(Draft Written April, 2014)
The first time I took a client out to look at homes, freshly armed with my Realtor’s license and the magic “key extractor” gizmo, I was eternally grateful that the client was my beloved Mr. H, because the electronic gizmo I’d been carrying for weeks had a depleted battery, and I had no way to recharge it, so we were not able to enter the property.
This weekend I made two tours of the North Eastern suburbs of Austin, showing two families homes that might potentially become theirs. Rentals, anyway. And, I learned several important lessons.
Lesson 1: Bring the gizmo with you.
I arrived at the first property, 10 minutes before the appointed time, ready to meet my client. I immediately realized I lacked gizmo and called Mr. H to the rescue. Fortunately, the client (due to a completely unrelated miscommunication) was waiting for me at a different house and by the time we’d worked through the confusion, and they arrived at the destination, I had the gizmo in hand. Ironically, there was a “communication failure” error when I tried to unlock the lock box that held the key to the property. But, I firmly (and hopefully) knocked on the door, waking the napping toddler and bringing grandma to the door to let us in. This was the least of my foibles.
Lesson #2: Do not go into the back yard.
When I’m showing a home, it’s natural to be curious and want to check out all aspects. However, stepping through the backdoor is not necessary. In fact, such a maneuver might, in fact, allow the back door to slam shut, leaving you locked in the back yard. Theoretically. Of course, this requires a series of unfortunate events, doesn’t it?
It seems a good practice to leave the front door ajar with the key in the lock. Don’t ask me why. I have my reasons, trust me. On this particular day, the wind was just right for a cross-breeze that left the front door standing wide open, and slammed the back door shut. I’m still not clear about the locking mechanism that allowed us to exit, but that’s beside the point. I’m also mystified by the lack of egress options through the privacy fence. No gate on one side, and the gate on the other side was entrance-only. No way to leave. What’s up with these people? Why have a yard the can be easily entered, yet impossible to escape?What sort of wild animals are they luring in and trapping in their yard? Besides real estate agents, that is.
Fortunately, the potential tenants (also trapped in the back yard with me) had brought their 12 year old son, who was waiting in their car with the windows down. After much shouting, we captured his attention. He was able to walk into the house through the wide open front door and open the back door, liberating us.
Lesson #3: Potential tenants can be full of surprises.
I spent the day showing 2 families effectively the same set of houses. By the end of the weekend, both families had application forms in hand, with the “address” filled out because we’d successfully located homes with which they were delighted. I was beside myself, swimming in the glow of my new-found gift for matching homes with tenants. And yet, by the end of the week, all bets were off; no deals were at play.
Lesson #4: Ask potential tenants where they’ll be later….
At the end of the busy Saturday, one family found the perfect home, and then … returned to Louisiana. They’d neglected to give me a deposit check and had no way of transferring money to me. What were they thinking? What was I thinking? Had it occurred to me, I’d have gotten a money order from them then and there.
Lesson #5: Ask potential tenants if they have broken leases in their history.
No one in this market is willing to lease a house to anyone with bad credit, or worse, broken leases in their background. And trust me, the truth will out. I spent days (lots of calls) looking for 2nd, 3rd and 4th runner-up properties, but not a single landlord was willing to overlook that credit history. The Louisiana family grew increasing desperate (and demanding) as their options ran out.
Lesson #6: Sometimes it just doesn’t matter.
After a few days of not hearing from the other family, I sent an email, only to be told “circumstances have changed” and the potential tenant was now a single mom looking for a much smaller home, on a reduced budget.
So ended an intense, lesson-filled week. My grandchildren moved in and all of my availability for erring and applying these lessons went out the proverbial window. Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to try again. I’ll never forget the elation that came with the client’s declaration, “this is it!” That feeling far outweighed the horror of back doors slamming shut.