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And now for something completely different

The Brits sell blunt honesty, a mortuary goes condo, and then there's the 'bullet-proof' agent.

January 07, 2007|Mary Umberger | Chicago Tribune

Sure, 2006 was full of "real" real estate news -- home sales sagging, builders' stock plummeting, people offering everything from Hummers to free college tuition to sell their homes.

But the fringes of real estate were chock-full of their own kind of news. Some of my favorites:

* A British real estate agent who said he was sick of the glowing euphemisms too often used in real estate ads decided it was time to be bluntly honest.

He chose to describe some homes as "grubby, cramped and dirty" or "having all the charm and poise of a vicar on crack" or "suitable for the Addams Family." In one ad, he wrote, "It's difficult to imagine a more disgusting house than this."

Julian Bending of Somerset told local news media that his blunt approach had been well-received and that would-be clients thanked him for his honesty.

The BBC asked the local archdiocese if its vicars had been offended by the ads, and they were not, apparently. But one local newspaper finally banned his ads when they started to include sexual innuendo. Bending said he would take his colorful ads elsewhere, thank you very much.

* Richard Jezierski, a retired police officer, ran for City Council in South St. Paul, Minn., in November on the "ugly houses" platform. That is, he believes that every American has a right to keep an ugly house -- or a boat on the lawn or a gravel driveway instead of a city-mandated asphalt one. He opposes the overly aggressive enforcement of ordinances that regulate the appearance of private property.

"If you're not creating a safety hazard or health hazard or conflicting with your neighbors' rights, then leave them alone and let them do what they want," he told Brian Bonner of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "They've got a right to have an ugly house."

Of the 16,488 votes cast in his district, Jezierski got 2,772, finishing fifth in a field of five.

* The mad scramble to convert apartments and non-residential buildings into condos finally slowed last year, but not before a developer decided to convert a former Boulder, Colo., mortuary into six living units.

But the company faced that age-old challenge: What to do about the unhappy energy that undoubtedly still clung to the funeral home? So it hired a group called Ceremonies for Sacred Living to dance, chant and clang its way through the 84-year-old structure, urging the sadness within its walls to go somewhere else.

* Finally, this: A North Carolina real estate agent who was shot three times while showing houses decided to announce to the world that she was back on the job by attaching magnets that had been made to look like bullet holes to the side of her car. She changed her signs to read, "Need a bullet-proof agent?"

On her website, agent Kathleen Yaggi says with considerable understatement: "I am quite familiar with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of this area's real estate market."

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