There are Times when Even the Best Laid Plans Aren't Good Enough

Real Estate Agent with Florida Supreme Realty SL514814

The majority of associates and brokers I know weren't around when mortgage interest rates peaked at 18%. It was the worst of times and the best of times. I began my real estate endeavors in an 8% mortgage environment which crept up to double digits within 5 years and reached their apogee 3 to 4 years later. That early introduction to volatile financial markets brought out a lot of creativity from agents. The saying "when the World gives you lemons, make lemonade" was all too appropriate for the Real Estate industry.

The transition from residential to investment real estate was how we not only survived but thrived in that initial decade. After enduring a decade of three percent rates recently the thrill of those early days have all but vanished. Each sale used to be the difference between an off the rack suit and fine tailored hand stitched custom clothing. Two factors were at work in the mortgage market, rates and availability. We became loan hunters and once that source would dry up we became the ultimate predators once again. Comparing the 3.3% of recent closings to a 17% rate that could have been the margin amount you might be able to obtain for a customer if you had enough clout with your lender. Beg, borrow & steal was the mantra.

We had a mixed use listing, a 4 bay automotive  repair shop and a residence which included retail at its raised basement level on a sloping lot which faced a great high traffic thoroughfare. The owners were now older and wanted to retire. Kids are now grown and Dad was still tinkering in his shop while Mom sold a variety of crafts from the store. This was a unique property and suited only a handful of potential Buyers. The problem was financing the thing. If it had been either or and not mixed there would not have been a problem. 

In attempts to make it through this financial hump of the 80's the ideas flowed. I remember sitting at the couple's kitchen table discussing options. The arms were being twisted to their max leaning towards offering owner financing which we kindly referred to as a PMM, the purchase money mortgage. Dad reluctantly agreed and Mom was a little bit scared but the alternative to continue working was wearing thin also. It took about a month and I had our Buyers. Two brothers with a decent down payment structured their deal. The term hammering it out was so, so true on both sides. Without more potential Buyers coming into the field we finally came to terms after weeks of negotiation. A substantial down payment and terms which any lender would accept on their notes. The fairness with which each party resolved discrepancies was amazing and almost miraculous to watch unfold. Congress could and should have taken lessons from the give & take demonstrated here.

We closed and the two young men immediately set up shop. I didn't get involved in their business structure but the youngest moved his family into the house and store while the eldest ran his repair business for many years to come. I passed it almost every day and they appeared to thrive just as the previous owners had.

Mom & Dad stayed local and I had found them a downsized ranch home which suited them perfectly. Money in the bank, social security and a decent return from that note gave them flexibility they hadn't dreamed of. Travel was now their passion and a small motor-home was their vehicle. It could not have been any better until I received THE CALL!

Apparently, the Buyers, after four years of paying their 14% mortgage promptly every month to the once reluctant Sellers were able to refinance into the single digit realm. They weren't the only ones refinancing. All of our clients began that process. We ALL survived and with expenses dropping the property values soared and those customers that latched on to what we were selling in those dark times finally understood what we were telling them all along. This too shall pass! Most of them, I'd like to think, became millionaires through real estate almost overnight, however, it did take slightly longer. A million bucks is chump change when compared to today but was everyone happy when that cloud lifted? YOU BET YOUR BIPPIES!  

Uh Oh, I almost forgot about Mom & Dad. After all that time convincing them to provide owner financing they wanted me to stop the Boys from handing over that lump sum. The taxes would have buried them so I understood why they were upset. They wouldn't stop crying, yelling, crying some more, sighing, moaning and yelling again. It took a while for it to sink in but do YOU KNOW how we solved it? By having them BUY MORE REAL ESTATE. Away they rode into another successful sunset in their beautiful Winnebago!


This is the best business in the whole World

if you simply take the time to THINK


Posted by

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Comments (13)

Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Good morning,  Kevin - it's the opportunity mindset. Good for you and good for your clients.

Feb 16, 2019 05:54 AM
Kevin J. May

Consider leaving all of the doors open there's a good chance the solution will come walking through given the proper amunt of time. If you don't enjoy challenges this isn't the right business for you. Thanks Michael!

