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Praise for Entangled in America



The author’s story will touch readers with its authenticity. Her writing is spare, but emotional. Women will identify with her. Men will remember women like her.



Sarah Bates, author of The Lost Diaries of Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Wanjiru Warama’s writing shows a superior understanding of human nature. It has subtle humor.



Joe Torricelli, author of As Luck Would Have It



The book is a rich narrative of Warama’s ups and downs, as she makes her way to accomplish her dream of an independent woman. She has found her voice and rhythm as she triumphs in America.



Kathy J. Davis, A sucker for a good story













ENTANGLED
IN
AMERICA











Wanjiru Warama

Athomi Books

California, U.S.A.



Entangled in America


Copyright © 2017 by Wanjiru Warama

All rights reserved.

The reproduction, transmission or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission.


wanjiruwarama.com

wanjiru.warama@gmail.com


Published November, 2017

United States of America


First Edition

ISBN: 978-0998051321


Published by Athomi Books

8064 Allison Avenue, #684

La Mesa, California, CA 91942


Cover Design: LimelighBookcovers.com















Dedicated to my late brother Stephen Mũriithi Warama

and to my sister Florence Wairimũ Warama

for their unwavering love and support



And to authors whose books have helped shape a better life for me







Table of Contents


1: It’s About Money

2: Roommate

3: Pyramid Scheme

4: May West

5: Another Side of Real Estate

6: Chotara

7: I’ll Beg or Work for Food

8: Home Safari Realty

9: Bankruptcy

10: Aged and Lonely

11: Mr. and Mrs. Drunk

12: 52nd Street Property

13: Arm-candy

14: Bankruptcy Discharge

15: Partnership and Foundation

16: Piggy Bank

17: Two Old Men on a Mission

18: A Movie Star

19: Repair Garage 89

20: Acturial Tables Glitch

21: It Takes a Village Call

22: The Village Gets Tested

23: Mr. Vegas

24: Superior Court

25: Family Ties

26: Tribalism

27: The List

28: The Power of Bloodline

29: Driving Disability

30: Tribalism Seed

31: Tribal Pecking Order

32: Missed Signals

33: Strange People

34: The Ultimate Loss

35: Debt Collector and Heir

36: The Mighty Dollar

37: Don

38: The Village Fails

39: Psychic to the Rescue

40: The Alligator House

41: Real Estate Bubble

42: Unschooled Tribalist

43: Primal Fear

44: Special Lotion

45: Mr. Distinguished

46: The Trance

47: Lawsuit seed

48: Lawsuit Call

49: Lawsuit Nurture

50: The Cracked Slab

51: Crafting a Lawsuit

52: Dr. Credentials

53: The Brothas

54: The Lie

55: We Need to Talk

56: Dominance and Submission

57: Yes or No to Dominance

58: My Way or the Highway

59: Mediations

60: A Penniless Old woman

61: The Quiet Rant

62: Mediation Round One

63: Mediation Round Two

64: The Final Round

65: This Too Shall Pass

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS






1

It’s About Money





Who knew I would be stuck in the African immigrants’ merry-go-round, always talking of going home as soon as financially able. One year follows another, and before one knows it, years pile up into decades. Finally, the home-goer’s limbs weaken and the grave inches closer than “home.”

My going-back-home story started back in 1984 when I first arrived in the United States, and the culture shock debilitated me. I stuck it out and finished my final year of college. In the process, I ran out of money and couldn’t afford an air ticket back home.

By mid-1986, I had taken a stand. The need for long-term goals mattered little to me. Without a committed relationship to lean on or to rush back to in Kenya, my country of birth, I planned to hunker down in the USA, “find myself,” and eventually return to Kenya richer and more socially liberated.

Despite my focused efforts, in the next four and a half years, “finding me” remained elusive. Besides, I didn’t know what “finding me” really meant. How would I know I had found myself? My stressors still walked in step with me. My family in Kenya lived in poverty and failed to understand why I could live in America, a rich country, and not visit or afford to help as I did when I lived in Nairobi. Why then, they wondered, did I remain in a foreign country.

