World’s Worst Real Estate Agent
Reading Time: 6.5 minutes
When you are selling a $5 million home in Key West, you’d expect a great real estate agent to do the job. It started out like that but soon fell apart. The trouble arose because the sellers and the agent were friends. The agent, Miriam, was based in Key Largo, about 2 hours’ drive away. Unfortunately, Miriam fell ill with glandular fever. People call it mononucleosis or mono. She was headed for six weeks in bed. Being single and 27 years old, that meant, for most of that time, she was going to be alone. Luckily, Miriam had a couple of friendly neighbors who dropped by every so often. That was Key West. Community. One guy did regular grocery shopping for her. He was sweet.
Of course, Miriam would do her best for the sellers, but she couldn’t do the open house events and the private showings. When a substitute was arranged, she rang the sellers: “We have someone. He’s the number two salesperson in our firm. His name is Al Tynor. No, he’s not from the Keys. He’s from Sunset Acres, just south of Miami. It’s an hour’s flight away. We do that sort of thing all the time.”
The sellers accepted Miriam’s assurance but, already, she sensed this sale was off to a shaky start.
Miriam had accurately described Al Tynor as the number two in her real estate agency. She knew that because she was number one. When he heard Miriam had glandular fever, he pounced. If the house were sold, Miriam would likely win the agency’s annual prize for total sales. If it didn’t, he would win and collect the bonus. It was something worth fighting for.
The sellers had to travel to Denver for the first couple of weeks of the sale. They kept in touch with Miriam and had a call or two from Al Tynor. He certainly seemed professional enough.
After a second open house and a few private showings, the sellers sensed that something was amiss. There were no offers being made. Not even nibbles.
The sellers’ neighbor overheard what Al Tynor was saying to potential buyers. The neighbor rang the sellers in Denver. They rang Miriam. Something was radically amiss. Miriam awoke to take the call. It was 11 am and the glandular fever had flattened her. She had been dreaming, a little madly, about a new hairdo she’d seen recently in Miami. It was bouffant style, teased up. In her dream, the wind always blew her fringe the wrong way. The sky was dazzling blue.
Now her brain was dealing with the swirling delirium of a bad hair day and agitated sellers. When she had calmed the sellers, she lay back in her bed, fell asleep for five hours, and completely forgot that the call ever happened. All the while, the easterly wind rattled her bedroom window.
Fresh on the market, this beautiful, blue-painted home was out on Cannon Royal Drive about ten miles northwest of Key West. This big, east-facing place had everything you would expect when the owners were asking $4.95 million: five bedrooms, an infinity pool, deep shady gardens beside the sea, entertainment areas, open verandas, decks, a spa, paneled ceilings with fans, storm doors, and a private jetty.
At no extra cost, the new owner would experience the wonderful art galleries with paints, plants, and sculptures. But, more than that, they would live in Key West. That meant watching the lingering orange sunsets over glittering, calm waters. When the air was still, they were in paradise. That was what they got. The most wonderful was free. Key West was like a perfect chord.
The Florida Keys is a thin necklace of sand islands between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. None are much higher than three feet. From about November to March it is windy. They call them “bad-hair months.”
It was in February that the sellers told Miriam they were ready to put their home on the market. They wanted to be out before the summer months. They planned to spend July settling into their new home in Key Biscayne. It had cost them $11 million.
So, what exactly was Al Tynor doing?
When the first couple arrived to inspect the property, Al Tynor was at his most persuasive.
“Good morning. Good morning. I’m not sure this property is for you. Possibly a younger couple would find this more to their style.” Al stroked his hair back into place. The winds were strong that day.
The couple, who were in their early sixties, were offended. They scanned the place briefly and left.
When Al tried the same tactic with the next visitor, he got more than he expected.
The visitor said: “What do you mean? This property doesn’t need a lick of work. Everything is in place.”
Al Tynor instantly backed off. “Yes. Of course. You need a gardener and … to keep things in trim.”
The visitor shook his head and ignored Al from then on.
All the while, Miriam was working with the background emails and phone calls. When she had enough strength, she used MercurySays to keep the sales process moving.
