I had found that the ‘associate’ position in a one man outfit was not working out and decided I’d go back to my former company where I had started originally.
Joe, the guy who had told me to go to church, had been promoted to manager of the new office, which was destined to be ‘number one’. He handpicked his crew and wanted one great, big, happy, successful family.
“Congratulations, Joe, you deserve it.”
“Thank you, Donna. You know I’d be more than pleased to have you join my office. You’ll love the gang. They’re really special.”
“Joe, with your looks, you probably have a harem of thirty women over there,” I teased.
“Oh, no, there’s two guys,” he shot back, oblivious to the fact that a parade of female agents were pounding at his door. “Ben’s here too.”
“If that’s the case then I’m on my way.” I liked the fast pace and was soon swept along with all the energetic positive agents who were scurrying to make his office famous. Joe motivated and energized us every Monday morning to sell, sell, sell and list, list, list. “List to last”.
By Christmas, I was wondering why I was not reaping the rewards. I worked long and hard hours. I was a good agent and knew my stuff. Joe would laugh, “Donna, if you could talk as many people into buying homes, as you talk out of buying, you’d make ´agent of the year´. You’re going to be the most loved agent, but also the most broke.”
It was true. I was constantly telling someone that they were in no position to carry the heavy payments of the homes they were looking at, according to their incomes. “Buy a condo or a townhouse and work your way up."
The commission on a $35,000 to $40,000 condo is a lot, lot less than the commission on a $115,000 home. Twice that month I had arrived at the office to find a bouquet of flowers on my desk.
“Every time we see flowers on Donna’s desk we know Donna didn’t sell ANOTHER house,” the agents quipped.
I considered that doing my job, though, warning young couples that were about to bite off more than they could chew.
“That’s just fine, Donna. We know your honesty borders on stupidity, but you’re making very little money.
I was satisfied. I didn’t make fifty or sixty thousand a year but what I did make, for the effort that I put in, was more than sufficient.
We did list, list, list and were ready and stocked with “homes for sale” when the market really took off, a market that would go down in real estate history! Homes were going up thousands of dollars, daily. It seemed like half the city was for sale. I teamed up with a young rookie, who just got his license and didn’t know the ropes. The first time I set eyes on him I knew Sue, now a close Christian friend, would really go for him. I was right, she did. They dated for over a year.
Our combination, although no one could figure out why, paid off big. We made a perfect team. In just one stretch of seven days, we listed and sold seven properties. Joe couldn’t understand either, what it was that struck a match under me.
“Donna, I’ve never seen you go like this. Fantastic.”
We worked night and day for forty-five days straight, without taking a break. Everyone knew this boom would not last long and each day meant an additional sale, or even two; if we were lucky. Each and every night we would be presenting offers or listing properties. It became phenomenal, only it was ten times more work, for only twice the amount of money.
On the same day that a home listed, we would arrive with an offer only to find that there were four or five in line ahead of us already. We would then have to wait our turn in the family room to present ours, sometimes waiting till three in the morning, and then find out that our “full price” offer was not acceptable; someone had bid higher than the asking price. Next day we would come back with $4,000 more than the asking price, and were still turned down.
We chased agents to see where they were hammering their ‘For Sale’ signs. No one bothered with MLS. By the time it hit MLS, it was already gone. We drove around with SIGNED offers in our pockets, just looking for the latest home to be put on the market. All we needed to do was find one and fill in the address on the Offer of Purchase and we would have ready made deals. Agents could not list the homes fast enough for the demand on the market. Many clients feared that if they didn’t buy today, by next week they wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a home.
I was determined that if this boom ever hit again, I would leave the country so I wouldn’t be tempted into entering the chaotic race again. Agents were sleeping at the office, not even going home. Many were throwing up green bile from running on sheer nerves and black coffee. No one had time for a sit-down meal, and were grabbing quick bites between clients.
Our deals looked good on paper, but in the long run, it did not pay off. Nine times out of ten, you were selling some other agent’s listing rather than your own. Out of 6% commission, half of it, (3%) goes to the company which has the ‘listing’ on the property. The remaining 3% is divided with your own company, leaving you only 1½%. When that is then divided with a partner, only 3/4 of 1% is left for you. That´s NOT very much!
By August, the market was completely dead. Most agents were totally out of steam. Joe initiated a contest to motivate us. I was jolted by the Lord’s stating: “Get up, be at your office by nine a.m. Now I’m going to show you how ‘I’ sell real estate.”
“Okay Lord, I’m game."
I sat at my desk the next morning wondering if I had an overactive imagination. How could anyone sell real estate in this market?
My phone rang. “Is this Donna Martonfi?”
“Yes, may I help you?”
“Could you come over and list my house this afternoon?”
“Where did you get my name?” I asked, a little more than suspicious.
“From my friend, so-and-so. He recommended you highly.”
“I can be over in about twenty minutes.”
“Okay, fine. Thank you.”
