Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Phantom Buyer

He called on a Saturday morning. With his unique British accent he advised me that he was relocating to our area. He owned a string of nursing homes in Seattle and had his house under contract there for $790k. His plan was to buy a home here in our area. He would be paying cash for that home and needed it pretty quickly.

The code of ethics of our national association is to ask the question, " Are you currently working with another real estate agent?" He told me that he had been but they had undergone a parting of the ways and he was no longer working with them.

Times are hard in real estate so you at least meet with such a prospect to flush them out. I met them at a small motel in the lobby. We spent some time looking at properties on my computer via the motel's wi fi. He was with his wife who barely said two words. They had been married 30 days earlier. She was from West Virginia.

They had no car. He told me that he had just been released by our local hospital after having been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. They had no cell phone as she had dropped the phone into the commode at the $49 per night motel. Neither did they have a computer. They had no car as he had been forbidden to drive because of the seizures associated with his brain cancer. He had surrendered his license. She had never had a drivers license and did not drive. I asked them how they were going to purchase real estate without photo ID's. He told me that they had passports and that there was no better identification than those.

I elected to show them some vacant homes and spent the next couple of hours taking them to look. They had no cash to swing through McDonalds to get a sandwich. I told them that they took credit cards. His answer was that they had left those in their room. He liked one of the properties we looked at and was most likely going to make an offer.

They were pleasant. He was almost likeable except he dressed badly and needed some deodorant. I dropped them back at their motel and he told me he would call me the next day. I went home got on the internet to try and find a trace of him there to no avail. I checked the property appraiser's database back where he said he was from and there was no record of him owning property there. I smelled a big, fat rat.

He called me back the next PM which was Sunday and wanted to go take another look at one of the houses we had looked at. I told him that before we loaded up to do anymore looking I wanted to see the contract on the home he was selling in Seattle or a letter of financial capability from a banker, attorney or someone back in Seattle. He told me that I would be recieving such in my e-mail in box the next morning. Monday was my golf day.

I loaded up to play golf with my friend who is also a realtor and making small talk told him about the Phantom client. He sells new homes in one of our new neighborhoods here. He described the phantom buyer to me and told me that one of our local brokers had brought him into one of their model homes and that he had met him. Same sort of variation on the no car, from Seattle, had a home under contract there and was paying cash for their home purchase. I called the agent to whom he referred. I advised him that this phantom buyer had called me on Saturday and I put him into my car and showed him property after he had told me that they had parted ways. He told me that he was meeting with this man that very afternoon to look at more houses and that they had never parted ways. Later in the week he advised me that he had discovered that our friend was working with at least 3 other agents.

Now what is the phantom buyer up to? He is obviously not who he says he is and their circumstances are cloudy. I thought back a to visit I had with my Aunt who worked for Traveler's Aid in Los Angeles more than twenty years ago. She was a social worker and had an office in LAX. She described to me her full time responsibilities. She advised me that there was a huge cadre of mentally ill people who travel all over the country constantly. They beg, borrow or steal money for airfare. When they run up against the wall in their hustle they came to them for help. She advised that that they had a budget to assist such travelers. They could help them with lodging, food and transportation to an extent. They would then move on down the road and play some other role to a different audience.

My son who is a law enforcement person told me that there was no law that he knew of against being crazy. I had just lost 3-4 hours of my life entertaining these people. he said that they were usually harmless and just traveled around getting by.

I was a bit bristly about being hustled and wondered how I could measure out some retribution. However, I played a decent round of golf and enjoyed being with my friends. I got home to a loving wife in our comfortable home, pulled my car into the driveway next to my other car and retrieved nourishment from my refigerator. I then thought of the phantom and ultimately began to feel somewhat sorry for him. I suppose that is just what drives him onwards to another town to another realtor, medical provider, social worker to play the same game.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog's Day

Happy Groundhogs Day to all my friends, relatives and the other two people who might follow my BLOG. I just watched Punxsutawney Phil's prediction from Gobblers Knob in Pennsylvania. They held the chubby little fellow up and took him to his podium where the President of the Punxsutawney Phil club via his magical cane deciphered for us what Phil's prediction was. Today it was for 6 more weeks of winter predicated on the length of shadows cast about on the Knob and of course, Phil’s own shadow.

One of my favorite movies, starring one of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, is Groundhogs Day. Of course the plot is a train of recurring days that are just alike in every detail. I sort of feel like the election cycle we are in is sort of a Groundhog’s day. Every day we hear the same stuff, almost verbatim, from the same candidates.

In place of the President of the Punxsutawney Phil club on Gobblers Knobb, Pennsylvania we have the ever present news media to interpret what the candidate is really saying. The left media takes whatever the right says out of context and vice versa. Ergo the final product we have going into our ears is about as reliable as the same pronouncement we had from Phil this morning. America has largely given up thinking for themselves and judging by their own shadows the remaining days of winter or who is right in the Presidential posturing. We have our own “Phil” prognosticator be their name, Beck, Limbaugh, Krauthammer, Malkin, Palin, Coulter, Hannity, etc.

It is enough to drive you mad as the meteorologist played by Bill Murray in the movie. Let me give you some advice. Stop listening to all of them. Get yourself a good book and read it. Watch C-Span. It is so boring it will coagulate your blood but it truly is fair and balanced. That is except for the crazy people who call in on the open lines who all have anger issues, dementia and just downright mean spiritedness.

So for those of you who believe that a groundhog can predict the weather, get a life. I used to shoot those things back on our farm in West Virginia. They are very destructive to pasture land and golf courses ( reference another Bill Murray movie “Caddy Shack’). For those of you who think all the talking heads have any more insight than you do about who needs to be President, rethink that issue. Determine who has the tool sets to fix the economy, keep us safe and lead the country and vote. Forget all the vindictive chatter that America likes to feed on. You will be better off.