Tales from the High-End Realtors of Naples

The strange things that happen on the way to a sale.

BY December 7, 2016


Whether you are visiting Southwest Florida for the first time or living here year-round, you’ve probably already considered quitting your job (or your retirement) to become a Realtor. You know, sell a few mansions, list a couple of beachfront condos and maybe rent out some golf course townhomes—just to keep things real—then relax on Easy Street. (Remember: Location. Location. Location.) After all, people are constantly moving to the area, and you just have to flip through the pages of this very magazine to see that homes sell for millions of dollars—some for more than $50 million. Cha-ching!

It doesn’t take a genius to do the math. Commission on homes worth millions of dollars can, and will, eventually add up to real money. But that doesn’t mean it’s free money. It turns out that being a Realtor is actual work.

In fact, after talking with one of this area’s top Realtors, Craig Jones, a broker associate with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Naples, and hearing about the trials and tribulations she and her colleagues face, it leaves us wondering if the potential millions in commissions are even worth it. (Spoiler alert: No matter what you read from here on out, it’s still totally worth it.)

The job requires more than just placing an ad in a fancy magazine (thank you very much) or sticking a sign in someone’s front yard. Sometimes it requires you to get a little dirty. Or to redecorate and refurnish a luxurious condo at the last minute. Or have lifeguard certification. Or put a dead cat on ice. These are the stories of area Realtors. (And we suspect they all rent.)

Take the Plunge

Jones had an older female client who was looking to buy one of the big houses on the Gulf in Naples. “She’s lovely and was about 68 years old at that point, and we’re looking around and she turns and steps back and falls right into the pool. Splash!” Jones says. “She went in at the deep end and sank like a stone. And I look over for a split second to my colleague who is selling the house and who is known for his sartorial display. Fabulous shoes. Fabulous suit. Fabulous cloth. And I have this thought, ‘He’s not going in after her…’ He is just watching me. So I just jumped in and pulled her up to the shallow end. She just started laughing and we laughed for an hour at the edge of the pool. Crisis averted. To this day, if I show one of (that agent’s) properties he’ll say, ‘Got your suit on?’”

Unwanted Guest

“I had a wonderful client who was packing up her car to leave a lovely golf course community here and head back to the Midwest,” Jones says. “She calls me up, this is 48 hours before the closing, and says in her little voice, ‘Craig, we were lying in bed last night and heard some scratching. I think there’s a mouse. I know the buyers will be coming over in 48 hours for their walkthrough; could you just get a little trap or call the guys and have them come?’

“I said, ‘Sure.’ And off they went,” Jones says. “I go in later that day and clearly the biggest rat in America has been in this house. The screens have been eaten. The drawers have been gotten into. The placemats are chewed up.

“Now, we sold this place as turnkey—and nicely turnkey. Whatever had been in there had been trapped and was desperately trying to get out. And it ate a huge hole in the mattress. That’s what she heard—the ‘scratching.’ It had clawed up everything trying to get out of this house. I called in the heavy hitter critter guys and then went into repair mode: screens replaced overnight, rug replaced and a new high-quality mattress. But what I really needed to do is find this rat,’” she says.

“The critter people put out traps, but the next day there is nothing in them, so I open everything—every window, every door, every slider—thinking maybe it will get out,” Jones says. “But then it begins to smell. We get everything done, but nothing is in these traps, and the next morning a colleague of mine who takes no prisoners was coming in for the walkthrough. So my husband comes over—because I’m not interested in being in this house alone—and he looks where the sliders go back into the wall where the room opens onto the pool and there, jammed in the slider, is a huge Norwegian rat.

“Now, I lived in New York for 22 years,” Jones continues. “I know what a Norwegian rat looks like. And this guy could have pulled a skier. It was the biggest rat I have ever seen. And he was dead. That was the good news. He had somehow gotten into the crawlspace of this door, gotten into the house and couldn’t get back out and died in the process. But we had to have the house completely redone in those 48 hours. Things were cleaned. Things were replaced. Things were tidied up. We fixed that crawlspace. I had guys there all night. It was perfect and fixed and the problem was solved.”

“But all real estate agents have animal stories,” Jones says.

Oddly enough, she has two.

Nine Lives

“Let me tell you about Betsy,” Jones says.

