Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ten Seconds

“All of us have special ones who have helped us into being.” ~ Mr. Rogers

After his much celebrated career with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers received many lifetime awards of one kind or another. He always took those opportunities to acknowledge the people who helped him to become. When time allowed, he would ask the audience, “Take just ten seconds to think about someone who helped you along the way.” He would say, “I’ll watch the time.”

I cannot recall a lot about Uncle Roy, but I can tell you what he looked like. I can tell you where he lived. I recall sitting by his bed when he was sick. In my memory today, it seems he went from walking around in blue overalls to lying in bed very quickly. I can remember him working in his garden. I remember when he parked his Chevy II wagon. Eventually, Uncle Howard bought it and traded it for a blue one which was much newer and nicer. Thelma, Howard’s Wife, wrecked the blue one and totaled it out. I remember a burn-barrel there where the garden was. And I recall a dog named Hobo getting burned there on my watch. Not bad, but he never got near the barrel again. I remember Roy picking a fresh tomato out of his garden, knocking off the red dirt, covering it with salt and biting into it like an apple. Uncle Roy always had Lifesavers. I recall sharpening a knife or two with him on the swing. I remember he’d take the knife and swipe his boots after sharpening it. “Why do you do that?” I asked.

He told me it was to get the burs off. But I heard, “To get the birds off.”

It took me a while to process that.

He showed me how to refill a cartridge but I could not tell you how today. I remember he said, “Never hit a bullet with a hammer. It’ll go off.”

Once bedridden, in an effort to encourage him, I would sit beside his bed and talk about all we’d do when he got better. I really had no idea he was not getting better. That simply never occurred to me. To this day, it breaks my heart to think about how I did not know to say, “goodbye.” But he knew and he didn’t say it either.

Those first seven years of my childhood were very complex. Daddy was an alcoholic and not very dependable. He did have good days, but the bad ones were enough to cancel them all. Roy, I think, was aware of the deficiency and he did a lot to distract me. He allowed me to be near him as often as I liked and I always wanted to be near Roy. Roy was plowing or weeding his garden. He was gathering sticks and burning them. Roy was whittling on a twig. He was cutting grass. In my eyes, Roy was the most productive man in our neighborhood. To anyone else, he may have been less important.

Later in life, I heard that Roy had had quite a temper. Daddy said that he had an X-ray on his chest once and it revealed an old fracture in a rib. “How did that happen?” I asked.

“Aw, Roy and I got in a fight and he took a shovel and hit me right in the rib and cracked it.” He said.

Now he was my dad and I loved him, but I knew enough to know that he probably deserved that crack in his rib. There was, even at that young age, a part of me that thought, “Way to go Uncle Roy.”

Daddy and Roy got in a few more arguments, but I don’t think Daddy ever wanted to push it to that point again. That may be why I felt so safe up there when Daddy was next door; drinking.

I suppose, more than anything else, Roy always seemed to have time for me. Time was what I needed. I recall the day he died. Yes, I was very sad. But I somehow managed to keep Uncle Roy with me all these years.

That was literally decades ago and I can still feel a great deal of love for that man. I do not believe the details of our conversations will come back to me, but the fact that we had them is fixed in my soul. Someone who had nothing in this world to gain by it, took some time to be with me. That point is the point that defined me.

So today, I gave my ten seconds to Roy McBride. I give him credit for sharpening me and knocking the birds off.

At the end of ten seconds, Mr. Rogers would always say,
“Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know that you’ve been thinking about them.”

Take ten seconds and do this. I’ll watch the time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Why Me?

I remember a big turning point in my life and it happened around 1984. I was a mechanic. I’d go home tired, sweaty and dirty. My hands were rough already and my back was sore… at 20.

I made a few wooden tulips with a cheap band-saw. I painted them different colors and started selling them to people for d├ęcor. It was such a simple, little project and yet, I was getting 3 bucks apiece. I went into a little restaurant in Powder Springs. I was having lunch with Gary Lowe. I managed to sell several of those tulips while at lunch and lunch was, therefore, on me and basically free.

“You are such a natural salesman.” Gary said as we walked out.

Of course.

I would sell. I was never going to make a fortune with wooden tulips. I was killing myself in a garage. Why not sell?

So, for the past 34 years, I have been selling. I’ve gone from cars to houses, back to cars and back to houses, but I’m still selling.

Selling is a good career if you love what you sell; it’s miserable if you don’t. The most difficult part is getting whatever you are selling in front of people; especially in 2018.

