A dripping faucet cartoon

Interview with Homer

by Jay on January 13, 2010

Doing what you have to to get by – one agent’s strategy

Recently I was in the local big box hardware store looking for some plumbing fittings when a friendly and familiar voice startled me, “Can I help you Sir?” I turned and there in the neon apron of the store employees was my friend and fellow real estate agent, Homer.  After chatting for a moment I had an idea and asked him if I could interview him about his career transition. He agreed eagerly, so I flipped over my parts list and started taking notes.

Me: Have you given up on real estate as a career in Durham?

Homer: Not at all. I’m working harder than ever at it. But a little steady cash flow and health insurance mean a lot. I’m part time here.

Me: Doesn’t it feel a little odd wearing jeans to work? Did you have to make any adjustments?

Homer: This is my first ever job in retail so it’s been an interesting experience. I think maybe I’m  a blue collar type after all. Being on your feet for 6 or 7 hours takes its toll but I’ve gotten used to it. The people that work here come from all kinds of backgrounds, which surprised me. But they’re a great bunch and if I ever got too busy again with real estate to stay here, I’d miss them.

Me: What else has surprised you?

Homer: I’ve also been surprised how much stuff gets stolen. Doesn’t say much for the human race. In this department its parts. People will open boxes take parts and then close the box back up. I could tell you a lot of stories.

Me: That’s pretty negative.

Homer: Yeah, but I was one of those guys in school that wouldn’t cheat even when everybody else was doing it. It creates a lot of extra work for us here and affects profits. I may be a moral relativist on some things but not stealing. Don’t get me wrong, most of the customers are great and it’s really nice to be able to help them. It’s also confirmed what I’ve been seeing for a number of years doing real estate. Durham is becoming an international city. People from all over the world are coming here and buying homes.

Me: Were you a plumber in a previous life?

Homer: Lord no. I’ve done a fair amount of fix-it stuff. In fact, I got into real estate doing a couple of renovations.  I thought I knew a lot about plumbing before I started this but I know a whole lot more now. I’ve been amazed at how many big confident looking guys or business men in expensive suits have no idea how a toilet works. It’s funny to see them spend twenty minutes mulling over a choice for a replacement handle for a broken one on the tank. On the other hand, occasionally you’ll get a dainty little lady who’s nonplussed about replacing the whole thing by herself.

Me: Do you think people should know how to fix their own stuff?

Homer: Simple stuff, sure. Everyone has to know their limits. Replacing a faucet is not that difficult and if you get a plumber to do it, you could double your cost…easily. A lot of people don’t realize that they aren’t paying plumbers by the difficulty of the task. You’re paying for their time. A good handyman is a better option for smaller things than bringing in a plumber with a truck full of expensive tools and equipped for anything.

Me: How do you keep track of all this stuff?

Homer: Ha! That is a challenge. The store has systems for that but you probably want to know how I can remember where everything is. I’ve heard all kinds of numbers about how many different things there are to buy here in the store…it’s in the tens of thousands…at least. There is a perverse logic to how things are arranged.

Me: So you can find anything in the store?

Homer: Pretty much. It took a while to get there but when I’m stumped I just press the button on the radio and ask the universe and somebody usually gets back with the answer. What I’ve realized is that the better I get at this job, more of what I’m doing is educating, which, as you know, is a lot of what being a real estate agent is. If you think explaining agency is tough, try explaining how to change a fill valve to someone who doesn’t speak English.  But sometimes you’re just reassuring somebody that what they’ve already figured out is correct.

Me: Is that the only way it relates to real estate?

Homer: Oh no. There are lots of real estate lessons I’ve learned here.

Me: What else?

Homer: Well, here’s one. It’s not unusual to get customers who are getting a house ready to put on the market. For example, they’ll be replacing a kitchen faucet.  More than once I’ll see them later and they’ll say something like…Gosh, I wish I’d done that sooner. It looks so much better. If I’d have done it a year ago I could have enjoyed it for a while myself. I think many homeowners get a little myopic about their own homes and don’t see what looks dated or just unattractive…another reason they need us!

Me: Amen. When people get comfortable in their home and it’s full of fond memories, they rarely look at it like the rest of the world will when it’s on the market.

Say, you wouldn’t be interested in doing this again sometime, would you?

Homer: Sure. It’s been fun. In fact, if I think of something I’ll join Alberta and do a guest post,  if you want.

Me: You’ve been to my site?

Homer: Oh yeah. It’s the best real estate blog in the Triangle except for your other one. I want you to introduce me to Alberta too. Sounds like my kind of woman.

Me: Alright! You’re on. I’ll set you up as a contributor and you can have your own byline.

Homer: I’ve got a few stories to tell. I can write but I’m better with faucets and filters than bits and bytes. You’ll have to show me how to post.

Note: The “other one” is www.DurhamLuxRE.com.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John @ Vancouver WA Homes June 23, 2010 at 11:35 am

Great Interview! Out our way we have similar stories, like the agent-gal that works at Costco, the agent-guy at Safeway…


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