“My very first listing and open house ever was for a local doctor. He was single and had five cats and hired me because he knew I liked cats and that I would take care of them—because he traveled a lot,” Jones says. “So I go in on a Sunday and for some reason my husband, Bob, goes with me, and as I open the door, there is Betsy the cat—dead as a doornail, stiff as a poker, upside down on the floor. And my open house is about to start.

“I said to Bob, ‘We’ve got to get this cat out of here.’ She had some kind of seizure so there’s cat spit and stuff all over the place I had to clean up. We immediately found a box and I can still see Bob putting Betsy in the box, her stiff tail sticking out as he takes her out to the car to take her to the animal hospital—because Betsy needs to go on ice,” Jones says. “Well, Monday comes around and I call the doctor because I know he’s back in town and I want to tell him how the open house went and I say, ‘I’m so sorry about your loss. I just want to tell you where she is.’ And there’s silence. He goes, ‘Who?’ I say, ‘Betsy.’ He says, ‘My cat?’ I say, ‘Yes.’ He says, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize she was gone.’

“The best part was that the house sold at that open house and the people who bought it now are two of our very closest friends,” Jones says. “They think the funniest part of that story is that it took me four years to tell them about it.”

By the way, another Realtor, who prefers to remain nameless, was showing a house and reaching to open the front door when a Cuban tree frog jumped on her face and proceeded to pee on her. “She was trying to look so polished and keep it together in front of her clients,” Jones adds. But that’s hard to do with a thick-fingered Cuban amphibian urinating on your forehead.

Car Flash

Sometimes two-legged animals prove just as challenging.

Realtors define “a showing” as an agent bringing prospective buyers to a home for sale. But one local agent, a female, has an addendum to that definition. It seems she was taking a new client out for the very first time to look at a possible house. He was in the passenger seat of her car, and after a bit of small talk he asks her to “look over here.” When she did, she noticed that he was flashing his anatomical correctness in her general direction. Needless to say she canceled the showings and drove straight back to the office, saying simply, “Well, that’s that.” And it certainly was.

What Are Those?

“A colleague of mine had a husband and wife fly in from Asia because they had heard amazing things about Naples and that it was ‘the place to be,’” Jones says. “He was a corporate giant and she was a much younger, though well-respected, barrister. They were being shown a very high-end top-floor condo overlooking the beach when the wife called out to the Realtor, horrified. ‘What, what are those?’ gesturing downward toward the water. The Realtor was flummoxed. ‘What are what?’ she asked. ‘Those,’ she responded, again with the finger. ‘The people on the beach?’ ‘Why are there people on our beach?’ she asked.

“It turns out that in their part of Asia, home rights come with privacy rights to the beach. When the Realtor explained that in Florida  anyone can walk on the beach, the wife replied ‘Oh, noooo,’ and immediately called for their driver to bring the car around and take them straight back to the airport and their private jet, without so much as a glance back.”

I’ll Be Needing These

Another local real estate agent recalls selling a high-end tower condominium ($7-9 million) after some very difficult negotiations. She was preparing for the closing with a walkthrough. Typically that means the sellers have moved out their furnishings, their personal items, and that everything is left lovely and ready for the new buyers to “walk through” and confirm everything is as it should be.

“Well, the seller took everything out,” she says. “I’m talking the mantels, the lights, the cans, the bulbs, the doorknobs. He took it all. That’s illegal. Those are fixtures. The buyers were going to sue.” The seller was from another country—and though this property was just one of many that he owned, his position was, “That’s not how we do it in (my country).” “Umm, right,” says the agent. “We think he was just peeved by the negotiations and so he took everything out.” She says she’ll never forget walking in and seeing wires just hanging from the ceiling and speakers being gone. “Just when you think you can’t be surprised,” she says, laughing. “As I recall, the buyer planned on renovating anyway, but they did think they’d have some doorknobs to work with.”

The Bickersons

“I was showing houses to a longtime married couple who couldn’t agree on anything,” Jones says. “It was clear they wanted very different things, and after one showing, things got very heated in my car—to the point where I actually had to pull over to the side of the road to calm things down. I said to them, ‘You know, Katharine Hepburn was once asked if she’d ever get married again and she said, ‘Yes, if he lived across the road.’ You two are buying two separate houses.’

“I finally showed them a place in a beautiful building and they ended up buying a gorgeous condo. And then another. In the same building. They actually did buy two.”


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