If someone is selling something, they have to interrupt people or they have to be right where potential clients can see the product when the client actually wants or needs it. With real estate, it’s easy to be available. It’s not like the clients are going to department stores to find houses. Listings are typically uploaded to a multiple listing service (MLS) and when the potential buyer is looking in the area for a home in the price range of the one you have listed, the connection is made and an offer comes in.

If you don’t have a listing, you need a buyer/client. If you don’t have a listing or a buyer, you are what my instructor called a “Secret Agent”. People have to find you and they have to want to do business with you. Having a license doesn’t mean that you are the right fit for a particular client. Believe me, a lot of people have a real estate license. Why would people want to do business with me?

I was trained to read real estate contracts and I’ve studied the industry for the last 30+ years, but that’s not all that unique. I’ve fixed and sold houses of my own (flips) and a lot of other agents have done that too. I’ve managed my own rental properties and that is not really rocket science. I have worked with big banks, selling their REO properties during The Great Recession and that experience prepares me for working with big banks in a slow market, but that’s not where we are today. I’ve worked with builders and vendors on new homes and I’ve marketed developments and sold a lot of new houses and that’s good experience, but it still doesn’t set me apart. I’ve begun to develop a knack for advertising a communicating with social media, but that’s a great place to get lost too. So how do I answer the question? Why work with me?

This is the hard part. This is where I have to be shameless and tell you how great I am. The truth is: I’m not.

When I think about the agents I’ve met through the years, I cannot tell you that I am the better agent. I’ve met some really wonderful people in this industry. Many of the agents, brokers, lenders, inspectors and appraisers have taught me what I know about real estate, and I still have a lot to learn. I’ve marveled at how some agents are so quick to think and how they can turn a situation around. I’ve been at closings where the deal was literally falling apart at the closing table and I’ve watched a closing attorney find the solution in a haystack of unacceptable outcomes.

I’ve made some mistakes. In the real estate industry, you won’t forget your mistakes. I’ve had to turn to my broker and we’ve found solutions in every case. And speaking of cases, I haven’t made mine here.

Of course, if you have a property to sell, I want to help you sell it. I’d like to see you get what you want, but I won’t lie to you and promise you that I can do it. I won’t insult your intelligence and suggest that I have the ability to buy all of the houses I list if they don’t sell. I’m sure you know that if I did buy your house, I probably wouldn’t give you what you wanted for it; that’s how that works.

And if you are a buyer, I want to try to find you what you are looking for. I will tell you that it won’t happen the way it does on television. I won’t show you three houses in thirty minutes and then meet you at a restaurant with outdoor dining so you can tell me if it is house 1, 2 or 3. In fact, it is quite a process and it may take weeks or even more. I can’t possibly show you every house you find on the millions of websites that list houses for sale. Many of those houses aren’t even for sale. In some cases, the house has been off the market for a year and it still appears to be for sale on a website.

Okay, here goes: my tagline has always been, “Real Experience in Real Estate.”

I always wanted the focus to be on the word “Real”. A lot of people have experience but when you get to know them, you find out they aren’t “real”. They don’t stop to consider your personal goals and dreams. They want to get the job done without empathy. 


Recent studies reveal that empathy gets the job done. What is empathy? It is the ability to feel what someone else feels. You become more flexible and you listen more carefully. Sure, you can write a blog like this one, but you can meet someone face to face and have a conversation too. You can find the phone feature on your smartphone and make a personal call to someone. You can post a status update on social media and you can be sociable too.

Scanning an offer and sending it via email is good experience. Knowing where to place a sign in a yard is not a bad thing to know. Spelling most of your words correctly in your ads would be great, but about 20 years ago, I was standing with a client as the sun began to set and it painted the sky in a stunning orange glow. “Mr. D____,” I said, “Would you look at that sunset?”

He and I stood there for a minute and we both agreed that it really was a gorgeous sunset. After the closing, he told me that my reaction to that sunset was what made his mind up. I had no idea. I guess that’s what I mean when I say, “Real”.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

We Were Shabby Chic when Shabby Chic Wasn't Cool

My daddy’s go-to phrase was always, “I’m amazed.”

He was. My dad was fascinated with life. It was the routine he loved and not the mountain tops. He loved to idle along and he’d take time to observe anything; even if it was rusty, old, worn out or broken. In fact, he’d find abandoned furniture and bring it home. There would be pieces everywhere. Decades later, you can still go into one of his shops and find pieces he would have used by now had he lived longer.

Today, I find myself looking carefully at old things. I sometimes bring them into my shop and brush off some of the rust to see if there is any hope. I’ve made lamps, chairs, tables and all kinds of smaller projects. I’ve got stacks of old tin and some old barn wood. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “What are you gonna do with that?”