Raised in Kenya, however, where women’s “ceiling” was, and still is, to a lesser extent, lower than that of women in the western world, I remained unsure of whether I had the fortitude to wade through the Kenyan society as an unmarried woman. When I first came to America, those two parts of my life—my family’s unrealistic expectations of my ability to help financially and women’s social challenges—had driven me to leave Kenya for America, albeit to take a timeout for one year.

The year came and went, my psychological demons still unresolved. But bills had no respect for my plans or my ‘poor me’ issues —they needed immediate attention.

Fortunately, the one part of my life I was clear about since my days in Nairobi, and always worked hard to avoid, was becoming a member of “the less fortunate among us.” I had woven my life into the American tapestry and become a member of the working middle-class, workers one paycheck or mortgage payment away from lower class. I enjoyed homeownership—a three-bedroom, two-car garage house I bought in January 1991 on Arrowwood Drive in San Diego, California.

Meanwhile, I existed outside the general economy’s loop. I focused on raising Mariana, my twelve-year-old daughter, and on growing my clientele, since I had become a real estate professional two years prior. I read business books, especially the real estate how-to genre, marketed my property listings, and prospected for business, too busy to read newspapers or listen to other business news. But something anti-real estate was going on, only I wasn’t sure what, like a body malaise without a diagnosis.

My fellow agents at Realty Edge Ltd., a husband and wife company in neighboring National City, complained about their slow business. But the husband/manager harped on, “You make your own market.” I became even more tenacious in my prospecting: distributing flyers, calling prospects, and going door-to-door. Despite my efforts, an economic tsunami—a brewing savings and loan housing debacle—blindsided me. By the time it reached its zenith, it had slowed my sales to a trickle and swept me out of my house.

~~~

The first clue that something was amiss came from my property listings. I had a whiteboard pinned on the wall next to my desk where I recorded property addresses, sizes, amenities, and prices. My board looked impressive, but the properties hardly sold.

When I received an offer, half the time the property didn’t sell. Main reasons were buyers’ inability to qualify for loans because of low income, bad credit, sketchy employment, not enough down payment, or unverifiable source of funds. Other reasons included loss of job during escrow, buyers' remorse, or seller and buyer failure to agree on repairs. Sometimes unpaid child support or decades-old, long forgotten, welfare receipts sank sales of even the most experienced agents and brokers.

In cases of welfare, recipients didn’t understand that welfare money, like work-relief payments, was free as long as one lived and died poor. If one made money, the government thrust its hand out.

Because child support and welfare payments never appeared on the regular credit reports, unpaid accounts appeared in title reports. Title companies had to get the records’ details from the city’s Revenue and Recovery Department that was famous for dragging its feet. After paying the delinquent accounts, buyers lacked enough money, which meant they had to beg their relatives to pitch in or borrowed from their retirement accounts. Already tired of the long process, some buyers looked for any excuse to cancel.

Sometimes negative economic news or the heavy responsibility of paying on a mortgage spooked others. Some of the buyers changed their minds at the signing table.

The buyers weren’t the only ones getting nervous. By the end of 1991, I had fallen into panic mode. I relied on closed escrows to pay my bills—a paycheck-to-paycheck existence. If a sale fell through, which happened often, borrowing from my credit cards bailed me out, putting me in a worse financial situation.

I shared my financial challenges with two girlfriends—Lukia, a former college mate, and Phyllis, a fellow real estate agent who wasn’t faring well herself. I told them my intention to rent out my house and move into an apartment I could afford.

My two friends bombarded me with, “You’ve just moved in; enjoy your house. Tenants will damage your house; they will call you to unclog toilets all hours of night.”

Their warnings played in my mind every day. Scared, I conceded and stayed.

Instead, I immersed myself in sales and marketing, driven like an addict in search of a fix. I made goals with specific deadlines. The first two goals were to earn $5,000 per month within a year, and buy a dream four-bedroom, four-bath red-tile-roofed house on a quarter of an acre in an upscale area in five years. As marketing gurus advised, I plastered one list of my goals on my bathroom mirror. Another list went into my purse for review when I waited in long lines. I visualized rosy outcomes while I chanted my goals twice a day like a mantra—first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

It was just a matter of time before my efforts bore fruit, I believed.





2

Roommate





Chants and positive thoughts worked great, and I became a true believer. My property listings increased, but my sales remained anemic. The holidays fell upon us, starting with Thanksgiving in November. The citizenry immersed itself in Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa annual holiday pageantry—the lights, the shopping, and the eating. Meantime, the real estate malaise took hold.

Three properties I had in escrow fell out before Christmas. Two buyers, tired of going through the loan qualifying process, changed their minds. The third couple, the wife lost her job during escrow and the husband couldn’t qualify alone.

Heartbroken, on the evening of the office Christmas party, I feigned sickness (I never wanted Mariana to learn how broke we were.) I took to my bed. By then she, a constant visitor at Realty Edge Ltd., enjoyed Friday Filipino food or pizza feasts, occasional parties, and the office fellowship. Missing the Christmas party would have been a big disappointment. I asked my friend Lukia to chaperone her.

