Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

  Real Estate is Dying

I knew when I turned right off Mulberry onto Maple Ave. and saw the police cruisers, about a block ahead, that the house I was going to would somehow be involved. The real estate business, for me, has been a topsy-turvy mishmash of action. I pulled my truck over to the left, in front of the property, parked on the street, facing the traffic, grabbed my camera and got out. The officer nearest to me nodded and waved. I returned the greetings. There was a guy leaning against the trunk of a car parked on the concrete pad in front of the duplex. I noticed the door of unit A was open and I assumed the guy was the tenant I was to meet. “You Dave?” He stopped texting and looked up, “No, I am Josh. You must be Steve.”  He was the listing agent, who was not supposed to be there. I was to take photos of the back unit, which was vacant and vandalized. The door was to be unlocked, then I was to go to Dave’s unit and see if he was home and take photos of the inside of his place. The property is a short sale, meaning the seller is attempting to sell it for less than what the bank is owed. My job is to give the bank an opinion of the value. Josh looked unnerved and shaky, “I have some bad news, Steve.” I figured he was going to say that I couldn’t get into the units, which would piss me off after driving twenty miles and wasting my time. “What’s up?” His voice cracked with dryness when he answered, “We got a body inside.”

Things, although bad for someone, didn’t seem so upsetting to me. “NO SHIT! Is it the tenant or a squatter?” He told me it was Dave, the tenant, and that he had come over about a half an hour earlier to make sure Dave would be there when I arrived at one o’clock. He knocked, found the front door unlocked and opened it. After calling for Dave, he went in and found the body. “So, was he in the bedroom?” I am a curious person, although my wife says I go beyond curiosity and run full speed into nosiness. “No, he is in a chair at his desk, slumped over, buck naked.”  “NO SHIT!” I say again. “How long you figure he’s been there?”  Josh thought a couple days, maybe.

So, we go to the back and take photos of unit B. The place stinks, like mildew and mold and maybe dead guy. I am not sure, but the air is nasty. It has been chilly in Tampa the last couple days, so maybe bodies don’t go bad quickly like they do in summer. I am not sure of the physics of that either.  Josh says, out of nowhere, “I would rather be at my daughter’s birthday party.”

I pursed my lips and gave him the sympathetic dad nod. “So, this your first one? Your first body?” He shocks me by saying it is his third. “NO SHIT!! He works the area regular. It is ramshackle, gangster land. Lots of extreme poverty. Lots of homeless. Lots of violence. Lots of bodies. “They all been natural?” He says yes, that he hasn’t found a murdered person.  I say, “Yet.” He looks squeamish. The officer who nodded to me comes around the corner, stringing yellow tape. “Who you with?” I tell him I am a realtor, taking photos for the bank. “Not in that unit, you ain’t.” He points to unit A. “You need to move your vehicle. Park it on the right side of the street.” I say, “Looks like you guys have this handled. I am done here.” The officer glares. I walk briskly to the truck and leave the scene as I entered, in a whirlwind of official real estate business. No shit.