Feb 16, 2019 07:15 PM
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


There are always solutions to any issue that comes up.  It is about having an open mind...A

Feb 16, 2019 01:36 PM
Kevin J. May

Some are tougher to find but, you're right, they are always out there if you look at the hole picture.

Feb 16, 2019 07:19 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Kevin- I think your middle name should be "the facilitator. "  You demonstrate that what others view as obstacles, you view as just a different route to a solution. 

Feb 16, 2019 06:31 PM
Kevin J. May

Kathy, it may take me a while to bring it into focus although once managed the obstacle seems to disappear. The Facilitator sounds excellent however I'm sticking with K. May. The older I get the fewer syllables I want to deal with. THX

Feb 16, 2019 07:26 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224


         Thank you Kevin. 

Feb 16, 2019 06:53 PM
Kevin J. May

Wow, thank you Kathy! I've spewed enough lumens this month to finally light my own way. Must have been something I ate!

Feb 16, 2019 07:33 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

What a wonderful post! Being open to and creative enough to find solutions is key to continuing no matter what the market brings.

Feb 17, 2019 05:17 AM
Kevin J. May

Thank you Kat! That era gave me much food for thought whereas today associates often seek solutions where no problem exists. The market has been on a roll for so long that I can only hope the agents of today are able to find those solutions when it changes and it surely will.

Feb 17, 2019 05:46 PM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Open minds and open hearts lead to solution oriented thinking. It's like an intricate puzzle to solve and what fun it is to discover the answer. 

Feb 17, 2019 07:18 AM
Kevin J. May

Spoken like an ancient philosopher Debb it's a perfect sentiment! 

Feb 17, 2019 05:54 PM
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

Having an open mind allows different options to present themselves to be taken advantage of. Interesting story and one that was inspriational and educational at the same time.

Feb 17, 2019 08:20 AM
Kevin J. May

It's not so much having the open mind but the keeping  it open  that inevitably reveals the solutions. Thank you Nick, simultaneous  inspiration and education is an unbeatable combination. 

Feb 17, 2019 06:05 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Love this story.  Great persistence on your part and ingenuity.  Congratulations.


Feb 17, 2019 01:38 PM
Kevin J. May

Mo losers in this story John only my shock when after all that convincing they appreciated the monthly stipend after all. I'd love to see those rates in my retirement fund also!

Feb 18, 2019 10:59 AM
Graziella Bruner
NCS Premier Real Estate - Detroit, MI
Associate Broker - Serving Wayne & Oakland County

Awesome story, having an open mind as well as an open heart always come to a great ending.  Thanks for sharing.

Feb 18, 2019 06:28 AM
Kevin J. May

It is difficult to understand what real estate can do for a person if their experience is only nestled in the primary residence. This one benefited everyone quite well Graziella!

Feb 18, 2019 11:04 AM
Fred Sweezer Sr. CMI, LLC.
Hud Certified 203K Consultant - Long Beach, CA
Certified Home Inspector

What goes around comes around! 

Feb 18, 2019 06:23 PM
Kevin J. May

I'm not following your reference Fred. I usually see that phrase when used in a negative light.

Feb 18, 2019 06:41 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I do remember those days - that's when I first got into real estate. We did a LOT of seller financing. Then rates started coming down.

I remember the joy when people could get a 10% mortgage with NO POINTS!!

Feb 18, 2019 08:59 PM
Kevin J. May

What's better than making all of those puzzle pieces fit Marte? Just pull out the grab bag then mix & match. I miss those challenges (sometimes).

Mar 04, 2019 03:06 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Kevin:

That's a great story and thanks to your creativity and perseverance it all worked out!


Feb 19, 2019 05:18 PM
Kevin J. May

It came naturally Jeff due to my good fortune to draw from so many other family member's experiences. Still the best teacher in the long run!

Mar 04, 2019 03:03 PM
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

WOW! What a wonderful story, Kevin! I absolutely love your passion for what you do - I am the same, exact way. If there's a will, there's a way and if there's a problem, we'll find a solution. 

Great job on the entire thing AND cooler heads prevailing and the Winnebago clients making yet another great investment!  

Mar 03, 2019 07:58 PM
Kevin J. May

Winnebago's are great but the best vehicle I've found to get you where you want to go is Real Estate. Other than a primary home it's often overlooked as a foundation to well being.

Mar 04, 2019 03:00 PM