Thursday, July 1, 2010

Things that go bump in the night

I think it’s time for some more eye-candy, to get me—and you—through today. It's below.

What's the scariest and/or funniest thing that ever happened to you as a realtor? How about as a renovator? How about as an author?

I left this question until last, and worked my way through all the others first, because I had no idea how to answer it. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part—although I don’t seem to lack imagination in other areas—but I swear to God, nothing scary, funny, or exciting ever happens to me. That’s why I write, see? So I can actually experience scary and funny and exciting things!
As a realtor... let’s see. There was that time with the sex offender and the parole officer. It sounds like a stupid joke, I know. And it pretty much is. Not very funny, either, except in retrospect and a rather ironic way.

We had this listing for a townhouse a client was trying to sell. It was in a desirable zip code, but not the best part of the neighborhood. Not the worst, either, though, so when a young single mother called and asked about it, we could say, with all honesty, that she’d probably be just fine living there.

(Note: realtors are not allowed to say whether a neighborhood is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’. Those things are subjective, and anyway, we don’t want to be sued later, after the client moves in and is robbed or raped or whatever. Because you really don't wanna hear, “But you said it was safe...!”)

The young woman was worried, though, so hubby agreed to meet her over at the townhouse and show it to her. It was about nine o’clock in the morning, the school bus had just gone past, and he was sitting on the steps waiting for the potential buyer and her small child to show up when a car screeches up to the curb, stops at an angle, and two men jump up and flat out run through the yard toward the house.

“Where is he?!” one of them yells.

Hubby, of course, having no idea what’s going on, says, “Who?”

Turns out they were looking for the tenant, who happened to be a paroled sex-offender. He was long gone, so our client ended up having to bag up and toss all of the guy’s belongings. The potential buyer got there too late to see any of the excitement, and then it turned out she didn’t like the place anyway, which was just as well, really.

There's the eye-candy. -------------->
Couldn't resist, sorry.

Renovating... there was this house hubby and I put an offer on. A run-down craftsman bungalow in a transitional area, I think the price was $44,000, which should give you an idea of the condition that it was in. Not real great, although not too bad, either. Nashville's still pretty affordable, for the most part. The place needed a total overhaul, of course, to the tune of 50K or so, but we were excited about it.

About a week before we were set to close, we went over there, for approximately the thousandth time, to gloat and discuss, for the thousandth time, what we were going to do to the place once it belonged to us. Only to walk in and find the living room ceiling on the floor, with a gaping hole up above.

The really funny thing, though, was when we said we wanted to back out of the deal and the owner tried to tell us the house wasn’t materially changed by the fact that the ceiling had fallen in.

No, not at all.

Of course I’ve found the occasional bloody knife or slab of raw meat sitting around, as well. Yes, I have. Really.

And writing... nothing exciting every happens when you’re writing. I scare myself with my research sometimes, although I don’t write about anything too scary, so I can avoid most of the really creepy stuff. That’s why the ripe dead body in Fatal Fixer-Upper is in the dark, by the way: Avery can’t see him, and that way I wouldn’t have to describe him in too much detail. I think I did a pretty good job with the pieces that didn’t fall off, though...

At signings, people are mostly nice. I did my first table-by-the-front-door, didn’t-sell-a-single-book signing this weekend, though. Before, bookstores have always set out chairs and had me do a little spiel to make people interested in the book I’m hawking. Not this time. They just showed me to the little table by the door, asked me if I wanted a drink, and that was it. I had the entire magazine section at my back, so I spent the time looking at DIY and home renovation magazines, to get ideas for the do-it-yourself tips in the next book. (I found a great tip for turning an old door into a porch swing, too, so it wasn’t entirely wasted.)

Anyway, I’m sitting there, making eye-contact with people walking in, and going back to my magazine when they walk past, when this guy stops. He looks around, sort of furtively, before he bends down. Voice lowered, to make sure no one can hear him, he hisses, “I’m sure you know this already...”

I smile politely.

“...but you should never do a signing where they won’t let you read.”

Yeah, no shit, Sherlock.

Hopefully that’ll cover it. Sorry I don’t have anything more exciting to share. I’d love to hear your scary and funny stories, though, if you have any. I’m sure exciting stuff probably happens to you...


Becke Davis said...

Oh, wait - there's a blog here? I'm still blinded by the picture of Shemar Moore. (Thank you for that, ladies! *wipes brow*)

Okay, I think I can control myself now. Must go back and read blog.