~~~

The more experienced agents in my office said there was no point in whining about the economy. “Just ride it out,” they said. My first idea of renting out my house seemed all the more prudent. Perhaps I rent out a room, I thought. The income would help me pay my bills while I still enjoyed living in my house.

I advertised the bedroom I used as my office under: “room for rent” at $400 per month. The amount was half my mortgage payment and enough to tidy me financially until better days arrived.

A friend asked to rent the room. I hesitated. A year earlier, he had settled for friendship after I turned down his boyfriend aspirations. He was acceptable as a roommate—good and stable—but we were incompatible in our personal goals and priorities. His political ideals trampled everything else. But, for a recent immigrant, financial stability came first.

Before I agreed he move in, we discussed our friendship. He confirmed he understood our relationship was platonic. Assured, but focused on my financial needs and relieved not to have an unknown renter in my home because of Mariana, I rented him the room and he rented out his house.

My new roommate and I agreed to share the living room, kitchen, and the hallway bathroom. He brought his couch set, which looked better than mine. I donated my tired set to a thrift store. I paid little attention when he inserted, “You will make dinner” into our verbal agreement.

One evening, I had not returned home by eight. According to Mariana, our roommate complained I had not kept my part of our agreement. With my unpredictable work schedule that varied from ten to fourteen hours daily, cooking dinner on time challenged me. I ran around stressed, like an overworked married woman with unsupportive husband and child (when I didn’t haul her around) waiting at home to be fed.

Tired and irritated by the demand and feeling guilty for the late cooking, I hurriedly cooked ugali (precursor of cornbread), greens, and chicken. The ugali didn’t come out as firm as it should. But my roommate ate it with gusto because, either he was hungry or as a non-Kenyan, he couldn’t tell badly cooked ugali.

~~~

Besides “not meeting part of our agreement” charge, I woke one morning, turned my head, and my dimmed eyes landed on a face, bedding snugged up to his neck. I wondered when my roommate got into my bed or how long he had kept me company. Groggy and irritated, I asked, “What are you doing here?”

“Thought you wouldn’t mind,” he said.

“What made you think so?” I asked.

“Well, you are a woman, I’m a man…”

“Just go to your bed,” I said, shaking my head.

The short exchange alerted Mariana, who was already up. My door ajar, I saw her appear at the hallway and witness our roommate hustle back to his bedroom. When I drove her to school that morning, she asked me, “Did ‘Mr. Sneaker’ sleep in your bed?”

“No.”

“I saw him come from your bedroom.”

“He wants to share my bed, but I don’t want him to.”

“I know he likes you, but can’t imagine the two of you together,” she said and giggled.

We didn’t share dinner that day. The man remained in his bedroom until I retired at night. When I returned home from work the following day, he and his furniture had disappeared. Only my rickety coffee table, a small stand, and my 13-inch black and white TV on a chair remained in the living room. I regretted giving away my couches. Drained, my eyes scanned the room in dismay. I sat on the coffee table, my briefcase and purse beside me.

