Early on in this business I realized that sometimes property owners – especially those already living abroad – failed to grasp the basic principle that the interest of the caretaker (or even the renter) of the beautiful home they left behind does not necessarily jibe with their own. And some of these caretakers are even their close relatives!
One time I was asked by a real estate broker friend to accompany him and his buyer – who is looking for a residential property – to a listing in the outskirts of the city (for those unfamiliar with the real estate lingo a listing is a written agreement between the owner and the real estate broker that the latter will handle the sale of his real property for a fee or commission for his services).
So the three of us: the broker, the buyer, and myself jumped into my friend’s old pickup truck, and went to the property in question. My friend happily warned me in advance that this seems to be a done deal, and that his client is willing to pay in cash if it pushes thorough. Arriving at the site, the caretaker happily welcomed us (the visit had been prearranged earlier by my friend).
Looking at the property, I was immediately impressed! The house is located in a nice quite neighborhood, with concreted roads, good drainage, wide frontage, and a two storey concrete house of recent design. The yard is quite large and obviously well maintained -a good buy! I immediately noticed the buyer to be exhibiting unusual interest in details of the house – a good sign!
So as a matter of procedure, my friend decided to engaged the caretaker to squeeze out of him additional info (I gathered from my friend that the owner has already settled in the US for 10 years, and have designated the caretaker to watch over their house. Naturally therefore, they are quite anxious to dispose of the property asap. He got the listing via snail mail sent to him by the owner whom he knows personally from way back when).
After the usual niceties and the obligatory all around inspection, we settled down in the living room over some nice refreshments, for small talk with the caretaker – an amiable fellow, who is the cousin of the owner. Its 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and he is alone in the house, he said. It is quiet because his family is either at work or in school. The conversation goes this way.
Caretaker : So Mr. and Mrs. X told you to sell their house? Well, a lot of people came to visit since last year …
My friend the broker : Yes he called me. Some people visited this property? So what did they say?
Buyer (interjected) : Interesting. Why was it not sold? Is there any problem with this house?
Caretaker (acting nonchalant): Oh, this is a beautiful house with a large front yard , but …
Buyer (concern obvious in his voice) : Why, is there a problem with this house?
Caretaker (furtively glancing at the stairway going up to the second floor): Oh no! No problem at all! Well, it does not bother us anyway. My daughter saw something in one of the hallways last year … its around 1 o’clock at night, and when she went to the hallway at the second floor … you know. But I don’t believe in ghosts. No, I don’t. Do you?
My friend the broker (alarmed at where the conversation is going to) : Well, I have not heard of any ghost in this area, I don’t think so. Young children… (laughs nervously) sometimes have wild imagination, don’t they?
Caretaker (laughing) : Oh, my daughter Ruth? She is a 4th year college student now, spunky little lady that one … but she was really terrified, banging at our door that night, out of her wits, I tell you. Refuses to go up alone to the second floor especially at night since then. (laughs)
Caretaker (continuing nonchalantly) :Yes, I myself did not believe it at first, but our house helper also left last month because she heard some strange sounds. Ah, may be its just those tree branches scraping against the roof … (addressing me) Do you know of any house helper available now? It’s hard to find a good help nowadays… she is the third one in a row that resigned this year! Superstitious girls…
Me : Yes, indeed, very hard to find one.
So off we go, with the buyer unusually silent in the truck the rest of the way. Needless to say, he completely lost interest in that ” haunted” house. My friend the broker, lost a “done deal” that day.
Next day, I secretly went back to the store in front of the house (the owner happened to be a friend from work) to make some discreet inquiry. He is quite an amiable guy, and after I told him that I am interested in the house in front, he is just too happy to share some important tidbits with me.
Yes, the caretaker is indeed a close relative of the owners (cousin of the wife). ” A nice couple with their 3 teenage children“, he added. ” The husband is out of work now…construction worker, I think… but seems they are doing just fine. Their two kids are now enrolled in the university.”
Yes, they take care of that house quite well. Treats it as their own. Their cousin from the States sends them P 6,000 per month for allowance regularly – bank to bank. The power and water bill is also paid promptly by the owner, and they are staying at the master’s bedroom which is fully air-conditioned. The owner also regularly sends money for house maintenance.
By the way he said, “They also accepts female student lodgers from the nearby university at P 5,000 for the garage (converted into a room), and P 6,000 for the small guesthouse at the yard (has its own kitchen). The lodgers pay for their own water and electricity. It’s always full even during summer break – some students from the university likes it because it has a large yard, and they can entertain some of their friends there.”
” They are very nice neighbors by the way.” my friend also said. “No problem with them. Even shares some balikbayan boxes from their cousin in the States sometimes.”
“Ghosts? I haven’t seen or heard any.”, he said.
I did some mental calisthenics. A good deal. Free board and lodging, air-conditioned room, and a fully furnished house. Income : P 6,000 as allowance for being caretaker, plus P 11,000 on the side for the lady boarders, equals P 17,000 per month – tax free, for doing nothing but to live in that house. With free house maintenance thrown in for good measure … a good deal indeed.
Well, I believed my friend (the store owner) from work. I remembered that when we were working in the Steel Plant, and assigned to do some night overtime work, he almost always asked me (or some other office mate) to go with him to bathroom for call of nature. We used to tease him for being so queasy. Someone has to stand by the door, while he does his thing – as he is very superstitious about ghosts, and the like! And he, of all people, said that there are no ghosts in that house in front of his store. Of course, I believed him!
No wonder that no one has dared to buy that “haunted” house for many years. Meantime, the poor unsuspecting owners from abroad continues to dump money into a bottomless sinkhole. They have to plunk in hard-earned maintenance money for what has become a liability instead of an asset.
The last time I heard from my friend the real estate broker, the freeloaders are still there – still trying to “adjust” to the presence of the “ghosts”. Meantime, his buyer has already purchased another house from another broker paid in cold cash.
So as I said before, sometimes the interest of the caretaker does not necessarily jibe with that of the owners’. “Caveat emptor ” (Let the buyer beware.)
Next time, Ill talk about my experience, with an untidy renter – but that’s for later. lol
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you. Cheers!