If the tagline didn’t get your attention, this story certainly will.
I work in a “people business,” and sometimes the people you meet leave a very lasting impression…
Every time I watch one of those silly real estate TV shows where the participants involved are happy, smiling, polite, and clean as a whistle, I think about how much a story like the following would make for good TV…
Not every interaction in real estate is with some wide-eyed young couple who go through 22 minutes of trials and tribulations before their dreams are realized.
Not every real estate transaction fits into the identical, formulaic plot-line of a real estate TV show.
I don’t know if I seem to have more interesting/different/unbelievable stories than the next agent, but whatever the case, it’s stories like the following that make my job interesting…
A friend of mine works with a group of private lenders, and a few weeks back, he asked me to visit a property that he and his partners were about to foreclose on.
He told me a good deal about the property, and about the owner/borrower, but he left out some MAJOR details.
The property was certainly unique: a 100-year-old house on a double-lot in a very sought-after area, but it was in probably the worst shape I’d ever seen.
Of course, I figured it was just land value, and that the owner knew this.
I was wrong…
I met the owner, who we’ll call “Mister P,” and he walked out to greet me at the curb. The house, being over a century-old and having been built before anything else in the area, was uniquely set back from the street about 100 feet, although it wasn’t the distance from the curb that prohibited people from seeing the house; it was the jungle that did so.
I drove by the house twice because I couldn’t actually see it, and the only reason I found it was because Mr. P started waving at me from a distance.
There was what could only be described as a small jungle in front of the house; trees, shrubs, bushes, plants, mounds of dirt, and household debris. If there was a plant you thought could only grow as high as 18-inches, this house had a dozen of them – all five-feet tall.
Mr. P was a little odd, but not crazy.
He showed me around the property, which I couldn’t really walk through, since it was mostly covered with waist-deep weeds, and I couldn’t help but notice that all the windows were busted, the brick was crumbling, and the roof looked like a spaghetti-strainer.
I made conversation with Mr. P, all the while knowing that his creditors were about to foreclose on the property, and I asked him why he hadn’t sold it before his hand was forced.
He told me that it had sentimental value, since it once belonged to his mother, but she passed away ten years ago.
I then asked him why he would keep a vacant house and allow it to rot for a decade, and that’s when he shocked me with this little nugget: “It’s not vacant. I live here.”
I know that people in third world countries are lucky to get a piece of cloth on which to rest their heads at night, but for just a moment let’s consider the standard of living only in Toronto, and let me just say that this house should have been condemned! No human should possibly attempt to sustain life in there, let alone for ten years!
I was very honest with Mr. P and told him that I believed only a developer would be interested in the property in its current condition, and suggested that I didn’t really even need to see inside the house. But Mr. P believed that the home had “family value,” which was when I started to think that he was further from odd, and closer to crazy than I first thought.
Mr. P believed that “this would make a great house for a young family to live in,” despite the fact that there were a dozen raccoons living in the house; a fact that he had come to terms with last year, and having since made no attempts to remove the animals.
I appeased Mr. P and said that I would be happy to take a look at the inside of the house, and he smiled and said, “Follow me!”
We walked up the crooked, broken steps of the front porch, as we could feel the boards shifting under our feet, and he suddenly paused and said, “Oh, there’s just one thing…”
One thing? I wondered…
“Well, here’s the thing,” Mr. P continued, “I am….what you might call…..well….a purveyor of men’s magazines.”
“I….seee….,” I stuttered, as I allowed him to continue.
“I’m a collector, you understand.”
I tried my best to relate to him, “I do understand, I’ve been a collector as well.”
“Really?” said Mr. P, as he asked me to elaborate.
I told him, “Oh yeah, my brother, father and I were massive sports card collectors in the late-80’s during the boom. We assembled what is likely the finest set of 1951-52 Parkhurst hockey cards on the planet during the course of six years while attending shows all over the province.”