~~~

When Mariana’s birthday came in April of 1992, before she finished middle school, I had no money for us to celebrate. I brought two cupcakes from the office food bribes that vendors—loan and title officers—brought to the office almost every week to lure business orders from us. I put the cupcakes on the coffee table and stuck in candles. I took two pictures of Mariana kneeling, blowing out the candles.

Another time, Marina invited her schoolmate to stop by after they walked home from school. I heard their chatter as they walked up the driveway. The two found me watching TV, lying on my side on the living room floor, my head propped up on my elbow, open hand to my temple. When Mariana saw me, she rushed to her bedroom and dropped her books. She joined her friend who had already peered in the living room and, when she saw me, pulled her head back and waited in the foyer. The two walked back out without Mariana making any introductions.

I felt so defeated and drained the incident didn’t embarrass me. By then, I had no illusions about my financial standing; it would be awhile before the dollars rolled in. But come they would. When and how was the puzzle I needed to solve.





3

Pyramid Scheme





For unemployed, underpaid, or underemployed people like me, who hungered for gainful employment, or to boost their income, during the real estate housing debacle in the nineties, seminars abounded in hotel ballrooms or in large private homes with furniture that seemed too clean to sit in. Before presentations started, hosts offered juices in half-full large wine glasses with lemon or orange wedges as if the drinks were highlife or cocktails.

Seminars in homes were pragmatic, dignified, and subdued. But hotel meetings turned out to be robust and rowdy, like church revivals. Eloquent presenters in black suits or dresses talked about reaching the top of the organization in months. They claimed to be directors or having won cars and trips. The emcee summoned excited witnesses and lined them in front, from where they gave their testimonials. The room filled with excited, friendly, smiling people. I admired and envied them from the first seminar I attended in a large hotel ballroom in Mission Valley.

I resisted signing up because the business model made no economic sense. Besides upfront signing fees and merchandise purchases, presenters focused on how many people a signee recruited into the organization, not the sales he or she made—a version of a pyramid scheme. Through my exposure to business, I knew that only the initial entrants made money before the pyramid paid less and less until it finally collapsed.

Even with that knowledge, I drove to different venues in the name of networking. In reality, I couldn’t resist mixing in the dazzling, infectious atmosphere, controlled by impeccably “dressed for success” smooth talkers, thereby opening myself to temptation.

But temptation wasn’t my concern, although it should have been. I believed with the help of greed, and because I knew how pyramids worked, I could beat the scheme and pull out profits before the inevitable collapse—when withdrawers outnumbered the payers. My only barrier: I didn’t have money to buy the products or services peddled.

Finally, my greed let an acquaintance suck me in on a scheme that touted—“untapped business”—selling water purifiers. The business sounded wholesome and healthy; after all, I used a water purifier. Borrow from your credit card, sell purifiers, pay back the borrowed money, and enjoy the profits, he advised.

I hawked the purifiers in between my real estate prospecting. By the time I surrendered, I had bumped my credit card debts $5,000 higher and was stuck with water purifiers no one wanted.

~~~

Toward the end of 1992, after a year of financial scraping, I made the one decision that my friends dissuaded me from a year earlier. I spruced my house for rent without consulting the two friends or anyone else. Cash advances from one of my credit cards that still had a chargeable balance helped me pay my mortgage, replace the aged, dull brown carpet in the living areas, and install vinyl laminate floor in the kitchen.

And finally, I got a yardman to trim shrubs and cut grass in the sprawling backyard.

When we first moved in during the cold season in January, the wooden-fenced backyard was a source of pleasure. Perennial shrubs and vines hugged the fence and green grass grew with abandon. I enjoyed looking through the living room glass sliding door and thinking I had a wild yard right in the city. We also enjoyed the bloom and fresh smells in spring. In summer, except the evergreens, the shrubs and grass turned brittle and ugly. If one struck a match, there was no telling how many nearby houses my neglected yard would have helped burn to the ground.

Now, in the eve of renting out my house, I watered the scrubby front yard, morning and evening, so the humble house showed well from the street. Meantime, I held yard sales on weekends until most of our belongings sold.

But I still had to decide whether our cat would move with us.

