Writer Meets Realtor

MICHAEL JACKSON lives al Laguna Leach, California, where he is engaged in newspaper work. This is his first piece for the Atlantic.


HERE in our cosmopolitan California town, one is always meeting interesting personalities, creative people from all fields of endeavor. The other night at a distinguished gathering of notables, a writer met a realtor. Conversation went like this: —

Writer: “So you’re a realtor! I used to think about selling real estate myself when I was young.”

Realtor: “That so?”

Wriler: “Yes. Nothing big. Iliad a tree house I made when I was twelve. Sold it to the kid next door. Then 1 got to writing novels and never did get back into real estate. I’m awfully sorry 1 didn’t keep up with it. How much money do you make on the average-size sale today?”

“It depends.”

“Do you like to sell real estate in the morning or in the afternoon? I knew a realtor name of Billings, lived in Lima, Ohio. lie used to work in t he morning and play golf in the afternoon. Did you ever hear of Billings?” “I don’t believe I ever did.” “That’s funny. Billings has been selling real estate for years. It. must be a nice life selling real estate, just sitting there and looking at a view to inspire you. How much do you figure a person can make selling real estate?”

“ I guess it depends.”

“The Rockefellers must’ve made an awful lot selling Radio City. Do you know the Rockefellers?”

“No, but I’ve heard of them.”

“I guess a realtor has to go back to New York if he wants to get in the big time. How long does it take you to make a sale?”

“It’s hard to say.”

“I kind of thought I’d like to sell a few houses now and then but I don’t know the details of how you go about it. Here’s an idea I have, though, that should make a lot of money. Instead of just selling a little house occasionally, why don’t you sell the Statler Hotel or the Beach Club to some wealthy investor? I’ll go fifty-fifty with you.”

“I generally work better all alone.”

“Well, I could give you the ideas like that, and you could work out the details. Like figuring the interest and talking to the customer.”

“I’ll think it over.”

“ Do you do your own talking or do you have somebody else do your talking for you?”

“I generally do my own talking.”

“ When you w rite a contract do you use a typewriter or pen or goose quill?”

“A fountain pen.”

“I was reading the other night where the Louisiana Purchase was signed with a goose quill. No blotter. They poured powder on the contract when it was signed. You don’t see real-estate sales like that today. Nearly five million acres it was.”

“That’s a pretty big sale, all right.”

“If real-estate salesmen weren’t so eager to get money, they could draw up better-looking deeds with goose quills, if you ask me. Real-estate people get to making money and pretty soon they sell anything, board shacks, houses with one-car garages, anything to make more money.”

“I guess that’s right.”

“If I were selling, I’d only sell the sort of house I really believe in. Three-bedroom, two-bath, with double garages. View of the ocean. Lnit heat. You know what I mean?”

“I guess I do.”

“I would like you to hire my sister as a partner to encourage her. She would like to sell Spanish houses. You know, the kind with red tile roofs.”

“They’re nice.”

“ My sister wouldn’t expect to make a fortune right off. You could just give her a small salary till she got the hang of it. I don’t see how people expect young folk to go into real estate if they don’t encourage them.”

“I guess that’s right.”

“You can’t sell real estate today unless you have a big name like Astor or Zeckendorf. My sister could sell a Spanish-type house with red tile roof as well as anybody, but she hasn’t got the name.”

“I’m sure.”

“What are you working on now?”

“This morning I showed a couple of lots to a woman from Oregon.”

“Wouldn’t you make more money selling motels? I heard of a salesman in Palm Springs who sold a motel for $100,000. Why don’t you drive to Palm Springs and sell motels? Bov, that’s the life. All you’d have to do would be sell a couple of motels in the winter there, then come back to the beach in the summer. That way you’d get a better perspective, too. A real-estate salesman sells nothing but. ocean frontage and pretty soon he’s in a rut. You may make money selling ocean frontage, but what real satisfaction is there in it?”

“I see what you mean, I guess.”

“Sure. All realtors are money-mad today. They’ve gone soft. What you should do is this: save up about a thousand dollars and go away by yourself in the mountains or desert. Think things over. Get back to the basic realities, like hunger and boredom. Forget about the almighty dollar. Learn to write contracts with a goose quill, sell Louisiana back to the French. You can do it, I know you can.”

“I’ll think it over. Thanks.”

“Not at all. It’s been a pleasure meeting you. I want you to come over to our house sometime and meet my uncle. His daughter married a sign painter who does quite a lot of House For Sale signs. We can just sit around and talk shop.”