1985 Commercial Real Estate:  How the West was Won.

Sometimes I look back and just scratch my head.  In 1984, fresh out of college, I started brokering commercial real estate with the Charles Dunn Company. I was living in a garage, it was hot that summer.  LA was hosting the Olympics from Malibu to Downtown LA.

The spring sticking out of the VW Bug’s driver’s seat dug a hole smack dab in the middle of my back.  After four punctured button-down shirts, I trimmed the spring with wire cutters and used a roll of duct tape to reupholster the seat.   I put 3500 miles a month on my car driving to – and around – Ventura County.  After a year, I still hadn’t made a deal in Ventura County.  But despite this, I won Rookie of the Year; I sold a shopping Center in Palmdale CA – about 100 miles from Ventura.  Do you think today’s college graduates would subject themself to these conditions?  For a straight commission job with no benefits?  Hell No!

This is how the deal was made.

April 1, 1985 – It seems like yesterday. I was fired up because I had just listed a shopping center for sale.  In 1985 interest rates were about 13%, but in relative terms, not too bad since rates in 1975 were about 9.5%.  I was in my cube, cold calling from a list of investors.  My manager told me that every “no” is one step closer to a yes.  Well, I had been in the business for about 6 months, and I had gotten pretty used to “No.”

And then, it happened – at about 10:30, my phone rang from someone -so it seemed- calling to say “yes.”

“Hello, this is Tom Bacon, how can I help you today?”

“Tom, this is Bill.”  Bill continued with a Texas-big-shot tone, “I’m in the parking lot of the shopping center you’ve got for sale. Is it still available?”
“The Center in Palmdale?” I asked.  (I had only one listing.)
“Yep, that’s the one,” Bill replied.  “I have a briefcase full of cash, and I am ready to make a deal today. Is your client ok with an all-cash, one-day close?”

“I think the seller would consider all cash.” I’ll double-check with the seller and get back to you.” (I really said that.)

“Tom, no need to call your seller – I am paying the asking price and I can close today. Can you meet me here in an hour so we can open escrow and get this deal done?”  He added, “Chicago Title has an office in Lancaster. We can meet there; can you get here by noon?”

The Timex said 9:15 AM. It was about a 45-minute drive. “No problem, I’ll see you at noon.”

Bill exclaimed, “Now that is how business should be done! I will see you at Chicago Title. You might want to give your client a call to let them know you have a buyer ready to close today. The seller will need to be at Chicago Title to sign the contract.”

We did not have Cell phones, and the office did not have a fax machine. I left a voicemail with my client that I was meeting an all-cash buyer at Chicago Title in Lancaster. I added – He would need to be at the title company around 1:00 PM to sign the papers.  (totally realistic!)

I went to my manager and explained what was up.   He broke out a big smile and said, “That’s terrific! do you think the buyer is serious?”

I said, “He sure sounded serious.  He has a briefcase full of cash and he wants to close today.”

Larry’s smile widened, “It sounds like you got a live one, you have the purchase contract?”

I said, “Yep, we are going to fill it out at the title company.”  Larry gave me a pat on the back, “Well, you better get rolling!”  “Good Luck!”

So with that, I  jumped in my Bug to head to Lancaster.

I was about to pull out of the parking lot when one of the agents knocked on the passenger window.  I leaned over and “rolled down” the window.

“Hey Tom,” he said,  “Some guy with a Texas accent is on the phone.  He said that he is meeting you in Lancaster.”

I parked the car and rushed into the office. Right off the entrance,  Several agents were in the conference room with the door open.

“Hey Tom, what’s up?”  One of the agents asked.

“I am heading out to Lancaster to sell the JC Penney’s Center.  The buyer is ready to close today!”

The agents gave me an “attaboy” as I headed back to my cube.

Someone was sitting in my cube. He was leaning back in my chair – cowboy hat tilted down covering his eyes.  As I got closer, he titled the hat back, it was Rick, an agent from the office. He had a huge grin on his face.

He said, “Howdy Partner, what’s happening?”

I started to answer, “I am heading to…”

Then I realized what day it was.

That was a cruel joke the whole office played on me.  But it will go down as one of the best April Fool jokes.

I hope you had a great April Fools Day!  What a difference 38 years makes!