~~~

We had a cat in Nairobi since Mariana was a baby. The cat and she grew up and played together as if they were the same species. As soon as we moved into the Arrowwood house, Mariana wanted me to duplicate our Nairobi lifestyle—get a cat. She nagged whenever she saw a cat. I turned a deaf ear until I sold a house for a couple moving out of town.

During one of my appointments with the sellers, just before their house sold, I took Mariana with me. When their cat and Mariana met, they became inseparable. Even at twelve, she gently stroked the cat, cooing and talking to it as if it were a baby. The woman said she and her husband had failed to get someone to adopt the cat. They planned to take it to a homeless shelter when they moved. Our house became the shelter when I failed to come up with a good reason why Mariana couldn’t take the cat home that evening. My declaration that I wouldn’t feed or take care of the cat, and that it was her full responsibility, met with, “Of course, it’s my cat.”

I caught myself in time before I blurted out, “It’s an extra mouth to feed.”

Our household dynamic changed from the time the cat moved in. Mariana abdicated her responsibilities. She played with the cat but never cleaned its litter or fed it unless I nagged and nagged.

The cat let me down, too. I expected an independent cat, which could forage for food if it became necessary, like the one we had in Nairobi, a patriot who guarded the homeland with passion. If a mouse or rat dared trespass our front or backyard, and it wasn’t quick enough, it became the day’s gourmet meal.

But the San Diego cat, with its white fur coat that rivaled any polar bear, lacked spark—no survival skills whatsoever. And who could blame it? The cat carried at least three extra pounds on its frame. This made it exhibit mannerisms similar to those of a sloth suffering from insomnia, lazy eyes wide open with stillness like a statue.

As if that wasn’t enough trouble, the cat refused to eat people food like the Nairobi cat. When such food appeared, it eyed inside the bowl, then turned away without even a sniff. The special cat wanted special food—store-bought cat food. Without it, she went on a hunger strike. It didn’t matter that mice roamed and socialized in our neglected wild backyard. The cat wouldn’t have known anyway. It stayed indoors unless one of us nudged it outside to get some sun.

One time Mariana called me to the back covered patio to witness what a lazy cat we adopted. A risk-taker mouse dashed this way and that way in search of a playmate. Twice it stood on its hind legs scratching its yet-to-appear whiskers right in front of the cat. The cat remained crouched, occasionally extending a limp playful paw, a true live-and-let-live advocate.

~~~

With most of the furniture sold, I advertised the house under the San Diego Housing Commission, Section 8 program, which subsidizes rents for low-income tenants. I didn’t want to take chances with a regular tenant in case he or she became unemployed and failed to pay the rent. If a subsidized tenant lost a job, the government paid the full rent.

My first callers, Mrs. Pringle and Reverend Yates, became smitten with the house and the neighborhood.

After we signed the rental agreement, I suffered from landlord remorse; I hated to move after I prettied the house interior. I envied Mrs. Pringle and Reverend Yates when their Section-8 caseworker told me of their miniscule out-of-pocket rent portion.

Mariana and I moved into a one-bedroom unit at the gated Meadowbrook Apartments, at the corner of Paradise Valley Road and Meadowbrook Drive, about a mile away. Mariana was against the move when I initially told her, and when she saw our tiny new quarters, she flat out rolled her eyes, and sulked. She never warmed up to the apartment. The setup didn’t give her the privacy and freedom she craved to play or socialize with her two girlfriends.

I did the best I could to get her some privacy. I partitioned the large bedroom into two elongated sections by aligning our two high-backed-mirrored dressers in the middle, each facing its owner’s bed.

With the cat’s fussy and lazy ways, we couldn’t fit it into our second-story cramped quarters. I forced it upon a family I believed could afford its upkeep.





4

May West





With the Arrowwood house rented, I concentrated on my business, prepared to weather my financial troubles by waiting it out, as people familiar with economic downturns advised. As the economy stumbled and wobbled, some mortgage companies couldn’t wait it out. One-by-one, they closed doors, merged, or sold themselves to stronger companies.

Conrad, my manager at Realty Edge Ltd., and presenters at seminars I attended, kept on harping, “You make your own market.” Despite my commitment to the mantra, my faith had already wavered.

I blamed Realty Edge Ltd.'s size for my sluggish business. A small outfit with only ten agents plus the broker and the manager, a husband and wife team, the company lacked a marketing and advertising budget. Like most real estate companies, the couple relied on their agents to bring in business, besides getting a listing now and then from their close friends.

I yearned for more exposure through a bigger company with an advertising budget that would help draw in potential customers and clients into the office. I advised the couple of my need, cleared my desk and moved to Century-21 May West on 3rd Avenue in Chula Vista.

The number of agents and brokers in the new office ranged from 120 to 140. There were at least one hundred cubicles in a large, open office. Management and the top producers worked from private offices. The rest of us, regular agents and associate brokers, met our clients in either of the two meeting rooms, each furnished with a conference table and a phone.

