The First-Ever Offer

Chuck Gabriels learned early in his real estate career to take demanding buyers, unstable sellers, less-than-cooperative agents, and wardrobe malfunctions in stride. And he learned it all within one eventful hour.

November 15, 2013

After I received my California agent’s license in the autumn of 1973, it was soon apparent that little of what I’d studied to pass my state exam applied to the daily practice of this business where my license hung. So in dire need of training, I interviewed with a few west Los Angeles offices, locating one with a “videotape training system,” which for many nights I determinedly watched, after my new office closed for the day.

It wasn’t long before a lady accompanied by her young daughter walked in during my scheduled office floor time. As I began showing her available homes, I learned she wanted her boyfriend to make the purchase, so they could settle down and create their own nest together. After a few weeks of showings, the perfect home came on the market, coincidentally listed by one of our other office’s managers. So, using my new lockbox key, I showed her this home, and she wholeheartedly agreed that it was time to call in the boyfriend, who had never seen any of the weeks of rejects that had gone before. After our early evening viewing, standing there on the sidewalk outside the home, I tried remembering the “leading questions” technique I had learned from watching the videotapes.

“You did want to be close to an elementary school, didn’t you?" (It was 2 houses away.)

“Yes,” the boyfriend grumbled.

“You did want a three-bedroom, two-bath home, didn’t you?”

More grumbling. “Yes.”

“You did want a home priced at or below $35,000, didn’t you?”

All the while, the girlfriend, bouncing behind him like a cheerleader rising up and down on her feet, was silently mouthing, “Yes, yes, yes!”

We ended back at my empty office to write up my first-ever offer (consisting of one page, those 40 years long passed). I asked him to sign and give me his deposit check, and he emphatically replied, “Only $100.” I expressed that it was not enough, but in my heart, I’d have taken a dollar bill. They left, and I excitedly phoned the “office manager-listing agent” to make an appointment for him to meet me, to represent his seller client. He responded that he was on his way to a “managers meeting” and told me to call for my own appointment, hanging up with a “thank you!” I made the call, got the seller, and was told I had 15 minutes to get there if I wanted to see them that night. Glancing at my watch, I realized I was expected home for dinner in five minutes, so I called my new bride and said I had no time to eat, but would she please put my chicken dinner in a paper sack. Then, rushing out our office back door, I hurriedly jumped into our one-week-old car.

As fate would have it, I began backing out of the stall but was distracted by another car entering the alley behind, and heard a crunch, as my left front fender swiped a telephone pole. I drove the short distance home, stopped in our driveway, and got out. Squatting down to assess the damage, I heard a rip as my pants’ crotch split wide open. I kicked in our back door, going in to change, just as our little dog charged out to greet me. He was whacked in his face by the door, and went yelping and limping away, as I announced to my wife I had wrecked our new car. She responded by throwing my dinner sack on the kitchen floor, stating, “I’m leaving!”

Ten minutes later I rolled up in front of my appointment, and was ushered in to be seated at the sellers’ kitchen table, whereupon I began to extol the virtues of my offer. But the wife continually interrupted with “How much is it? How much is it?” So when I obligingly told her “$34,000” ($1,000 short of their full asking price), she leaped straight up out of her chair, pointing and shouting at me, “FBI, FBI! I knew it! FBI! Get out of my house! Get out of my house! Get out of my house right now!” Too stunned to move, I watched as her 6-foot, 2-inch Scandinavian husband dragged her into their bedroom, and I listened to her screaming, “He’s killing me!” Two or three minutes of this seemed like an hour, before they emerged, unscathed, her face tear-streaked. He sheepishly asked for my offer and a pen, they both signed their acceptance, and then implored me to stay for dinner. While the husband and I retired to their living room with scotch in hand, and she finished dinner preparations, he confidentially told me of her early childhood in a Nazi concentration camp. The experience left scars of paranoia that our own government, in the guise of the FBI, was on some pretext going to take their home away. Yet he loved her, in spite of her rough edges. Shortly thereafter, we sat down to a delicious dinner with fine wine, and upon finishing, they both thanked me with hugs, and I left feeling one of the family.

To this day, the listing agent remains in awe. Knowing all of this history, he still sent me out there on my own without warning — which, in hindsight, turned out better that way.

Point being: On four or five occasions, within a 60-minute period, I might have thrown in the towel. But as Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, ever, give up!”

—Charles A. Gabriels, CIPS, SFR, is a real estate broker & general contractor at MonArc Realty & Investment in Monrovia, Calif.

Meg White

Meg White is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.