Sometimes I don’t have an answer. Sometimes I make up an answer on the spot. Antique venders love to see me coming; I’m the guy who will buy the broken shelf or the instrument cluster from a 1955 Ford dump truck. You can see it on their faces, “Wow,” they seem to say, “I was just about to throw that out.”

There must be something in my DNA. My grandfather, Charlie Coker, couldn’t afford a truck so he made one. He took an old, Model T school bus and cut the top off, leaving only a roof over the driver and one passenger. He took some barn wood and built rails on the side and closed up the “cab” area. He drove that thing for years and in 1941, he loaded it up like Jed Clampett and drove to Powder Springs.

My dad certainly inherited that quality. When he was building his home in the 60’s, he’d find abandoned barns, houses, churches and even warehouses, track down the owner and offer to take down the old structures. He’d bring loads of ancient lumber home and I’d get the job of pulling nails. Of course we saved the nails too. I’d straiten them out on an anvil that still sits in his old shop. Tetanus Shots be damned, I built up my resistance, one rusty nail at a time.

The house dad built is full of furniture that he pulled out of abandoned buildings or even landfills. There is one huge beam running from one end of the lower level to the other; it came from a church somewhere in Cobb. Two of the big, picture windows spent years in a hangar at Dobbins; they finally took the old one down in the early 70’s and dad took two of those windows straight out to his truck. I think he built the house around them.

I live back behind the old home-place and every day, I drive by his shops and that old house. To me, they look like a postcard. The buildings are old, but the material he used to build them is even older. I see him everywhere around here. My siblings and I go rummaging through his old shops sometimes and we find an old scrap of something and we bring it back to life when possible.
I know what my dad meant. I’m amazed too.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Della's Garden

My grandmother, Della Jane Wood Coker, bought her first house as a 59 year old widow. She had always done a remarkable job providing for her family. She and my grandfather, Charlie Coker, had six boys and two girls. Della was 51 and Charlie was 52 when they literally loaded up the truck and moved from Rockmart to Powder Springs. The world had been at war for two years. Their four oldest boys were all serving in the military and sharecropping in Polk County was a lot harder with two young boys and the two girls left to do all of the physical work. The move to Powder Springs would mean that Charlie could still farm and both girls landed jobs with the busy Coats and Clark Mill in Clarkdale, just a few miles away.

Della and Charlie rented a house on New Macland Road and Charlie developed a knack for growing cantaloupes. The crop made a little money, but the Cokers would give away most of the bounty and Charlie would do work for households in the community to take up the slack. He spent a lot of time in downtown Powder Springs and ended up working on houses, barns and even commercial buildings. He had experience in concrete and bricklaying from his days with Georgia Power and that experience really paid off for the family during this time. When Charlie was out on a job, Della would be out in the fields, weeding and tending to the crops.

One afternoon, Della and Charlie were both in the field there on New Macland Road. The younger boys were doing chores closer to the farmhouse, but they saw the black car pull over to the side of what is now known as Macedonia Road. It was late in the summer of 1944 and the news was as dreadful as the July fly’s attempt to sing.

Losing a son in the war was crippling for the already crippled family. Charlie never recovered from his grief and his broken heart led to his death just three years later.

My grandmother lost her son and her father within a month in that hot summer of 1944. She buried her husband in 1947. The war was over for the world, but it was just beginning for Della Coker. The boys started coming home and getting jobs. The rented farm was not productive without the help of Charlie and the boys.

One of the boys, still living at home, was painting signs for a busy real estate agent in Powder Springs. The agent’s name was W.R. Tapp. Mr. Tapp dropped by and asked the son to paint a sign for a farm house and forty acres just a few blocks up New Macland Road. As soon as Tapp drove away, the son told Della about the farm. “Mr. Tapp said the owner would finance it.” He told her.

Della put every dime she had down on the estate. She had gotten five hundred when her son was killed in France and another five hundred when Charlie died. Over the next four years, Della would pay the balance off by selling off acreage. By 1953, her farm was paid for. She kept a garden up until 1972 and she slipped away in May of 1973.

Decades later, I would end up attending a school named after the real estate agent, W.R. Tapp, but I learned a lot more from the independent woman who bought her first home at 59.

Today, like Tapp, I am trying to make my living with real estate. I wish his sign painter was still around. I never learned to paint like my dad, but as I write, I can see a thriving garden out here on Della’s farm. The house she bought in 1949 sits on the hill overlooking the garden. Later this evening, I’ll take her old hoe out there and take care of some weeds. But for now, I am going to focus on my real estate career. I’ve just finished my designation course to become a Senior Real Estate Specialist, and my focus will be the over-fifty clientele.  I wonder what inspired me to take this path.