~~~

The Century-21 franchise had a one-week intensive training for their new recruits before they dropped it because of training agents and then getting them poached by other companies. The training took place at Hazard Center in Mission Valley.

Even with basic experience at Realty Edge Ltd., the training helped shorten my learning curve. I learned the tumbles of real estate sales and marketing and escrow and the title process. But the best education I received was how to acquire clients and customers and how to overcome their objections, which the trainer had us role-play.

It was the first time I attended a structured training on how to cold-call and what to say, and how to counteract a reluctant customer’s objections. Before then, I had worked extra hard, wasting time working with first-time sellers or buyers—the bulk of my business—who weren’t in a position to buy or sell.

Afraid of a big financial commitment, buyers looked for ways not to sign documents until they understood them. This proved challenging and time consuming because, as agents and brokers, we required clients to sign whatever disclosures we explained in case some time later, which happened often, they claimed, “You never told us that” or “I don’t remember that.” Some buyers and sellers became hesitant to sign papers and eyed agents sideways as if they were out to get them.

I recall a couple who refused to sign the final papers after the lender had released the money. The couple worried about the astronomical amount of interest they would pay by the time they finished paying their mortgage after thirty years. No explanation of how interest rates work could satisfy them, or maybe I didn’t use the right language to counteract their objections.

