Lots of lookers, few buyers

Marketplace Staff May 28, 2007


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: It’s Memorial Day and unless you’re stuck working like me you could be doing a lot of things. Like dropping in at an open house.

That’s right. Checking out “open-housing” has become pretty popular, quite often by people who have no intent or money to actually buy the house they’re looking at. Sounds like a great story for Cash Peters.

CASH PETERS: Open-housing is a hoot, it really is. You get to snoop around houses you could never afford to buy, while pretending you can.

Marian Goodman’s a top real estate agent in L.A. She says that most people are delusional, though.

MARIAN GOODMAN: Some are just totally dreaming and need entertainment for free, so they go to open houses.

PETERS: Why did you come to this?

MAN: We’re looking to buy a house.

PETERS: But are you really?

WOMAN: We’re really serious.

Wow, how unusual, real buyers. The house was massive, with a certain LAX Terminal 3 quality to it: high ceilings, great prairies of marble flooring. It even had this weird hose thing that vacuums the house for you, sucking up dust and dander and possibly – if you don’t hold onto something – you. Well, Mrs Buyer didn’t like that.

WOMAN: It’s a big hose that you have to drag around with you. It’s almost better to have a regular vacuum, honest to God.

(GASP)! What? This was news to Marion’s assistant, Fareeba Majoobi.

PETERS: You know what they didn’t like?


PETERS: You were number one on the list. Number two, hates the hose in the garage.

MAJOOBI: I find that totally absurd.

Don’t be fooled, though, I take open-housing seriously. I’m like the real estate version of a frivolous litigant. Turns out that most other — ahem — buyers, are the same. It’s one big game. Meanwhile, the agents watch them walk in and walk out, and whine about them.

GOODMAN: The look on her face is miserable. It’s hot. They don’t have air conditioning in their car so they wanna cool off . . .

PETERS: So they’re coming in here just for the air conditioning?

GOODMAN: Yeah. . . . Welcome! What a cute dog. You wanna keep that kinda dog away from the central vacuum system.

PETERS: Oh yeah, we’ve got a central vacuum system which will actually suck the dog up and deposit it in the garage!

CUSTOMER: Oh good, then we’ll . . .

PETERS: Keep the dog on a leash at all times! What are we thinking?

GOODMAN: No potential buyers.

PETERS: Really?


PETERS: Why not?

GOODMAN: He didn’t brush his hair this morning.

PETERS: The fact that he didn’t brush his hair means he doesn’t want the house? There’s no logic to your argument.

GOODMAN: Yeah, I know.

PETERS: Now what about this couple?

GOODMAN: It might be his daughter, or it might be the second trophy wife.

PETERS: Well, maybe they’re seriously buying the house.

GOODMAN: Yeah, he wants to impress her. Bigger is better.

PETERS: Here they come.

GOODMAN: Welcome! They have this certain look about them.

PETERS: He smelled nice.

GOODMAN: He looked good. Her hair looked expensive, and . . .

PETERS: They could actually feel your drool down their back as they walked by.

GOODMAN: Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah. I’m going “Ka-ching, ka-ching.” I hope they can afford it.

Yeah, right, well, they couldn’t. After all, it’s not your dream house, is it, if you actually have the money?

PETERS: So why are you not buying it?

WOMAN:‘Cause I can’t afford it?

PETERS: So why even come around?

WOMAN: Because you wanna know what’s in the neighborhood!

PETERS: But do you not feel a total phony when you come in here, looking like you’re gonna buy the place?

WOMAN: Nope, absolutely not, everybody does it.

PETERS: You have no shame.

WOMAN: None whatsoever.

And no, neither do I.

So here’s what we’ve learned: First of all, look for pleasure. Don’t dress up. Don’t ask needless questions. And don’t think you’re fooling the agents, because seriously, you’re not.

In Encino, Calif., I’m Cash Peters for Marketplace.

GOODMAN: Thank you for coming.

You’re welcome.

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