On the Home Front


 If You Can’t Beat ‘Em …


A twist on the real estate forum … not intended for those who need graphs, statistics or numbers to define an industry.


By Valerie Torelli

There are those people and incidents that even years later, when you retell the story, have those around you smile. Then there are those stories when retold have everyone laughing out load with abandon and a knowing nod.

We all have had a Norah in our life. Here is to you finding the hilarity in the telling and the heartfelt lesson in the ending:

Norah is the quintessential disheveled artist type. When we first saw her home there was chaos in every nook and cranny. Loose paperwork everywhere, half finished projects, mismatched everything.

Her opinions were well known within moments: we could sell the house like it was or “turn yourselves around and go on out the way you came.” She liked things as they were and she wasn’t changing for anyone …. take it or leave it!

Up to the challenge, we signed up and started marketing her home for sale, adapting as we went along.

On every scheduled visit to the property there were two things guaranteed to greet us: three large dogs who were often snarling, and Norah, our seller, who was always snarling.  Dogs and Norah followed the buyers through every room, with non-stop interrogations. I can’t make the following exchange up:

Norah to qualified buyer: “There is no way you can afford my house, you look 12.”

Qualified buyer: “Well, I have been in finance for eight years.”

Norah: “I’m no math wizard but if you learned math in first grade that makes you about 14.”

Then, as if on cue the largest of the three dogs starts to snarl.

Qualified, shocked buyer backing up slowly “You know a condo would probably be a better choice.”

The patron saint of home sales smiled on us despite Norah’s attempts to discourage everyone who entered her house. Some brave soul started the negotiation process, which resulted in an escrow being opened.

Norah kept waiting for the hammer to fall. When everything was going smoothly she would create chaos just to … well, who knows what the purpose was.

Norah’s interrogation of the notary at the escrow company – who had the temerity to ask for her driver’s license to complete the signing – was a 40-minute ordeal.  “I have paid my property taxes for 30 years and no one ever asked me for ID.”

Another 40 minutes with the escrow company’s attorney finally resulted in the elusive driver’s license being flashed.

The appraiser fled the property with the dogs on his heel and Norah in a rage – the bank sent someone over who did not even live nearby.

You’re getting the picture. Chaos. Drama.

Blessed day of closing, we call Norah with the good news.

“Not so fast. Where’s my money?” asks Norah, who had arranged for her funds to be wired to her bank.

We called, got the confirmation number for the transfer and were told it would take a few hours for it to show up on Norah’s bank.

“I have checked on this and it should have already been in my account.”

Keep in mind this is just 20 minutes after we have notification and it takes some time to get final numbers.  We had explained the escrow process, given her a brochure, she knew it would be around 1 p.m. before the transfer would be effective.

The new buyers were on their way, moving van full.  We thought the nightmare was almost over, but Norah was just warming up.

“Until I see money, if those buyers step foot on my property the dogs are having lunch.”

Those dogs again. My other client’s cat boxes never looked so good.  She locked herself in the house and refused to see us. The behavior worsened with each call she made to us, every 5 to 10 minutes for the next hour.  One such exchange went like this:

“I never trusted that escrow gal from the minute she asked for my driver’s license. I bet she is at my bank right now pretending to be me.”

You would understand the absurdity of that comment if you can picture a 5-foot, stout middle aged woman, Norah, next to the 35 year old escrow officer who was 100 pounds soaking wet.

Another call.  We ask for patience … she gets crazier … clearly reasoning was not on Norah’s radar. Out of exasperation here is the exchange that calmed the situation:

Me in panicked voice: “OMG it’s now been 74 minutes I think you are right, Norah, the escrow officer took your money!”

Norah: “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell all of you.”

Me:  “I just had one of our staff call her office, she is still there, I think she is planning a bigger heist; we have several closing today. We need to act fast before she gets all the money!”

I start talking faster, overshadowing Norah.

Me: “Here’s the plan, you call the police, to get her at the office, I am calling the FBI in case she slips out to go to your bank.”

Norah, a little less certain: I am not leaving till I know my money is safe.”

Me, agitated and firing away: “This is huge; don’t answer the door for anyone without a badge. We are calling the CIA, the DA, the DOC the DRE, AND the IRS.”

Norah: “Why the IRS?”

Me: “In case she gets away, she’ll have to pay taxes!”

More crazed talk then I went with: “This was planned from the beginning! I bet that 12-year-old buyer is in on this too! I’m calling his principal!”

Now Norah says in a very calm tone, “I think we may be over reacting a little here.”

Ahhhh, you think?

So the roles are reversing. The more outrageous my behavior, the more calming Norah’s. Each irrational idea I came up with, Norah gave a more rational response.  I could actually hear her breath getting as heavy as one of her lurking dogs. SHE suggested we wait another half-hour or so. Sixty minutes later, wire confirmed, and the dogs and Norah left the house quietly.

Taking such a volatile situation and diffusing it with compassion, understanding, and yes, humor, was the right thing to do.

Later that day, Norah came by with the keys and let us know all was OK.  She went on to explain how good it was that she was able to keep her head about her and not get ” that poor escrow gal in trouble.”

We, of course thanked her for helping us maintain  order.  She proudly stated that she was the hero in this case. And here it is: Norah left the office and a 30-year home with all the dignity she deserved.

We all have a Norah. Allowing them to be the hero, now that’s something to write home about.

Valerie Torelli is the owner of Torelli Realty (torellirealty.com). She has been involved in the real estate conversation for 25 years. Valerie would like to hear from you. Please send your comments/experiences to valerie@torellirealty.com.