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34th Street

A license suspension! One whole year of not working; the silver lined career path had taken on a life of its own. Staring at the notice Lauren wondered why she had such extreme difficulty in making choices that would protect herself rather than other people who always seemed to have really bad intentions. She had become her own executioner at character assignation.

Months before, after her husband’s outrageous decision to get his real estate sales license and place it with a competitor of her own brokers company, she had been forced to move her license to that stuffy realtor he had chosen. She was furious; he had a good job and had no intention of selling homes.

She had begun working with a Hispanic couple who were returning to Mexico immediately and needed to sell their home fast. She listed the house and turned the listing into the office but it was snubbed by the other agents. This new office had an entirely different breed of realtors and attitudes. She had always known they were stuffy but snobbery had no place in the industry in her opinion. The location and home were very sellable but not by this group.

Her broker called her in and told her they preferred to remain in the areas they were currently working and refused the listing. She knew it was easily sellable and had reluctantly taken the listing back to the homeowner. It was embarrassing. She was in the Million Dollar Club and had earned several awards; she had never had a listing refused by a broker!

When she advised the young couple that her office had refused the listing they had been very upset. The husband’s mother was dying and they needed the funds to go now. Valuable time had been wasted by waiting on the office to tour the home and try to sell it quickly. She felt sorry for them.

“Tell me what your bottom dollar is and I will see if it is possible for me to buy it.” The price they named was really low. She was confident she could sell it quickly and get her money back. She had given them a written offer immediately and closed three days later.

Interior decorating was a hobby of hers and this was not the first home she had purchased, redecorated or remodeled and then sold at a good profit. The first one had netted a profit of $28,000 in six weeks. It was a nice fit for her.

The home took a few weeks to get it ready for the market. It showed even better than she had hoped. It was not necessary to list it as she owned the property and the law permitted her to sell it so long as she disclosed that she was both the owner and an agent.

A bidding war on the property quickly ensured. The final sales price netted her $42,000 in profit. She thought it was a win-win for all parties involved. She had not mentioned to her broker that she had purchased the property; it was not required by law and he had already declined the opportunity to list it.

Two months later the young couple returned from Mexico after the husband’s mother had died. They visited their old home just for fun and noticed the new family living there.

They stopped to talk to them about their old home and the buyer gave them a tour of the home which was unrecognizable to the original owners. New cabinetry, new flooring, new paint; it was totally transformed. They were angry when they saw the opportunity they had relinquished so readily and more so when they learned the sale price. It was nearly double! They gave no thought to the cost of the changes to the property and promptly went to the broker to complain.

As he listened to their story, he was mortified. His company had never been involved in any kind of dispute like this, with people of this caliber and a home in a location he felt was beneath him. He gave no thought at all to whether there might be more to the story; the couple acted as though they had been thoroughly taken advantage of, had been in extreme distress over the pending death of the owner’s mother and had been totally taken advantage of by Lauren.

The broker had advised them to file a complaint with the real estate commission and let them decide who was at fault. He thought this was the best way to politely excuse him and his company from any involvement since the home had not been listed. He vaguely recalled the listing and the fact that he had declined it.

He called Lauren, he was angry; a rare sight for this very controlled man. He related the story the couple had told him and the advice he had given them. When she reminded him that he had declined the listing, and related the improvements and the costs of those improvements to net the profit from the sale, he was unwilling to even listen.

The complaint was filed as promised. She sat in the hearing room and watched as the couple presented this new story of having been taken advantage of at a terrible time in their lives. They appeared helpless and confused. She recognized this as a good acting job; they related an entirely different story than the truth to the panel. They were just angry that she had been able to sell the home for such a large amount. Greed was ugly when presented on this level.

She had taken the stand and related the events, including the fact that the broker had declined the listing or the opportunity to buy the property. She produced receipts for materials and paid invoices for the labor. They gave her the opportunity to turn over all the net profit to the previous owner; this would mean her labor and time would not be compensated. She declined but did offer to return the portion left after receiving a commission and paying for the materials and labor in the project.

