I spent time yesterday with an 84-year old homeowner (Bill), and we had a delightful conversation. Bill and his wife of a lifetime, Delores, purchased their home in 1962 for $45,000, and even at that time it was a great price. We sat and talked in the living room of their gorgeous home. Today this home is probably worth over a half million dollars. The water view alone is stunning. The home sits on over an acre and is beautifully landscaped, but Bill confessed to me that his gardening and landscaping activities have slowed down a little at his age. At 57 sometimes I think I’m over the hill and getting old(er), but Bill assured me that I am still a kid. I like Bill.
I often joke with my clients by saying that, “all my clients are smarter than me,” but there’s no doubt that most of my clients are more experienced and wiser than me, and I love learning about their lives and experiences. I thought you might enjoy hearing what an 84-year old gentleman thinks about many of the issues of today. Consider this. Bill grew up before residential mortgages were invented, before checking accounts, before credit cards, before televisions, while the U.S. Dollar was still based on the gold standard, and before Fidel Castro got into politics. Bill has seen history.
We talked about economics. Bill said he had never lived through such a prolonged and difficult economic time. Bill said we are in a depression. He dismissed the professional economists’ erudite explanations that we are in a minor recession as poppycock. Bill counted off on his fingers the reasons we are in a depression, including unemployment around the country, small businesses going out of business, large corporations faltering and taking business overseas, and in his own industry (real estate brokerage), he is seeing brokerages file bankruptcy, consolidate, and close their doors. He said, “we are living in very difficult times.”
We talked about politics. Bill said it is shocking how the English language has been hijacked by politicians. Words used to mean something, and there was a time when lies were simply unacceptable. Today, Bill argues, politicians say anything and constantly promote larger and larger government. He talked about basic financial rules he learned growing up. Bill was two years old when the market crashed in 1929, and while he doesn’t remember those early years, he certainly grew up in a generation where personal financial responsibility was paramount, and you only spent money you actually had. Bill pointed out that we now have a Federal government that does not live by the rules of math or fundamental financial accounting principles. Bill still believes that one plus one is two and that everyone, including the government, should live by the rules. His common sense is refreshing. I asked him if he would run for President.
We talked about real estate. Bill was the youngest Seattle hotel manager in 1955 at 28 years old. As he says with a smile on his face, “Seattle has changed a lot since 1955.” Bill has had an illustrious career as a real estate broker, and has personally known some of the big names in real estate. He has an ability to see a longer history of real estate cycles than the rest of us, and he has been an analytical student of real estate brokerage all this time. He sees the traditional brokerage as dying. He said the overhead is just killing them. And at 84, it was a delight to hear Bill talk so enthusiastically about the power of the Internet in the real estate business. He predicted that the future of real estate will be based on the Internet.
Bill was full of wisdom and gentle conversation as he reminisced about his years in business and in real estate. Bill’s wife, Delores, recently “went home” as he says, and Bill openly shared that these past few months have been months of grieving, but he smiles as he talks about his future and life. He believes he still has more to do, and he embraces the challenges as he makes plans for this next phase in his life. I admire Bill. What a privilege it was for me to spend the day with him.
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