I finished real estate school and, amazingly, passed the first of two exams, math included.
But my soul is a little sick.
I met several interesting and lovely people who I know will be honorable in their future real estate dealings but, mostly, real estate school taught me a lot about capitalism, the killing of nature, and why most folks are suspicious of real estate agents.
To wit, the instructor for our final three sessions. We’ll call him Mr. Kill The Poor.
We were discussing deeds and deed restrictions. You know, that piece of paper, handed down from the original owner of the property to the next owner. If that original owner put a restriction saying No ranch houses may ever be built on this property then that has to be adhered to by every subsequent owner.
The only way a deed restriction can be removed if it discriminates against a protected class of people. For example, “No Irish” won’t fly.
After our instructor had repeatedly used the phrase “the blacks” to refer to black people, telling us that it is a violation of the Fair Housing Act to say to a client “South Albany is where THE BLACKS live” (and he was not referring to The Blacks, that displaced Hurricane Katrina family who moved in with Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm) after Mr. Kill The Poor had referred to black people as THE BLACKS for the third time, I got agitated.
Then, he made some remarks about “foreigners.” When he and Mrs. Kill The Poor go shopping at outlet centers, most of their fellow shoppers are FOREIGNERS and all announcements are made in several different languages, “You have to hear an announcement in four or five foreign languages before they finally say it in English.”
Mr. Kill The Poor choked slightly then said: “Yes, you could.”
Some of my classmates laughed. Some never spoke to me again.
The real estate school is in the outskirts of Albany. A sprawl of industry, malls, chain stores. There was an “Impeach Obama” placard in front of a Rite Aid just down the road.
We moved on to the topic of investment property and Mr. Kill The Poor started talking about landlords who own buildings and let tenants live there while paying below-market rents because they good tenants are nice people.
“That’s just stupid.” Said Mr. Kill The Poor.
When Mr. Kill The Poor buys a building (and he buys a lot of buildings) and finds someone (he used the example of a little old lady) living there paying $600 a month when market value is $1000, that person is OUTTA there.
“And if you’re concerned for that little old lady,” Mr. Kill The Poor said, “then you should go into social work. But first, become a Democrat.”
He really said that.
It gets better.
Back to deed restrictions.
He gave an example of an older gentleman who owned a corner lot near the Albany airport. This gentleman, we’ll call him Mr. Bicycle, had a bicycle sales and repair shop on his corner lot. He’d been there since before time. Or at least since before the value of his land skyrocketed.
Mr. Bicycle was a stubborn ol’ coot and didn’t want some corporation buying his land and putting in a chain store. In his deed, he specified that the land could ONLY be sold to someone running a bicycle shop.
“We were all wringing our hands,” Mr. Kill The Poor said, referring to himself and his fellow investors. “That land was worth millions and we were afraid the old man would die with that stupid bike shop deed restriction intact. But he finally caved when CVS threw millions of dollars at him.”
I felt my heart breaking into many pieces.
Now, there is the billionth CVS where the bike shop once stood.
If you have a bicycle and it needs fixing, I guess you put it in your CAR, generate some emissions, and drive 20 miles to a bike shop.
Mr. Kill The Poor said a few more awful things. Like how “the government, and I don’t mean THE RIGHT” wants to make investors pay capital gains tax on Like Kind Exchanges.
Like Kind Exchanges are basically a real estate shell game enabling wealthy investors to avoid paying a cent in taxes — (And, yes, I was the only one to raise my hand and ask: And that’s LEGAL?)
Mr. Kill The Poor is what many of us think of when we think of folks in the real estate business. He would have been the Alec Baldwin character in Glengarry Glen Ross. And proud of it too.
I don’t know why so many rural poor and working class people are Republican, and vehemently opposed to Obamacare.
I understand that these folks wish to keep the government out of things. In the case of working class Republicans, mostly out of their automatic weapons (yet for some reason, they WANT the government inside women’s bodies) and in the case of rich Republicans, the basic idea seems to be “I was crafty and got rich (or was born rich) and I’m not paying out a percentage of my income to fund those stupid lazy poor people.”
My grandfather was a Republican. He was soft-spoken, gentle man who loved cats and was devoted to my grandmother who was gravely ill for many years. He worked his way from poverty to being Senior VP of a major corporation.
My grandfather and I started butting heads over ideology when I was six-years-old. But we loved each other deeply and disagreed amicably.
If he were here now, I feel confident in saying he would strongly disagree with most current Republican agendas. Still, he did NOT think a portion of his earnings should go to funding programs for poor people. He had worked his way up from nothing, why couldn’t they?
This is perhaps the biggest flaw in the thinking of otherwise intelligent folk.
A lot of people are born into the kind of poverty and circumstances that NO ONE could work their way out of.
Some of us have minds that are just not wired for the rote learning required to take tests with only one correct answer, to work at jobs with strictly prescribed thinking and behavior. We make up for this by inventing things and creating things. And most of us are poor or crazy or miserable or all of the above.
For me, selling real estate in an honest way while writing books I care about is a good path. My next adventure.
For many, there is no path at all. Through no fault of their own, eating is barely an option, never mind making art.
Mr. Kill The Poor wants those folks out of his buildings and deprived of healthcare and food. Though, of course, I’m sure they are in his prayers. Because he is, as he told us, a “church-going man.”