They declined. Today, she had received their decision in the mail.

During the year of suspension the couple sued her for the entire amount. They lost the jury case and were ordered to pay her legal expenses. Still, the cost had been high. She had lost a year of income and had a black eye in the industry because the suspension had occurred. She vowed it would be the last time she would be suckered into feeling sorry for any client.

Once the suspension had ended she went to work for a small brokerage, believing she had learned the lesson about her clients. The broker was a personal assistant to a local judge and told her she would not allow her to make those kinds of mistakes about people again.

The pace picked up and soon she returned to her former level of sales, as though the suspension had never happened. One day she called another office to schedule an appointment next door to a home she had recently sold.

“That house is sold.” The broker was short with her and hung up quickly. She called her client next door to the home and explained that she was not able to schedule the appointment to show her friend the home as it was sold.

“But it isn’t sold. I just talked to the owner. He is only 40 days away from a ‘Sheriff’s Sale’ and desperate to sell the home!”

She called the broker again, thinking she had misunderstood the request or had the wrong home.

“The home is sold.” Again, she was adamant that the home was not available and refused to set the appointment.

Calling her client next door again, she related the conversation with the broker.

Her phone rang almost immediately after hanging up. It was the owner of the property; he was really distraught.

“That broker and her son came out her and gave me a guaranteed price to buy the house that is barely enough to cover the expenses to sell it. I did not accept their offer. I would have to pay them money with their commission added to it. I don’t have any money to do that, why do you think it is in foreclosure?”

Lauren advised him to ask the broker to release the listing or set the appointment.

She couldn’t believe it! The very same thing she had been accused of doing to the Hispanic couple was exactly what was happening here.

The broker refused to release the listing or set an appointment. She called her own broker and related what had happened. Both brokers talked at length. She sent the buyer over to her friends and asked the homeowner to allow them to ‘visit’ and see the property. It was really rough but had great potential.

The buyer wrote an offer on the property. Her broker took the offer to the listing broker. She refused to look at the offer and threatened to file a complaint against them for “crossing her sign.” The homeowner was thoroughly stuck. His broker intended to go to the sheriff’s sale and buy the property at the foreclosure.

Having just been through the process of feeling sorry for a client and losing her license, Lauren told the broker she thought it was really wrong but did not see any alternative except walking away. The homeowner would simply lose his home.

Her broker was angry. The offer was sufficient to pay an entire commission and give the homeowner over ten thousand dollars in his pocket. She decided to double list the property and sent Lauren to do so. The homeowner was happy to do this. Now that it was their listing as well, she could present the offer. He accepted it immediately.

Her broker called the listing broker and advised her that they had a duel listing on the property with an accepted offer. She also advised her that she would receive a full commission, and so had lost nothing.

The new buyer’s loan closed, the owner received his profit, the original listing broker was paid both a listing and sales commission; Lauren and her broker declined a commission to allow the owner to gain as much profit as possible from the transaction. A fair ending, she thought to herself.

Two weeks later her broker called her in to show her the complaint filed by the original listing broker naming both of them. Here we go again, she thought. She was angry. She had trusted the broker to make the right decision and had acted only on the direction of her broker.

The following day their income tax refund check arrived from the IRS. She talked to Daniel, her husband, about what had happened. He agreed they should take the check and she would open her own office where she could make her own decisions about what rules to break.

She found an office across the street from a branch of her former company that Daniel had made her leave. The attorney who had occupied it for years had moved his office to a larger location. The rent was more than fair although the building was in pretty bad shape. Next door was an insurance agency that she frequently directed her clients to for homeowners insurance. It was a good fit.

The building was very old and on the town’s main street. You could see outside by looking through the cracks in the wall. Daniel and her sons came to help every night and soon the cracks were repaired and beautiful silk wallpaper covered the walls. They replaced the carpeting and lighting and the office was finished; it rivaled any first class real estate company’s look. Signs were ordered, and finally her new business was ready to go.

