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Better Left Unsaid
Most men talk too much. Much of my success has been due to keeping my mouth shut.
J. Ogden Armour
My oldest’s summer camp once hosted a father/son weekend and kicked it off with us going around the room and introducing ourselves. When I learned one of the dads lived in my old neighborhood, I sat with him over a lunch of ham sandwiches and lemonade.
I loved the neighborhood - as did he - a quaint waterfront community of old homes and nice people. But we commiserated about Florida’s humidity and salt air and how it abused wooden houses. Mine was a charming 1920s colonial with a glimpse of the water and a wonderful yard of citrus trees and live oaks. I’ve owned lots of homes, but none as capable of incinerating cash.
He too had spent a ton of money to keep his historic home/money pit standing. The previous owner let the place go to hell and every day was a new discovery of deferred maintenance.
His stories reminded me of what an unending hassle my old place was. We had a good laugh when I told him about how I once flipped on a light only to watch a line of sparks erupt from the switch and then race down the plaster hall and across the ceiling and up to the light fixture where the lightbulb then exploded.
Or how I once slammed the door only to have the door handles fall off - on every door in the room. Or when I climbed on the carport roof to blow off the leaves and the rotting roof collapsed under me. I fell to my waist, making the hole bigger and bigger as I tried to lift myself out.
The final straw was when I heard a hissing sound in the crawlspace and found a cracked water pipe spraying water into the subfloor for who knows how long, but long enough to make the hardwood floors - and my bank account - buckle.
The place took forever to sell, and I carried it for almost a year after moving across the country. I’d never been so relieved as when I finally scraped the dump off my shoe. The closing was long distance, so I never met the buyer.
“You may know the poor sap”, I said, telling him the address.
“I do, in fact, know the poor sap”, he said. “And he’s just learned how allergic to maintenance the former owner was.”
Most of us know how to say nothing; few of us know when.
I spent an early part of my career in the hospitality business, a curious part of the real estate industry. By “hospitality business” I mean a 9-seat bar within a 19-room ski town hotel, and by “career” I mean bartender.
I worked a few days a week, enough to hustle a ski pass and some walking around money. The job was easy - make some happy hour fondue and chat up the guests. The crowd was older and rich and I kept a drink recipe book under the bar to look up the occasional weird requests like Tom Collins or Brandy Alexander.
The bar had a view of the street and when things were slow, which was often, I’d stave off boredom by helping arriving guests with their bags.
Why I did this I’ll never know - I’d never thought the words before, much less said them aloud - but as I helped a woman get her bags up to the entrance I asked: “so when are you due?”
I soon learned 1) the woman wasn’t due and 2) her name was Oprah Winfrey.
She was quite the sport about it, spending each afternoon of her trip in the bar introducing me to the other guests and recounting the story, only relenting after the crow roared and I started to squirm.
Real G's move in silence like lasagna.
I once had a high-stakes (for me) negotiation with a national movie theater chain. At the end of a punishing conference call, during peak deal tension, I said “thanks guys” and reached to hang up my desk phone - stopping when I heard: “I think he bought it - don’t you, Chuck?”
I settled back into my seat, listening as my counter parties went through the math they would use to justify the proposed deal to their real estate committee. The best line, as they were discussing the rental rate, was: “You know we can get $23 per square foot approved, so we’ve got plenty of room and we’ll be heroes.”
As it turned out, I don’t think they ended up heroes, but they did get $23 per square foot approved.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in real estate.
And you know how - despite a developer’s best efforts to make a nice place - sometimes the vibes are off and that place feels sterile and fake? While other places just feel right and have a terrific energy that makes you want to spend time there?
If you want to know how wonderful places are created, and how they can increase surrounding real estate values, sign up for the Tacos & Patios Workshop - a free online gathering where we unpack the how and why behind unique mixed-use developments.
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