Al Tynor’s first open day started badly when he yelled at potential buyers who parked on a neighbor’s roadside verge. The neighbor didn’t care. Al was just trying to create trouble.
During the hour that the house was open for inspection, an easterly wind sprung up, sheeting over the water, and blustering through the garden. Al stood by the pool greeting the visitors; his hair stood on end as he was pummeled by the wind. He found the whole situation irritating. And, all the visitors wanted to be somewhere else.
Still, Al Tynor had learned something. For open house events and private showings, he would stand by the pool where the wind hit him at a particular angle. He explained that the house was sited in a way that got the sea breeze and all other winds, too. His hair stood on end, as if by cue. He said he loved fresh air. People smiled dubiously, thanked him, got into their expensive cars, and vanished.
Then, one particular couple booked a private inspection. Al readily agreed even though he had to make the one-hour flight from Miami.
He greeted them at the front door, immediately telling him that he had travelled all the way down from Miami just to show them the property. He pretended to be friendly. He said: “Did you drive far, today?”
The elegant woman with long gray hair spoke up immediately. “Just from the airport. It wasn’t far.”
Al said: “Oh. Right. So, where are you from?”
The man said: “L.A.” What he didn’t say was “Hollywood Hills.”
“Well, we’ll try to get you back at least to Miami this afternoon. You don’t want to be stuck here overnight.”
The man smiled falsely at Al. However, lights were flashing in his mind. What he didn’t say aloud was: “My private jet and my pilot will take me anywhere I want to go, whenever I want. So, now, I am here.”
Almost immediately, Al Tynor made it clear that the home was not for them. He said: “There’s lots of fresh air here. It’s always windy in Key West.” Unfortunately, there was no more than a gentle breeze blowing at the time.
The man from L.A. said nothing but his female companion had had enough. The extraordinarily elegant woman was wearing a simple silk head scarf. She flicked it off and shook her hair free. She smiled coldly at Al, then whispered to the man on her arm: “This guy is hopeless but he’s probably trying to put us off. Let’s take a closer look. We know about real estate agents. We’re from L.A.” They both chuckled.
The Hollywood Hills couple were ready to retire. A friend had inspected the Key West house a few weeks before. It was not for him, but he knew who it would suit. He told them about it. He said: “Check out the vibe.”
Thirty minutes after their inspection, the Hollywood Hills couple made an offer to Miriam. The sellers gave their approval.
So, now everyone was happy. Except Al Tynor.
Poor Miriam finally shook loose the glandular fever, and she reveled in the wonderful summer that opened out to her in the Keys. Her strength returned.
By the end of July, Al Tynor had quit the agency, disqualifying him from the annual awards. Of course, he got his cut of the commission from the Key West property but that was the end of it.
One exquisite evening, in a casual outside restaurant, Miriam watched the dazzling, incandescent sunset. She was partially blinded when her friend arrived. She already knew him. He lived a block or so away from her. He did her grocery shopping when she was sick.
What surprised Miriam was how shy he was. Here, in this relaxed restaurant, he stuttered a little when they discussed the menu. “Would clams be nice, or sh-shrimp? Maybe oysters?”
But, he was nice. He was sincere. Originally from South Carolina, he seemed to understand Key West perfectly. It was the community. That’s what created the chord.
That afternoon, Miriam had tried to get her hair right, but it didn’t work. By the time he arrived at the restaurant, her “do” was falling apart.
He laughed gently, without malice. “Your hair is a mess.”
Miriam wanted to be mortified. She pulled a blue, shell clasp out of her hair with a sharp, jerking movement.
But, the guy held up his hands. “No. No. Don’t be upset. I like it natural. Wind swept. That’s the real you. In Key West, anyway.”
Miriam relaxed. Ran her fingers through her hair. Embarrassed at her own exaggerated sensitivity. The wind dropped away to a muted chord.
He spoke gently … purposely. In a moment or two, Miriam didn’t care how anyone else saw her.
Now, she was deeply entwined in a type of conversation she had never experienced before. She and this man spoke softly to each other. The air was perfectly still. Everyone in Key West held their breath.