She left her old company, leaving the broker slightly upset at her opening a new office right under her nose. Regardless, she was not maintaining any association with a broker who made decisions that jeopardized her license!

Her office was open; she needed listings! Listings are inventory for a real estate brokerage.

She had an office to support now and limited funds due to opening the new office and the remodeling costs.

She checked back on expired listings of homes she had shown. One in particular stood out.

The home was a seven room brick ranch on a three quarter acre fenced lot in a great location. The home had an assumable loan and every broker in the area had listed it at one time or another. They all agreed there was not a single reason the home had not sold. It was baffling! It was a beautiful home with great terms and priced right.

She went to visit the homeowner. Suzanne opened the door, barely. “We are done with listing our house! We’re just weary. We only listed it the first time because we fell in love with a home at 104 Monroe Street, in the historic district. That was two years ago! The house is sold now so there is no reason to even try to sell our house.”

Lauren explained that she had just opened her own office and would really appreciate one more opportunity to try.

“We are not moving unless we can buy the house we wanted, and it is not for sale.”

“Let me list your house subject to your purchasing that home. We will write an offer on the house and I will take it to the owner and see what happens!”

It was unheard of, but Suzanne agreed and they completed the paperwork. She told her she had a snowballs chance in hell of getting the offer signed.

Off she went to 104 Monroe Street.

Knocking on the door she heard loud barking from what was obviously more than one really big dog. This was the historic district with homes that had small lots. She was a little surprised by the size of the dogs the owner was holding back when he opened the door.

She explained why she was there, waiting on him to say he was not interested.

“You know, we bought this house because we lost the one we wanted on Dixie Highway. It had two and half fenced acres which is what we wanted for the dogs. We had an accepted offer on the home we owned and the owner of that house accepted our offer. Then they suddenly took it off the market and we were stuck. Our house was sold and we had nowhere to go so we bought this one. I hate it, but I am not moving again unless we can get the house we wanted!”

This was extraordinary! She repeated the same process as before, this time getting the acceptance of the offer from Suzanne and her husband on his home signed, subject to the purchase of the home on Dixie Highway, and listing his home to support the contract to purchase, before writing the offer on Dixie Highway to purchase the home they had lost.

Leaving the home, she set out for the Dixie Highway address. The home was quiet and felt almost deserted. An older woman opened the door and listened to what she had to tell her. She opened the door to let her in. She seemed sad to Lauren.

“Sit down, sit down. I remember this buyer. I knew they were really excited but I’ll just tell you, my husband and I had gone to look at a brand new home in Monroe that only had a quarter acre lot. This house has a really big lot and just got to be too much for us. We found one we really loved and wrote an offer on it. This buyer you met came through the next day and wrote an offer on our home and we thought everything was settled. Two days later we learned my husband had a terminal illness, a brain tumor. It was just too much to deal with. We took the house off the market. He died two months ago.”

It was a sad story; no wonder the woman had looked so cheerless to her.

“You still have a big lot to handle. Would you be interested in selling the home to the man and finding a home in the same subdivision where you and your husband had decided to move?”

She shuddered inwardly. It was in the new subdivision being built by the broker who had told the Hispanic couple to file a complaint against her.

“You know if I could find a home like the one my husband and I picked out, that might be a good idea. He wanted to leave here so I don’t think he would mind if I followed through.”

She drove her to the community and they drove down every street looking for the same design in a completed house that was still available. On the last street, the last house on the street, they found it!

She called her former brokers office and asked for the combination to show the buyer. Ten minutes later they were back in the car, writing her offer on the new home and signing the offer from the buyer that Lauren had brought. Then they prepared the listing on her home. “What a day,” she thought!

She drove the woman back to her home on Dixie Highway and went back to her office. It was nearly five now. She still had to notify all the buyers that the offers were accepted. It was a momentary high.

Suzanne’s husband picked up the phone. John was a school teacher and very practical.