Wow! I’m actually going to get a listing. A listing was worth ten points. I’d at least get my name up on the score board. These contests always showed what you were made of; either you had it or you didn’t.
When I arrived at the home, I was greeted by a very warm, hospitable couple. I took out my listing pad and asked for their mortgage papers. Nobody said, “Hold it!” or “We want to think about this.” They simply proceeded to supply all the information I asked for. When I pushed the document toward them to sign, I was actually surprised when they both picked up a pen and endorsed it. This was too easy! Thank you, Lord! I see what you meant when you said, “watch Me sell real estate”.
I happily called it a day and traipsed home to make an early supper, only to be called by the secretary later that evening saying an offer was registered and would I meet the agent at the house at 10:00 p.m. A sale? I had a sale? A sale would be another ten points. I’d be on top of the list!
When the agent handed me the offer, my heart sank. A $72,000 offer on a $97,000 home. “Are these people serious?” I fumed, thinking he dragged me out in the middle of the night for this absurd proposal.
“Don’t go home, wait for me right here. I’ll get a sign back.”
“It had better be a lot better than this or else you’re just wasting everyone’s time.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll have a deal.”
Shortly after midnight he was back and I was pasting a ‘SOLD’ sticker on my sign.
The Lord’s some real estate agent! He could list and sell a house in less than twenty-four hours. Boy, was I impressed!
“Be at your desk at nine a.m.” He again urged.
‘Why?’ I thought. Before noon, I found out why.
“Is this Donna Martonfi?” the voice asked.
“Yes, may I help you?”
“Last night I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign across the street and this morning it said ‘SOLD’. Now there isn’t any sign. Did you sell that house in one day?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Any agent that can sell a house that fast, in this market, I want to have working for me. Can you come over this afternoon?” I was astonished. Another ten points racked up. At this rate, no one in the office would be able to catch up to me.
By supper time I had thirty points and another “For Sale” sign up on a lawn. I phoned my first client and asked if he would put my sign back up, since it was the best form of advertising I could possibly have. The signs were located just kitty corner and could be seen all the way down the street.
“Lord, I don’t know what to say, except, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“Be at your desk by nine a.m., tomorrow.”
Why, wasn’t I going to get a day off? I wouldn’t have to go to work for a week, at this point. Unwillingly, I obeyed. At about the same time as the previous calls came in, a voice was asking, “Is this Donna Martonfi?”
I almost fell off my chair. I looked up to heaven, “I don’t know if I can take much more of this, Lord”.
“My street faces the two signs that you have on the other road. You seem to be the hottest agent in town, so I’d like you to come over and list my house.”
I grabbed my briefcase and flew. My joy was soon squelched when I heard how much he wanted for his semi-- $121,000! For a semi? Ludicrous! Even in the boom, the most anyone had received for the largest of semis was only $105,000. It was a magnificent home, unbelievable in size and almost every square inch was covered in ceramics, but, even in a million years, it was not worth $121,000. Not only was he grossly overpriced, he was giving me only twenty-one days to sell it. He said he had placed a conditional offer on a new home and the builder would only give him twenty-one days to make it firm.
I knew that even the Lord couldn’t sell that house, for that price, in twenty-one days yet. I agreed to take the listing only for the sake of the additional ten points. I insisted he give me a sixty day listing so that I could put it on MLS. Exclusive listings only received five points. At that high price, someone might suspect that I was getting a friend to list very high, so that I could get points, knowing he would never sell.
At forty points, I could take a month off.
“No. Be at your desk by nine a.m.”
I just do not believe I’m going to pick up the phone again about 11:30 and be asked to come over and list another house. Come on now. . . I don’t believe it.
Just in case, there I was.
1:30... “Is this Donna Martonfi?”
The bottom fell out of my dream. This was all some big joke. Somebody put all these people up to calling me, to play a practical joke on me! None of this was real. It couldn’t be. That first deal was not going to close, my signs would come down and I will have been played for a fool. It wasn’t God at all. It was a big, bad, sick, joke. Who had I told that God was going to show me how ‘He’ sold real estate? No one. Not one soul. This joke was just inevitably timed properly.
“What can I do for you?” I asked sarcastically.
“I want to buy that house you listed last night.”
“S-u--u-r-r-r-e you do. . . until you hear the price!"
“I don’t care about the price, I want that house.”
Since I had to return to get a signature from my client’s wife, after her eleven p.m. shift, my sign didn’t even go up until after midnight. “Oh really? Well tell me, just when did you see it? I checked my listing appointments this morning and no showings were registered. How is it that you want to buy a house you haven’t seen?”
I wasn’t stupid. There is a point to what I would believe. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t cracking up laughing right over the phone.
“I don’t have to see it. I owned it two years ago, before I went to Italy and sold it to this guy for $115,000. Now I’m willing to buy it back for $115,000.”
