2 Back Tracking

chapter2Sunday afternoon, R.M. was at the Shmitt’s house, waiting for buyers to pull up to the curb next to his arresting display of yard signs and colorful flags in Jacob’s coat-like array.  From his post at the window, he recalled a Sunday afternoon some time back when The Prospect on Prospect condo model unit had been on display in a way all its own, in a trailer at a construction site. It had a dodgy front door, with a habit of springing closed and locking behind anyone on the way out.  R.M. once came to the rescue of an embarrassed member of their sales team left outside in that predicament so he’d since always taken care to carry a small wedge for a door frame, just in case.

Unlike today, his afternoon shift at the trailer had been busy. Interest in the project was high, though lots of people were simply out tire-kicking, curious as to what was going on.  A neighbor stopped in to express his concerns about this new building blocking his view. Their conversation that day now ran through his memory. Another time, another window.

*   *   *   *   *

“”I’ve lived on the west side of the street for a long time and always had a view of the lake from my front room. This development will ruin it.” The salt and pepper haired man, voicing his completely understandable complaint in a surprisingly soft-spoken and formal tone, pointed across the street to his building.

“There was a building here, before. Didn’t that do the same thing?”

“Yes, but this new one is so much taller, so much closer to the street.”

“If it’s any comfort to you, this isn’t the only neighborhood with new development. Lots of people are having to get used to the city changing. Even the people who buy a condo here might eventually lose some of their views, if and when more development comes. Plus, you’ll be living in a dynamic, improving area. That should bring some benefits.” A couple entered the trailer. Knowing that the pep talk wouldn’t persuade, R.M. shook the man’s hand and gave him his business card.

“If you would like to talk about this some more, please call me.”

“Well, thank you. Perhaps you could stop by and see for yourself, from my window?” And with that, he’d graciously withdrawn, leaving R.M. to the newcomers.

*   *   *   *   *

Now, newcomers were approaching the Shmitt’s front door, though they hadn’t arrived by car. R.M. shifted from the window, to welcome them inside. They didn’t stay long enough to chat, even though they had a thorough look through the house. Lived in the area, they said, as they resumed their walk. Par for the course. Neighbors, nosy or not, were often the first to come through at open houses.

In the absence of similar passers-by, R.M. resumed his reflections of that other, more profitable occasion, when he’d first welcomed Mr. and Mrs. James to the trailer.

*   *   *   *   *

“It used to be that visitors put down a street address and home phone number. Then along came the Do Not Call registry. After that, we weren’t allowed to call those numbers.” R.M. explained about signing the open house register, a standard procedure for large projects like this one.

“Those calls at suppertime were pretty annoying.”

“Developers want to inform potential customers about construction updates so they added a bailout. Your signing this register gives us permission to call you.” As they jotted down their names and number, R.M. advised, “If you give an e-mail address, we can use that instead. So Mr. James, I see that you’re from the area. Are you familiar with the condo market in town?”

R.T. James, retiree and, with his wife Ivy, an early buyer at The Prospect on Prospect

R.T. James, retiree and, with his wife Ivy, an early buyer at The Prospect on Prospect

“I’m retired now, ready to pay someone else to work around the house. We’ve always done everything for ourselves but lately my back’s been playing me up. Our own boys are long gone away. The neighborhood kids are fine, they’re just too busy. By the time I get one trained, he’s off to some practice or another job. Then I have to start all over again.” A sympathetic listener, R.M. took this all in; it was an oft-heard tale in the condo business.

“I hear you.”

“We tried a handy-man once a week, Easter to Thanksgiving, to do odd jobs in the yard, sometimes inside. Boy, there sure are a lot of hacks out there. Painful to watch. The idea of hiring a bunch of experts,  one for repairs, one for the lawn, one for the yard and so on, is exhausting. So we figured if we’re ever going to sell the place we should do it quick, before it falls apart.”

“It’s usually true that properties in best condition get the best offers, especially when they ‘sparkle’.” R.M. made inverted commas in the air.

“Seeing as how we put so much work into it over the years we don’t want it to lose value, just when we’re thinking of selling.”

“So now you’re looking into what’s available in a condo?”

“Here on the lake, yes. We aren’t interested at all in any places further downtown. Too much commotion for us, and we don’t go out so much anyway. Maybe something with a view, something quieter. Someplace where I can relax,” Mr. James grinned, “and watch somebody else work.””

So that afternoon, R.M. walked them through the project. The Prospect seemed a good fit. A one bedroom plus den was adequate. The  common amenities would allow them to spread out a bit from their unit. Mrs. James looked forward to the pool, and Mr. James anticipated a daily stint in the exercise area as a tonic for his back. They might not use the exercise room as much as some, but come winter weather it would be something different to try, in moderation. The outdoor terrace was open to family and friends. They could rent the guest suite if someone came to town. A handsome foyer with concierge plus an underground, heated garage completed the picture. It wasn’t cheap, but poor service at home had already cost them more. Choosing a smaller unit put them at the lower end of the monthly fees, calculated on a square foot basis, and fully using the amenities would be good value. They reserved a south-west facing, fifth floor unit high enough up for a view but low enough to be out of the wind while out on the balcony.

These contented customers watched the pace of construction and set about the tedious work of editing their possessions, their focus on the new space that was soon to hold their life. During this process, they chose the final finishes: the granite for the countertops, the grout color in the bathrooms, all without displaying any of the animosity they observed between other couples bickering in the showroom. The ‘For Sale’ sign went up in their yard, and two months later the ‘Sold’ sign.

*   *   *   *   *   *

R.M snapped to, as the Shmitts arrived home, the open house over. At least he hadn’t drifted off to sleep as another agent had, at an open house where nobody had come, and in Goldilocks fashion been discovered by the returning owners. Not all clients are happy ones. In real estate, reverie outdid repose.