Monday, April 16, 2018

“Underneath that metal, there is a building made of oak.” Said Mr. Woods. He was talking to the buyer of his home on Austell Powder Springs Road. He spoke of how he acquired the place in parcels, over time. “The lady that built that shopping center had some land left over and she asked me if I wanted it. It was zoned commercial, but I lived there. My family lived there.”

Mr. Woods was a TV repairman. That’s not something you hear of these days, but in the sixties and seventies, you had to maintain your TV. Not everyone could afford to go out and buy a new one. We’d bang on the top, turn the vertical hold, move the rabbit ears, jiggle the buttons and finally call Mr. Woods. He would come to the house with his doctor’s bag and go to work.

Back then,Mr. Woods was tall and lean with black hair and a dark complexion. His eyes were deep-set and serious. He’d smile, but he was focused on his work and within minutes of walking in the house, he’d be focused on our TV. He’d ease it out from the wall and take the back off. He had been trained and certified on the most complex sets of those days. He was the only certified GE repairman for miles. We sat and talked about his TV days a couple of weeks ago.

“People would go to Sears and buy a new TV and I sold the same TV at my place.” He said, “Something would go wrong with the TV and Sears would send them to me so I was servicing the sets even though they drove right past me to buy one. I didn’t mind. I was paid by GE.”
Gene Woods made work look easy. He was one of those guys who could do anything. He seemed to approach everything in the most unconventional way, but the end result seemed to be better than if he’d followed the rules.

“The TVs in those days,” he said, “Were made here and there and one place would do something different than another place. I figured out how one set had a bad place on the board. It was always soldered when it should have been left open. After a while, this would cause a problem with that particular set. When I figured it out, I was fixing them all the time and GE wanted to know how I was fixing them because the other repairmen couldn’t figure it out. They were just replacing the sets. I started buying the sets, fixing the solder and then selling them used. They were better than new. I finally told GE how to fix it.”

As you can imagine, the days of repairing TVs began to fade like a black and white picture tube. Mr. Woods was not ready to retire and he still had the buildings. He would buy and sell used trucks. I’d look at every truck he had. I stopped by in my 1969 Camaro one day. It was in prime and, like every teenager in those days, I was committed to painting it whenever I could make enough money. In the meantime, it was solid, red primer. “When are you going to paint that thing?” asked Mr. Woods.

“I can’t afford it right now. But maybe this summer.” I said.

“Go get the paint and hardener,” he said, “and we’ll paint it here.”

At that time, he had an awning out on the right side of his building. We spent one Saturday taping up the Camaro and Mr. Woods painted it bright red. He always wore coveralls. He didn’t get over-spray on the house, the awning, the bushes or his blue coveralls. I never entered the Camaro in a car show, but the bright red looked a lot nicer than the red primer.

“How much do I owe you Mr. Woods?” I asked him after we finished.

“Aw don’t worry about it.” He said.

Not long after that, he opened the garage building as CG Muffler Repair. That’s the thing about Mr. Woods, he really could do just about anything. There didn’t seem to be a learning curve for him. He just started doing exhaust systems and he was doing it right. I started selling cars and I took all of my exhaust work to Gene Woods for as long as he had the muffler shop.
Years later, Mr. Woods sold one of his buildings and rented the other one out to a church. “I guess you could say I started that church.” He said.

He retired to his childhood home place on the outskirts of Powder Springs. His father had built the place. In the past few weeks, I’ve gone out to see Mr. Woods several times. We talked about the old days. “The Cherokees camped right here,” He said, “It’s not written in the history books, but they camped out right on this spot when they were removed from this area and were forced to go to Oklahoma.”

On the colder days, you could count on a fire in his wood stove. The house would be warm no matter how cold it was outside. “I could put another log on there and it would run you out of here.” He’d say.

I had called Rodney Woods a few weeks earlier. He and I went to school together and he was the middle son of Mr. Woods. “What’s your dad going to do with the old place?” I asked.
“It’s funny you should ask,” said Rodney, “He wants me to have it. I think I’d probably sell it.”
That’s how I ended up listing the old Woods place.

“Yeah,” said Mr. Woods when I called him, “I want to do that for Rodney. I’ve already done something for the others and that’s all I’ve got left to do.”

We spent many evenings discussing the details of the property, sitting around the big dining room table. “We all still eat around the table.” Said Mr. Woods. “Everybody always sits in the same place and this is where we say grace and eat like a family should.”

