On 18 April 2017, Cat, Daniel and I drove down to Brisbane to interview a few real estate agents to sell our house. Got up at 4 am; made a pot of coffee; packed some sandwiches; woke up the mother in law to go sleep with the girls; and south we went.
A website I came upon, gave me the contact details of around 40 odd agents. I had to put my contact details before accessing this database so, within seconds of clicking, I was getting phones calls. I picked up the first and let all the others go to voicemail.
For the first time my inbox was full. I deleted them all and proceeded in a way more to my taste. I drafted up an email comprising questions that would require serious commitment to anyone half-interested in getting the business.
Some of the replies were standard marketing bullshit, others an effortless “this is something I would rather discuss with you face-to-face once I’ve seen the property”.
I prepared a shortlist of 7 potential candidates based on fee, location, experience and also curiosity. I was truly interested on how this one guy was able to charge a fee less than 1%, include marketing fees and on top of that, also offer to paint and landscape the place. I knew this wasn’t going to be our agent so I booked him first so we could practice our interviewing skills.
He was 20 minutes late, but that’s OK, he sent a SMS “Traffic is heavy! Not far away 🙂 Cheers!” He arrived unshaven, his black attire wrinkled and stained from shoes to shirt. As we sat for the interview, the guy didn’t stop picking the dirt from under this cracked nails. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and for a guy who sells for a living…
Fortunately all the others were quite presentable and on time. We had a family business with Mom teaching the son ‘the ropes’ of the business; the young guy just starting his business, fancily dressed, well-spoken and convincing; the exuberant girl who likes to put out cookies on the open house and tell everyone she baked them (she really doesn’t, shhhh); the partners who, combined, have been in the business for over 60 years – him, nauseatingly smelling of perfume, fast talker and salesman stereotype to the core. Her, far more reserved and sharper in her observations. I can see how they make a successful team.
I like numbers, always have. In an endeavour like this they are easy and don’t lie. You punch them and get to know who’s giving you the best deal. But once you do that, what you have left is the person and the feeling you get from him/her.
It came down to a difficult choice between the well-spoken, convincingly capable young man and the stolid, quiet, unsmiling guy whose manner transpired confidence and knowledge. We went with the latter based on his more comprehensive experience.
We hadn’t been in Brisbane together for almost a year. Call us emotionless, call us cold but neither of us felt any longing nor regret for the action we were about to take. On our way back we talked about how we should have moved up the coast sooner. I might be wrong, but I don’t see myself living in a big city again.
On the way back we stopped at IKEA so Cat could indulge in her former maximalist self… just kidding. To be fair, we could use a few more plates, but walking through that house of consumption worshiping, made me feel queasy as I still sensed the pull of going back to my former ways… back to times when I created needs based on what my senses prompted. But I passed the test and only purchased a steamer that I use every other day.
We ended up selling the place to the people who put in the first offer. After some back and forth negotiations and hindrances, we are no longer the owners of the house – bought with the absolute conviction – our kids would grow up in.
In all honesty, it was a relief. To paraphrase Brian Gardner, “we are now more focused on making a life than on making a living (pay the mortgage, ya know). We began a new journey – one where we left behind something we thought we wanted, for something better. Less. And we won’t look back”.