“Right!” Mr. P replied, suddenly energized by my enthusiasm on the matter. “It’s the same thing with me! I’ve assembled what I deem to be one of the largest collection of men’s magazines, from the early era, right up to present day where there are so many titles, you can barely keep track!”
Okay, well, I wouldn’t quite call that “the same thing,” but I wasn’t yet ready to judge.
And add to that, I neglected to really consider what he meant when he said, “….there are so many titles, you can barely keep track.”
As I entered the house, I soon realized that he didn’t just mean “….you can barely keep track.” He meant, “…..you can barely keep track, but you do, and, you own every single one.”
That’s right folks – Mr. P had them ALL!
As soon as I crossed the threshold into his century-old, musty, dusty, dirty, cobweb-filled, raccoon-tenanted home, I was greeted with likely one-hundred thousand “men’s magazines.”
They were everywhere. I bumped into a stack right at the inside of the door, and I had to bob and weave to work my way around stacks that were waist deep.
Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler – they were all there.
And we’re not just talking about the most well-known magazines like those three above.
If there was a title called, “Naked Chicks & Space Aliens,” Mr. P didn’t just own a copy; he owned every copy ever made, in triplicate, in mint condition, in sealed bags.
It was nuts.
His living room, which 110-years-ago might have housed a quaint family of twelve, dressed in their Sunday best, had about fifty stacks of magazines, each one spaced out exactly 24-inches from the next to allow Mr. P to pass through, and each stack labelled and organized.
His living room was mostly Playboy and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit – the cleanest of them all.
His dining room was a bit raunchier – Penthouse, Hustler, Swank, and Club.
But his family room was disgusting! High Society, Barely Legal, Genesis, Chic, Cheri, and a dozen others which names I can’t put into print for fear that this blog post would be blocked on your work computers.
This guy had every single men’s magazine ever published, and I looked around with this moribund curiosity as we went from room to room.
Think about it: if you were a collector of Penthouse, you’d also have to collect Penthouse Letters, Penthouse Forum, Girls of Penthouse, and every other spin-off ever published.
That wasn’t a problem for Mr. P!
Bring ’em on!!
The most amazing part about Mr. P’s collection was that the entire house was disgusting and filthy – I mean, you could catch a disease from just touching the bannister, but these stacks of magazines were in perfect condition. It’s like a man polishing his car in the driveway of a house that is being blown up. It made no sense! Or, to Mr. P, it made perfect sense.
Or from the perspective of a creditor – it made all the sense in the world! Mr. P couldn’t pay back his loans because he had a $1,000 per week addition to men’s magazines. As he said himself, “You can barely keep track,” so imagine the compulsion to purchase a copy of fifteen different men’s magazines every month!
And just think: Mr. P somehow surmised that this would be a great “family home.” Oh yeah – start bringing the buyers through! They’d love it!
It wasn’t just the men’s magazines that made this house strange; it was everything.
The kitchen extended into this other quasi-dining-room, which was carpeted for some reason, and of course the carpet was covered in inch-deep soot that looked like a chimney exploded. And in this room was just about every comic book ever made, including hundreds from the Silver Era, which had to be worth a small fortune.
Of course, Mr. P also had a few stacks of “sexy comics” that featured crime-fighting women, who happened to wear very little clothing while fighting said crime.
The raccoons living in the house was weird, as was the fungus on the kitchen counter next to an hour-old sandwich, as was the “kids toy room” upstairs that contained every board game ever made.
But overall, it was the PORN that made me run home and tell this story to anybody who would listen.
It’s funny – you could take away all the porn, and this story – with the jungle, the weirdo living in a dilapidated house, the raccoons, the disgusting condition, and the comics and board games, and it would still make for one of the most interesting real estate tales you’ve ever heard.
The next week, I saw my friend the creditor and I said, “Soooooo…..I, uh, went and took a look at the house,” to which he smiled and said, “Oh yeah? So you met The Porn King, did you?”
“How could you not warn me?” I asked, and my friend simply said, “Because no warning and no amount of detail could have ever possibly prepared you for what you were going to see.”
And you know something? He was right…