I was reading. These lots were overpriced by at least $100,000. It really almost ruined my evening.
Luckily, I had a black Sharpie marker in my pool bag. I threw my towel over my shoulder, uncapped that little black pen, and began helping those Realtors out. I slashed prices by half with big, bold strokes. Now, I thought, they would get a couple calls.
Ah, I had you going, right? I did have a Sharpie, and I did want to rewrite their advertising, but alas. I did not. But I wanted to. In fact, I asked my family what they thought of my idea.
It goes without saying that my very peaceful and diplomatic husband told me I was insane. My mother was on the fence — she thought it sounded like fun and just a little bit dangerous (thus, more fun), but maybe a little unethical (so let’s do it anyway and then wait around to see what happens).
My father said it was a great idea because it would help start a conversation. Those Realtors would get calls they never would have received before — and even if they didn’t sell that particular piece of real estate, the sellers would get a good picture about the real value of their property and maybe the Realtor picks up a new client.
OK, so marking up someone else’s fliers is a bad idea. It’s wrong on so many levels … but still tempting. I can’t help but think that my fellow real estate agents had fallen prey to "any listing is better than no listings" thinking.
So there’re three questions to ask:
1. Do you take overpriced listings just to get the phone ringing?
2. Would you get mad if I "Sharpied" your flier?
3. Would you jump over the heads of two beautiful young women to get their attention even though "crash and burn" was a very real possibility?
In today’s market you’d better be karate-chopping into conversations right and left. Big, high kicks. Clenched, punching fists. And tremendous splashes! Just don’t let your mom ruin everything in the end.