I cannot put into words the sensations that went through my body -- stronger than electrical charges, more potent than being hit by lightning. The presence of the Lord encompassed me.
“Why do you limit my capabilities? Why do you not believe?” He was asking. IT WAS GOD! HIS VOICE! HIS HANDIWORK!
I could hardly speak. . . “D-do y-y-ou want t-t-to come to my office and put in an offer?”
“Yes, I’ll come over now. I want that house, Miss. I want you to get it for me and to get it for $115,000. I won’t pay more than $115,000!”
It took days, but I haggled the vendor down to 115 and double ended the deal. (20 points)
Within ten days, I not only won the contest and had my picture in the paper as ‘Agent of the Month’, but I made almost more money than I had in any one year in real estate.
“Donna doesn’t care what the market is doing, she creates her own boom.”
“Joe, I finally made ‘Agent of the Month’. I did it! My goal in real estate was to make it, at least once, Joe.”
“Not just once, Donna, you have the capability, if you apply yourself, to be classed with the top agents in the country.”
The Lord spoke again, “That’s it! NO MORE. Now you will go home and take care of your family and MY business.”
It made sense since Darko was recalled back to the company which had laid him off and was now working forty hours per week at BOTH places. That´s eighty hours, week after week, not including traveling time. He couldn’t decide which company to quit working for. He prayed daily for guidance from the Lord.
“Darko, it doesn’t matter which place you work for, the Lord doesn’t care. He’ll bless you wherever you go.” Since his seniority had been in effect throughout the layoff, he went with the first one. Within days of making the decision, he was offered the position of Maintenance Supervisor.
“Can you imagine. . . me. . . going to work in a shirt and tie?” That, I could imagine, but what I couldn’t imagine was Darko with a dog, and I had decided to buy one. During the time I would spend at home, I could properly train it. I decided that the only way I could get one through the door would be to quit smoking in exchange. I found a cuddly, little, toy poodle. The kids were overjoyed. We had wanted a dog for a very long time and could never convince daddy to share his home with an animal. I was certain he would agree to the bargain.
I had bought a baby gate and put him in the back hall where he could see all the way down the hall. I was going to train him to be allowed only on the tiled areas of the house and stay off the carpeting. The upstairs would be completely off limits, meaning he would have access to 25% of the house. It was a pretty good compromise and Darko couldn’t object with an arrangement like that. It’s not as if I bought ‘86’ dogs and was going to start a kennel.
I met him at the door with the good news, “Darko, I’ve quit smoking.”
“Come, look what I’ve bought with the money I’m going to save.
“Oh no. No. No. No. He has to go.”
“I’m not living in this house with a dog.”
“He’s not a D-O-G, dog; he’s just a little thing. He can almost fit in the palm of your hand. He’s not going to get much bigger. He doesn’t shed, that’s why I got him; it’s not even fur! Have you ever seen anything so cute and adorable?”
“Keep him outside then.”
“You can’t keep a poodle outside. Say he can stay. You’re not going to make me take him back? You just can’t.”
“I’m not coming downstairs till he’s gone.
The kids and I were heartbroken. We decided Charlie was staying and daddy would eventually get used to him. I prepared Darko’s favorite supper and called him downstairs.
“Is he gone?”
“Then I’m eating in a restaurant. I’m not sitting down to meals with a dog. He stinks.”
“He doesn’t stink. We’ll give him a bath every day. I’ll keep him in the family room when we eat. You sound like a typical Yugoslav!”
“That’s just the point. I can name dozens of people that will never want to eat in our house ever again.”
“Is that a promise?”
“He has to go.”
I couldn’t believe that little face didn’t soften his heart. The next day, Darko again missed breakfast, lunch and went out for supper.
While he was gone the kids and I cut long sheets of wax paper and hung banners all over the kitchen. One had a picture of Charlie with big tears running down his face which read; “I don’t like you much either, but I’m willing to live with you!” and “I’m cuter than most of your relatives!” Another showed the four of us with our hands in the air, praying, with the caption, “Whenever two or more agree as touching anything on earth, so it shall be done for them by my Father in heaven!”
I told the kids to pray without ceasing, asking the Lord to change his heart and allow Charlie to stay. He didn’t come into the kitchen but went straight out the door.
The third morning he came home, saw the banners, broke out in a grin and said, “I can say ‘no’ to you. I can say ‘no’ to the kids, but when God starts asking me to let you have the dog, I guess I can’t argue. Just don’t call him FiFi. I’m not living under the same roof with a Fifi-sa.”
He turned out to be the best dog anyone could hope to have. He wasn’t yappy, easily trained, obeyed his boundaries in the house and even knew where the boundary to our acre was outside. We never had to tie him up, he’d stay on the property.
Now the kids and I didn’t spoil that dog, but every time Darko had a bite to eat, Charlie would get a huge morsel. I didn’t think I’d live to see the day Darko would be romping around our yard, chasing and playing with a tiny poodle. WHY don´t people out there believe in miracles?