“You do realize that you have the same problem we have had for nearly two years. You have to sell our house or none of this is going to go forward.”

It was sobering. What the heck was it with their house that it did not sell? She hung up, taking a moment to digest this sobering news.

The phone rang; she was surprised since the office was new and her first ad in the newspaper was scheduled for this evening.

“This is Emma Keaton; you might not remember me from school, I married Carl Keaton but my name was Emma Hatfield.”

“Of course, I remember you! How are you doing?”

“We have been trying to buy a house for almost two years. I talked to a few of the people we went to school with and they said you had found them a house, and if anyone could help us, it is you.”

“Sure, tell me what you are looking for!”

“Carl is a mechanic; our credit is not very good. We have three boys and need a big yard for them; fenced would be ideal. We also need a big garage for his tools. I would love to have a fireplace and a brick house but I know that is probably not possible. And, we only have six thousand dollars to put down. Carl’s pay is a little erratic and we can only afford $350.00 or so a month. I would love to live in Hammond but I don’t think that is possible either. Do you think there is any way you can help us? We have given up!”

Suzanne and John’s home was a seven room brick ranch with a two car garage on a three quarter fenced acre lot. It had a wood burning fireplace in the family room; and it was located across the street from the very desirable Hammond School. It also had an assumable loan with no credit check, a payment with taxes and insurance of $356.00 a month and required six thousand six hundred down to assume the loan.

“Emma, if I could deliver one hundred percent of everything on your wish list, are you able to come up with six thousand six hundred dollars and make a monthly payment of $356.00 with taxes and insurance included?”

“Oh, do you really think it is possible, even with our credit? We have been so disappointed!”

“I know I can!”

“Let me ask Carl. We can call both of our parents; if each one of them could loan us $300 we could do it!”

Emma called back in ten minutes to tell her that she and Carl and their children would meet her at the home. Both sets of parents would also meet them there.

She hung up and called Suzanne. “Get ready to move. I need to show your house in half an hour!”

“Oh no, it’s not ready to show. That is not enough time! I was making dinner, it’s a mess!”

“Just leave the doors unlocked and take off; this is your buyer.”

For two years Suzanne had barely lived in the house, always trying to keep it clean in case someone wanted to look at it. For every showing she had made cookies and left them out to make the home smell warm and inviting, put a fire in the fireplace in the winter and worked so hard to make it appealing; now she was simply walking out the door and driving away with the family while a buyer came through. She cringed at the thought of them seeing the mess but she had long ago lost any hope of a real buyer coming.

Emma and Carl were already there, waiting with their parents when she arrived.

The parents looked a little skeptical, Emma and Carl looked happy and the boys were running into the back yard when she got out of her car.

“Are you serious, no joke now, do you really think we could buy this house?”

“Come on in, this is Miracle on 34th Street stuff; it has been on the market for two years waiting on you!”

They walked from room to room staring at the home, the space, the fireplace, the large fenced yard, the large garage, the school across the street; it was their dream home!

It truly was; the parents loved the home, the children loved their space to run and play, it was simply perfect. The offer was written at full price; a check for the entire down payment accompanied the offer.

John and Suzanne had waited around the corner in the school parking lot for the showing to be over with. Seeing the cars leave, they drove home.

“Well, a waste of time, right? The house was a mess, I am sorry.”

She stared at the offer and the check that Lauren was holding.

“What is this?”

“This is proof that you are moving to 104 Monroe Street.”

Tears streamed down Suzanne’s face. “How in the world… ”

“It is a lesson for all of us; when things are right, when the time is right, things go so easily.”

She skipped going back to the office; instead going straight home from her first day of business in her own brokerage.

Two weeks later Emma and Carl closed on their home, as did everyone in the lineup that began with Suzanne. Sneaking in, Lauren placed a new cane beside the fireplace. They should all remember this lesson, she thought.

’34TH Street’ is an excerpt from ‘Mastered Mind; A Journey to Acceptance.’ To see more of this story and other available releases, please visit my web site at”>