Becke Davis said...

Great blog, Jennie/Bente!

My niece is a realtor and I worry about the scary stuff that could happen. This is what comes of watching too many episodes of Criminal Minds!

I can relate to the book signing story. When my garden books were released, I did a couple of wonderful book signings and one in particular that really sucked.

It was December - just me and a guy with a home repair book. He wasn't very chatty and we just sat there for a couple hours. I think we sold one book each - talk about depressing!

I hope your next signing will be a lot better - it's great that you're able to laugh about this one!

Jenna said...

Becke - thanks for stopping by! Glad you like the picture; I had a lot of fun picking it out, from all the others...

Real estate can be a scary business sometimes, yeah, which was the impetus for writing A Cutthroat Business. That's why all realtors go through safety training as part of the education. At least we did.

Yeah, bad signings suck. Bad things in general suck. You gotta be able to laugh at this stuff, though, or you'll drive yourself crazy. And in the scheme of things, it isn't really that important, is it?

Becke Davis said...

This is really a fun blogsite, Bente - I just realized I know a lot of the people you blog with!

Jenna said...

I'm just here for the week, sweetie. I know a lot of these folks well, though, since many of us started out as ITW debut authors together. Kelli, Jeannie, Sophie, Josh, Rebecca... They're being nice to me and letting me plug myself and my new book for a week. And I'm in Kelli's new book as a character. :-)

Kelli Stanley said...

Bente, my sweet, those are some cool stories--particularly the realtor tip about "safe/unsafe" and the sex offender bit.

I don't think most of us want to think about how many of them are out there, and how close they may be to our own zip codes ... and I know I keep my eyes open whenever I see an obvious stranger talking to a child, which I did on the bus this morning.

As for signings ... yup, I've been through exactly that. Borders signing in San Diego for my first book. I was overjoyed when a woman not only wanted to talk to me, but bought one. Otherwise, it was just me and the crickets and teenagers slurping iced coffees.

Glad to see Becke's smiling face over here, too!! She's a wonderful Barnes and Noble hostess, and makes that board a hugely fun place to be!!



P.S. Bloody knife?? Meat?? Are you saving this for a future book? ;)

Jenna said...

Most police precinct probably keep track of sex offenders in their areas. The TBI, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, has lists for my area, I know; if y'all have state bureaus of investigation, they probably do too. There's also a website called, I think, Watchdog, where you can check for sex offenders by zip code, should you want to do so. We recommend that everyone who's thinking of buying a house anywhere, especially someone with children, check their area for sexual predators. You can't be too careful these days, sadly.

Becke rocks! She has me as a guest over on the B&N board this week, so I cross pollinated and brought her over here. I promised a hot picture of Shemar Moore, and she was here like a shot. ;-)

The bloody knife and raw meat - two different houses - freaked me out some. Not sure I can get away with either in a cozy, but I'll find somewhere to plug it in.

Meredith Cole said...

Bloody knife? Meat? I, like Kelli and other inquiring minds, want to know more...

Jenna said...

Meredith, the bloody knife and raw meat were less exciting than they seem. The bloody knife was in an abandoned kitchen, just lying in the middle of the floor, and the piece of raw meat - roughly the size of a big steak - was in the backyard of a different house, also empty. I had some fun and some chills thinking about both, but chances are it was nothing sinister at all. That's easy to fix, though!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hi Bente! And good to see you over here, Becke!

Sorry about the signing story. I was in a chain store just recently for a reading and no one showed up. In fact, the people who were sitting there looking like they were waiting for the reading got up when they announced the reading. They were there for the chairs. The chairs.

Overall though I've had good luck.

I can think of lots of innocent reasons for a steak to be in the backyard (bad dog!), but a bloody knife all alone in the middle of a kitchen floor...that's creepy!

Jenna said...

the chairs. LOL. Don't you hate that.

Yeah, I'm sure there were good reasons for both the steak - could be a dog - and the knife. It quite wigged me out for a little while, though!

Shane Gericke said...

Wait till the guys in the chairs ask you where the bathroom is! I know the exact location in a bazillion bookstores 'cause some signings there's nothing else to do except help people find their way around the bookstore ...

But the managers always buy me coffee. Which is nice.

Shane Gericke said...

Hey, Becke, we really are a fun group. Come hang out with us any time you like!