I’ll forever cherish those visits.

We sold the property in 33 days and closed on April 4, 2018. We stood out in the parking lot at Hallmark, Bowman and Hallmark and Mr. Woods was all smiles.
“Well,” he said, “That’s it. That’s all I had left to do.”

I didn’t think a lot about it then, but I’ve thought a lot about it since.
I went by the place and got my sign. I picked up a white rock and wrote Mr. Woods on it with a Sharpie. I reflected on the years I’ve known Mr. Woods. I thought about the TV clinic, the trucks, the muffler shop and the metal covering the old house.
He had finished his work here. At the closing, he said, “I am glad it is going to be a church. Looks like I started another one.”

Rodney told me that he’d thanked his dad for what he’d done for him. “I told him I loved him.” Said Rodney.

No one could have know that Mr. Woods would suddenly pass away four days later. Sometimes we talk about the time in which it takes us to sell a property; if we do it quickly, we may even brag about it. I sold Mr. Woods' property in 33 days, but I am reminded of one of my wife's favorite sayings, "It's the dash that counts." In this case, it's really about the time I enjoyed with Mr. Woods and his family during that 33 day period. 

For Carol Gene Woods, his "dash" fell between October 12, 1934 and April 8, 2018.

Mr. Woods, you made your dash count. We will never forget you. 
Photo taken at the closing. Photo by Adanna Nwaneri.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Housing Demand in Paulding County

This morning, I saw 6 houses in Paulding County, all between 130,000 and 150,000 and under contract. What do they have in common? All were listed in March. There are only 32 houses available in this price range and about 20% of those are under contract within two weeks of the listings. That is what I call a seller’s market! If you have a house in Paulding, Douglas or Cobb and you have been thinking about selling, now is the time. Call me at 678-223-5483

Monday, July 18, 2016

German Girls and Wrestling

Alzheimer disease is a terrible thing. Confusion is typical. Uncle Howard doesn’t know where he is. He has no idea. He walks around and stares out windows and down hallways. To me, it always seems he is hoping something or someone will come along and stir his memory. “Remind me.” He seems to say. Yesterday, I asked him if he knew my name and he asked for a hint. “What number does it start with?” he asked.

He went to Iceland in the early 80’s; he can’t remember anything about that trip. He does, however, remember going to Germany and marrying a German girl. That’s great except he never went to Germany and he didn’t marry a German girl.

Susan made a great observation I had never thought of. “It’s not that he forgets, it’s just that he can’t remember.” She said. I had to get a further explanation. It’s just that all newer information won’t stick at all. The more recent experiences were just floating around a few months ago; they’ve all finally slipped away. Lately, even his oldest memories are mostly unavailable. He tends to fill in the gaps by embellishing. I think he actually recalls events which never happened. He told me he had been married six times. He was only married twice. I’ve heard this is fairly typical too. The lapses in memory are like low places in the brain and they fill up with debris. The debris connects itself to the truth and it all runs together to make a complete story. As more of the original story fades, more tales develop to take its place. Eventually, you may have a complete fabrication without a trace of the original story.

Claude Collins is suffering from Alzheimer’s and a few other ailments associated with his age. His daughter and son-in-law are friends of mine. Claude was the proprietor of Collins Jewelry in Mableton. I’ve heard he was an amazing jeweler. They say he could take apart a clock or even a small watch and make them better than new. His good friend was Wendy Bagwell of Wendy Bagwell and The Sunliters and for whom Wendy Bagwell Parkway was named. Last week, during one of Claude’s more lucid moments, he started talking about his old friend. “Virginia and I would go over to see Wendy and Melba,” He said, “Virginia and Melba would be in the kitchen and me and Wendy would go and sit on a quilt in front of the TV and watch wrestling and eat popcorn.”

Sometimes, an aging mind can be as creative as a youthful one. Uncle Howard had a scratch on his forehead a while back and I asked him what happened. “My helmet did that.” He said. At that time, he was sure he was back on an army base during the Korean conflict of the early fifties. I asked him if he’d like to go and ride around and he wouldn’t have it. “They’ll think I’ve gone AWOL.” He said.
You can never be too sure where the truth ends and the tales begin.

On Sunday, Claudia, Claude’s daughter, ran into Melba at church. “How is Claude?” She asked.
“He’s resting okay,” Claudia answered, “But I have to tell you what he said last week. He said that he and mom would come over to your house and you and mom would end up in the kitchen while he and Wendy sat on a quilt and watched wrestling and ate popcorn.”

“Oh,” exclaimed Melba, “That actually happened.”