Rental Dementia: Dirty Hands

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Regardless of the ridiculous amount of money spent, voting irregularities, racial innuendos, long lines, countless attorneys, anti-gay ballot initiatives and the demeaning and mean spirited tone, wasnít it a great election? I miss it already, and the residue of last week has me still feeling oddly patriotic. Few things unite this country more than a prolonged and ugly political season. Just look at voter turn out. To not enjoy such an exercise in democracy would be, frankly, un-American. I for one thoroughly enjoyed it and, as a rental agent can appreciate the dirty tricks, underhanded tactics and win-at-any-cost mentality. With so much at stake, can you really expect anyone to play fair?

Iíve poked a little fun at the absurd and often archaic nature of the rental business, and have ridiculed a few of the characters Iíve met. Iíve pointed out some of the industries larger flaws, and have bemoaned a majority of its practices. But none of this necessarily suggests that I donít love what I do. If sometimes I struggle with its legitimacy, this past election reminded me that I always have choices, even if they suck.

As a white, college-educated, American born male, I presumably could have gotten into any number of fields and should have done well. Not to belabor the point, but I was sort of expected to succeed at something. With few excuses and only my negative attitude and lazy disposition to overcome, I had every advantage short of a trust fund, family connections and an Ivy League diploma. So how the hell did I end up huffing rentals in New York City for a living and just barely surviving? And why on earth do I continue?

How I landed here is a long story, but I can tell you why Iíve decided to stay for now: the freedom. Thatís right, Iím a rental agent for the same reason we are at war with Iraq. Wait a second, does that mean that the terrorists hate me for my real estate license?

Itís a beautiful late fall afternoon, and Iím sitting in a coffee shop watching New York pass by. Did I mention that itís a weekday and my bills are paid? I stopped by the office to return an e-mail and check my messages, but with no appointments lined up until tomorrow Iím completely free. There is no need to make any lame excuses for my absence, as my company doesnít pay me a dime for hanging around the office. I make my own schedule and decide who is worth working with. If money were my sole objective, Iíd be trading options downtown in a pink striped shirt and a suffocating office with a bunch of rowdy Australians, but truthfully itís not.

Before becoming a real estate agent, I had never worked in sales before (unless you count up-selling vodka). The extent of my training consisted of learning a few buildings, taking some pictures, posting ads and then answering the phone. A week after completing my licensing exam, I was explaining to an Indian couple why that particular unit was such a smart move. They didnít take the apartment, but I left there feeling pretty lit up.

I calculated what my fee would have been had they taken the apartment and then immediately began devising ways in which I could have forced them into it. Iím joking of course, but I was motivated. ďHoly shit,Ē I thought, ďthe playbook is like twice the size of the rule book.Ē

After sweating out most of my early months, I would tell myself that anything can happen in this business and that with a cell phone and a few business cards, I could make $3000 today. My phone could ring and in three days, I would have my feet up at a lease signing. Itís happened more than once Ö except for the whole feet thing.

From scheduling to attire to how exactly you gain entrance to a vacant apartment, the truth is there are very few rules. Even the ways in which you manage to convince an otherwise rational human being that a 550-square-foot one bedroom apartment is worth every penny of $3500 is really not a matter of concern. If they sign the lease, the checks all clear and no lawsuits are filed, you did your job successfully.

So yeah, I admit it, I sort of like being a rental agent. Like politics, you are going to have to get your hands a little dirty if you are going to get anywhere in this business. And in this equally flawed and overbearing country of ours, the moment I stop liking it, I can always try some other way of making a living. I could even trade my balls in for a corporate job and a dental plan, but thatís another great thing about real estate: You donít need great teeth.

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