Unfortunately for them, it was just before the start of the real estate bubble. The house they cancelled on more than doubled in price in three years. The house never went back to the price they would have paid even at the height of the real estate crash in 2007/2008.

~~~

Most of my three-year tenure at Century-21 May West, I prospected three to four hours most days, with a goal to sell or list one property each week. I preferred cold-calling or telemarketing because it produced listings faster, with my labor as the only expense. (I never warmed up to buyers. They often proved fickle, bound to change their minds on a whim—sometimes against their own interests—especially when they consulted their clueless know-it-all relatives or friends.)

One week, I called for three days without getting a single listing. I vowed to turn the tide the fourth day. No food or break until I get a house to sell, I told myself. I called for one hour, two hours, three hours. Halfway into the fourth hour, a woman answered her phone on the second ring.

I introduced myself and asked whether she knew of anyone who wanted to sell a house.

“Yes! My husband want to sell,” she said in haste.

“When does he want to sell?”

“He’ll come home for lunch. Can you come talk to him?”

“What time?” I asked.

At 1:30 sharp, I knocked on the door of the two-story home. The house, by the border of San Diego and National City, had a humongous motor home parked beside it. A man dressed in a dark top with matching pants opened the door. The living room floor, covered with bedspreads, was littered with children—babies, toddlers, and three or four preschoolers who tried to keep still without much success.

The husband introduced himself and his wife. Since he had finished eating his lunch, he offered to give me a tour of the house. The wife didn’t join us; she remained behind to attend to coos, gurgles, and shrieks.

He and I headed up the stairs and walked into immaculate bedrooms, like hotel rooms awaiting guests’ arrival. “Why do you want to sell such a beautiful home?” I asked to assess their motivation.

“My wife don’t want to babysit no more,” he said. “We want to move to a small house or apartment.”

“When are you planning on moving?”

“Anytime,” he said.

That meant the couple had a weighty issue disrupting their lives. The listing was then mine to lose.

Finished with upstairs, Mr. Homeowner and I went downstairs. We reached their huge family room with a green-topped billiards table at the center. Since he and his wife had grown old and tired of throwing holiday and ballgame parties, no one came to use the table any more, he said. The fireplace at the corner had old, settled-in ashes. I had seen enough to help me compare the house to similar properties in the area and help them set the price.

“How much do you want to sell the house for?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, and started scratching his head. “We were hoping you’d tell us.”

“I can certainly do that,” I said. “I’ll get you information on properties that sold in this area recently. Are you available between six and seven tonight?”

“Let’s see…parents pick up their children from five to six,” he said. “You can come at seven.”

When I returned that evening, with the children gone, the living room looked airy and inviting. The wife invited me to sit on one of the couches. I suggested we sit at the dining table.

During my prep questions meant to help me tailor my presentation to their situation, their financial challenges unraveled, the reason for their motivation.

The couple had borrowed on their house and bought a deluxe motorhome to travel across the United States. After their dream trip, they parked the motorhome, never to use it again. The husband tried to sell it, but buyers offered only half of what they had paid. (I doubt Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner knew they could have rented a motor home and made that memorable trip.)

After the hefty mortgage they tacked onto their house, Mrs. Homeowner babysat to supplement her husband’s income. Tending to babies and running after toddlers eleven hours daily, five days a week, had worn out her bones. They intended to get rid of both house and motor home before the poor woman collapsed from exhaustion.

~~~

Some people can’t stand cold-callers—most use the term “telemarketers”—and believe this mode of prospecting should be illegal. But cold-calling or door-knocking works—primarily for middle-class people—because of people like Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner. These people know the answer to their dilemma, but stay stuck until someone nudges them to take a leap, or the lender forecloses on their property.

In my real estate career, I came across homeowners who didn’t want their neighbors or friends to know they had money problems. Among husbands who managed their family finances, a handful of them didn’t even tell their wives. Sometimes they kept mail from their mortgage companies unopened until the lenders foreclosed their homes for non-payment. Many times these homeowners lost their equities, which they would have recouped if they sold the houses in a timely manner.

The two modes of prospecting—cold-calling and door-knocking—are a goldmine for hardworking diligent agents and brokers short of advertising and marketing funds. Besides, it boosts the economy because of the many people who are paid from real estate transactions.

It’s reported that one real estate transaction pays about thirty-five people. These include repair people, termite companies, escrow personnel, title companies, appraisers, insurance companies, mortgage brokers, agents, notary public, and many others.

That’s the good side of real estate, when the seller and buyer agree and everybody gets paid.





5

Another Side of Real Estate





To make cold calls to unknown prospects, a title company supplied me with a list of homeowners’ names, addresses, and phone numbers in whatever development I chose. For door-knocking, I preferred a neighborhood with newer, well-maintained homes and curbs where I could walk without tripping. The plan was to get quick business from highly motivated sellers.

Occasionally, I bumped into people who dampened my enthusiasm. As a black person, although I hated people’s prejudice to cross my path and bog me down, I soon realized I needed to embrace the good, the bad, and the hush-hush if I intended to make a living in real estate.

One mid-day, I went to the Terra Nova neighborhood, east of Highway 805 in Chula Vista. I started on one side of a street. If a homeowner answered my knock, I asked if she or he knew of anyone who wanted to sell or buy a house. If the answer was “No,” which was 99.5% of the time, I left a business card. If nobody came to the door, I stuck a flyer at the door.


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