Rude Awakenings ~ Catherine Sevenau

Catherine Sevenau Catherine Sevenau is a local writer, irreverent humorist, and astute storyteller, currently posting her third book, “Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir,” as a free web serial at She’s also a longtime local Owner/Broker/Realtor at CENTURY 21 Wine Country. [email protected]


Opening doors

Posted on July 4, 2018 by Catherine Sevenau

It doesn’t matter that I’ve lived here since 1973, nor does it matter that Sonoma Valley is a relatively small area. I’ve been practicing real estate here since 1982 and I still get lost. A lot. That’s why I’m not crazy about showing property to buyers. Sellers are easier to work with because I can generally keep track of my listings as they stay in place. Fortunately, my clients don’t care that I’m not good at math or directions, and luckily (or so it appears) neither trait is required to be successful in this business. I’ve done just fine thus far, though having a calculator and GPS helps. Sometimes. So does having a sense of humor.

Some of my more memorable moments:

  • After an hour of fruitlessly trying to find a lot in the hills on Thornsberry Road, my client snaps, “Why do we have you? You don’t even know where you’re going!” My calm response was, “You have me to write the contract and get the transaction through escrow. I have you to read the map and not give me a hard time.” In my defense, it turned out to be a landlocked parcel with no ‘For Sale’ sign, you couldn’t get there from here, and I was also a rookie.
  • I now tell clients up front that I’m directionally challenged. Most of the time they don’t believe me until we sail right past the place we’re looking for. My prospective buyer says, “Wait! Back up. You just drove by the house.” I lower my sunglasses and give her the look. She says, “Sorry, I thought you were kidding.”
  • Then there was the time I was showing a four bedroom, two bath house on a quarter acre. But we were in a two bedroom, one bath house on a small lot. Standing in the backyard surveying the fence line, the buyer tilts his head at me, surmising, “I don’t think we’re at the right property.” You know, agents really should put up for sale signs, and next-door neighbors really should lock their doors.
  • Then there was the seller who, after signing the listing agreement, informs me that I’m to hold an open house every weekend, he wants it advertised daily in the San Francisco Chronicle and he expects weekly color magazine advertising. Did I mention this was a mobile home? After a month of putting up with him, I get his palace in escrow. At the closing at the Title Company after everything’s been gone over, he tips his chair back, locks his hands behind his head, and says, “I’d like my attorney to review all of this before I sign anything.” Now that’s no problem except no one makes this request at this stage of the game. Did I mention this was for a mobile home? Oh, I did. I slant back in my chair, shrug my shoulders, and say, “No problem. However, if that’s the case, we can’t close escrow tomorrow.” I remind him the buyers have all their possessions in a moving truck waiting to unload and move in the next day. His wife sits there. I sit there. The escrow officer sits there. We’re in a classic, silent, and ridiculous Mexican standoff. This is why you don’t bring guns to the closing table. After a singularly long minute, his wife leans into him and orders through clenched teeth, “Pick up the g…d… pen.” I liked her style. After their paperwork is signed and we’re out on the sidewalk, he thanks me for all the work I’ve done and reaches out to shake my hand. I refuse. “I have to tell you, in all of my years in real estate, you are the most difficult, manipulative, maddening client I’ve ever had, and I have no intention of shaking your hand. Actually, I hope I never see again.” Then I look at his wife and ask, “Can you explain to me why you are married to this guy?” He was so shocked he didn’t even take offense. His parents should have smacked him down early on, as I imagine he’d been getting away with his ill behavior his whole life.

For 36 years I’ve represented a 1,000-and-some clients, family, and friends in the valley and surrounding area buy and sell their homes, investment properties, and land—and driven close to 200,000 miles doing just that. Out of that populace, there are only three sellers who I can recall that I hope not to ever come across again: one shameless liar, one pain-in-the-ass malcontent (the above Mr. Mobilehome), and one certifiable whack job. Not a bad track record considering the numbers.

Yes, there have been other difficult people, problem properties, and a few agents I’ve had to work with who should consider doing something they’re good at, but on the whole, I’ve enjoyed, am grateful for, and made friends with the majority of whom I’ve helped open and close doors in this valley and beyond. To them, I say, “thank you.’ To the others, I quote from an old movie, “bye Felicia.”

P.S. Want to know my tagline on my real estate website? “Come to me for direction.” Now, how poetic is that?

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