The Real Estate Agent
Lisa West looked up at the old house, with the “FOR SALE” sign stuck into the front lawn, displaying her smiling face. Red Grove Realty - Lisa West. It wasn’t likely to sell, she knew that. The family who currently owned it didn’t even live in Pennsylvania anymore. Lisa felt almost guilty that she hadn’t had any luck with it. The family told her not to worry; they didn’t expect it to sell either, given its history. They had all but given up.
Lisa straightened her blazer. She had finally found a couple who were interested in it last week. They were from the city, looking for a summer vacation house. Lisa knew this was her most important open house she’d hosted to date. From her brief conversations with the couple over the phone, she knew how wealthy they were. After going back and forth in her head many times, Lisa had decided against informing the couple of the history of the house. It felt wrong, but it wasn’t illegal, Lisa reminded herself. There was no chance the house would sell if they knew what happened. Lisa herself had been hesitant to take over the listing from her managing broker, but she was desperate for money. It had been a slow year, and she’d only managed to sell one other small house.
When she had been informed of what had occurred on the property (“A beautiful, 10-acre property, lakeside, including a private dock”), she had felt almost sick. She hadn’t been aware of the incident, given she was not originally from the neighboring town. It didn’t seem anyone in town was aware either, though. It had been nearly 40 years, she supposed. People move on. Plus, the house was so far out of town anyway, it wasn’t likely to be a common topic of conversation. Perhaps that was another reason it wouldn’t sell, Lisa thought, eyeing the gravel road that lead up to the garage. It was in the middle of nowhere.
She shuddered, even though the August sun was warm on her shoulders. Uncomfortably warm, she thought, as she straightened her blazer again compulsively. She wasn’t dressed for summer weather, but her unlucky year had meant she didn’t have the budget to buy new clothes, and this pantsuit was the nicest thing she owned. She wanted to impress this couple and dressing well was the first step. She decided to situate herself on the porch while she waited.
The house itself had been remodeled by the previous owners, in the hopes that it would raise the value. It did, a little, but that was all a moot point once it was clear there was something else causing the problem. They had already dipped below market value, in an attempt to get it sold faster. It hadn’t worked so far.
Lisa settled into the small porch swing. It creaked ominously as she sat down. She crossed and uncrossed her legs, repeating her practiced greeting in her head: Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Grant, it is a pleasure to meet you both in person. Let me show you around. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have.
Lisa jumped slightly when she heard the sound of an approaching vehicle on the gravel road. She stood up hurriedly and once again found herself straightening her jacket. She sighed deeply, in an attempt to calm herself. A lot was riding on this for her.
The car soon came around a bend in the driveway, a large shining black Audi. The sun glinted off the hood, momentarily blinding Lisa. She winced. The car parked in front of the garage, and the couple hopped out. They were fairly young, Lisa noticed. The woman was tall and slender, with long bleached blonde hair tied up in a sophisticated ponytail. The man was tall as well, but with a darker complexion and curly hair that was neatly slicked back. They both wore light linen clothes. Lisa could tell they were expensive.
She descended the steps of the house, clutching the railing. She blurted out her rehearsed greeting.
“Thank you so much for taking the time to show us around,” Mrs. Grant said sweetly. She extended her hand to shake Lisa’s.
“My pleasure,” Lisa said, feeling slightly more comfortable now.
“So, this is on 5 acres, is that right?” Mr. Grant asked, meandering around the front lawn.
“10, actually,” Lisa said eagerly.
Mr. Grant nodded approvingly. “That’s great. And it includes the lake, yes?”
“Well, yes,” Lisa said. “Nobody owns the lake, but you do have a private dock, as you can see. And I don’t believe there’s any other houses up here. Just empty property. It’s very private.”
The Grants nodded thoughtfully.
“Would you like to see inside?” Lisa asked.
Mr. and Mrs. Grant nodded eagerly. Lisa breathed a sigh of relief as she led them up the stairs.
She opened the front door. “As you can see, the house is newly remodeled,” she said, standing aside so they could go through. “And also, it still has the original stained glass in the front door,” she said, gesturing to the beautiful abstract glass. “We estimate it was put in around 1910.”
She showed them the kitchen, with its shiny new marble counters, which Mrs. Grant ooh’d and ah’d over.
“And as you can see, Mrs. Grant, there are all new appliances,” Lisa boasted.
“Oh, please, call me Natalie,” Mrs. Grant said, smiling warmly.
“Oh, yes, of course,” Lisa said. She worried she was laying it on too thick, but it did seem to be working. Maybe the house had finally found its new owners.
As she showed them the living room and basement, she laid off a bit. Not only because she wanted to give them their privacy to discuss everything, but also because the basement scared her. She had spent a few hours alone at the house, preparing it for visitors, and the basement was her least favorite room. There was something unsettling about it. Or maybe she was just projecting, since she knew the history. She wouldn’t have ever let it show, but she stayed at a safe distance.
As they toured the upstairs bedrooms, she overheard them discussing the ample space, and how it would be perfect for entertaining guests. She smiled to herself. She was glad she hadn’t disclosed the history now, regardless of her moral stance. What harm could it do? It was really just a stigma anyway.
After the tour, Lisa brought them back outside to show them the storage shed as well. “As you can see, this would be great for any tools or equipment you have,” she said. “And it has a generator, already hooked up in case of a power outage. It’s not common, but it’s good for emergencies.”
Lisa had shown enough houses to know when a couple was hesitant or deciding not to buy. The look she saw on Mr. and Mrs. Grant’s faces was clear: They were in love with the house and property.
“Well, take your time with deciding,” Lisa told them as they walked back to the car. “And don’t hesitate to give me a call if you have more questions.”
“We’ve already decided,” Mrs. Grant said cheerily. “We’d like to make an offer.”
Lisa couldn’t help but beam. “Great,” she said. “Then, if you wouldn’t mind meeting me back at my office in town, we can speak in more detail there.”
The Grants nodded emphatically.
As Lisa was locking up, she thought she heard something steadily thudding inside the house. Deciding it was her imagination, she stuffed the key in her pocket and rushed back to her car. As she pulled out of the driveway, she noticed an odd shape on the lake, like a strange glare off the water. She shook her head. She needed to get more sleep.