As a new realtor one of the things that you commonly do is hold open houses for other agents in your company. When I first started, I held open an empty house in a nice little neighborhood not too far from where I live. I decided since it was open house weekend for Century 21, and I knew there would be a bazillion houses held open, that I’d get balloons to make my open house stand out.
You should know that holding an open house is a complete pain, even without balloons. It requires having, and setting up signs, bringing a sign-in sheet, flyers and business cards, and if the house is empty, bringing a table and chair. Depending on how elaborate you want to get, you might bring candy or cookies or chips and dip, too, and in Arizona, always water.
On this day, it was supposed to be 116, breaking records for the heat, and promising to make open house day a complete bust, because who wants to go to open houses when you feel like you’re stepping into a firing kiln every time you get into your car? The answer to that would be no one, but I bravely sallied forth with my brand new $40 apiece signs. I bet you thought real estate was one of those no overhead businesses – well, think again. Everything in real estate costs money, from signs to lock boxes to websites, to the monthly MLS and eKey dues. And it’s like weddings – if the words “real estate” are associated with it, it costs twice as much as the same thing would cost if it wasn’t being sold as part of the real estate business. So I had purchased my six new signs, and on this day, in the record-breaking Arizona heat, they had to be unpackaged and put together. At 9:30 a.m., standing in the Ace Hardware parking lot, with my patient husband, tearing open the plastic casings on the signs and trying to get the newly purchased s-hooks to fit, I was already sweating and regretting my commitment to this first open house.
My next stop that day was Party City, where they informed me that they could not guarantee how long any of the balloons would last outdoors. Never one to let 116 degrees deter me, I bought 12 black and gold balloons and tried to shove them into the back of my SUV. It was a struggle, at best, with the balloons behaving like preschoolers on a zoo excursion. After realizing that I would have to tie them down (a thought that I can guarantee has crossed more than one preschool teacher’s mind), I finally got them closed into the back of the car.
Then I was off to set up my signs. Setting up signs doesn’t sound like a difficult task, but keep in mind that the signs are unwieldy and made of metal, which makes them heavy, and mine have black handles, which made them almost instantaneously the temperature of the sun that day. Then there were those frisky balloons that I’d just purchased. I parked on a side street and pulled out a sign stand and then a sign and two s-hooks, which obstinately fell off the sign or the stand, depending on which way I tried to attach them. In addition, I had to fight to keep the balloons from escaping, while detaching two from the group to tie to the sign. That accomplished, I walked, sweat now pouring down the inside of my dress, to the main street corner, feeling just a little humiliated, to set up the sign, balloons waving madly in the oven-temperature air.
I did this dance three more times, and then I just had the last two signs to set up, one which would grace the front of the house. I felt like I was almost done, and that struck me funny because I hadn’t even started the open house yet.
At the last main intersection, I took out a sign and started wrestling with the remaining balloons – three to go on this sign, leaving four for the house itself. The balloons had determined to be especially wily for this second to last sign. The ribbons snagged around the headrests on the seatbacks of the car, and one balloon tried to escape from those tied in the car, as I tied two to one side of the sign and held two more in my other hand. Finally, I got the last two balloons tied firmly to the other side of the sign, but the ribbon that held one of the black balloon’s head unraveled and let it loose to burst someplace in the blazing atmosphere over Chandler.
“I don’t even care,” I thought, as I started to move toward the street corner from the back of my car, and then realized that two of the ribbons had snaked around my legs and were tethering me to the car like the pet dog. Finally, untangling myself, and feeling like I’d been beat up by inanimate objects, I managed to close the back of the car without losing the remaining four balloons. I situated the last sign on the street corner, anchoring it down with a brick so it wouldn’t blow over, and then headed back to the house I was to hold open.
Once at the house, I managed to get the four remaining balloons attached to the main for-sale sign without burning my hands, and an open house sign attached with the last two s-hooks (which are surprisingly easy to manage when you have two hands to deal with them). Heaving a sigh of relief, I trudged to the car to drag my flyers, melting candy, folding table, chair, computer and lunch into the house.
I had just gotten things set up in the house, and settled myself when suddenly I heard pop! pop! pop! from the front of the house. “Gun shots?” I wondered, alarmed, rising to check out what had caused the commotion. As I opened the front door, I could see three of the four balloons, hanging lifelessly from their ribbons on the for-sale sign in front of the house. I felt a little like Eeyore, with his pitiful balloon at his birthday party, and kind of wanted a honey jar to store my balloons in, too, so I could remind myself that I actually had made the effort.
By 1:30, when my husband came to bring me a plastic fork for my Lean Cuisine, (the fork was naturally the one thing I’d left at home), he reported that all the balloons, on all of my signs, had burst. And as a final poke in the face of my new realtor status, there was exactly one couple who came to my open house – and these were “Looky-lous” – who lived in the neighborhood and just wanted to see what the house was selling for.
Lesson learned – balloons – nice thought, but just a lot of hot air.