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Opinion Editorials

Dumbest Real Estate Questions of the Year



dead canary

Yes, this is the time of year when we should have nothing but love in our hearts. But you all know me well by now: Take one shot of satire, mix with the greatest office tales one could ever gather, shake gently, and then serve straight up (followed by a few real martini chasers).  These are the best dumb real estate questions reported to me this year. Enjoy yourselves while I pour another martini – salud!

They Must Only Let You Out on Weekends

1) “The sellers did not disclose that the neighbor is a drunk, and he passed out on our front lawn. Can we sue the previous owner?” (Hmmm…let me check the drunk clause in your contract. Oh, here it is right here: It says, “You’re an idiot.”)

2) “Will the sellers be taking the septic with them?” ( Not unless they have S__t for Brains and are in the fertilizer business.)

3) “Can we put a window over the fireplace to increase the light?” (Great idea, and then you won’t have to pay for your dead canary to go to college…”

4) “Will the lender let us move in and then defer the mortgage payments until after we do some decorating?” (Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Whackadoodle – I’m sure your happiness is payment enough.)

5)  “Can I put up my Rolex as a good faith deposit?” (Certainly – why don’t you jump into the ‘ol VW bus and drive it over to the lender with an ounce of that pot you’ve been smoking?)

Home Features and Strange Creatures

6) “Does the garage come with the house?” (Yes, but that family room is going to cost you extra.)

7) “I thought a ‘Jack and Jill’ was slang for a ‘well.'” (No, it’s a Hollywood dating ritual wherein both parties drink too much and then roll down the hill and break their crowns (dental) in Paris Hilton’s backyard.)

8) “Are they taking the new wall-to-wall carpet with them?” (Yes. And the walls that hold it in place. The pad stays – hence the term, “I got a great new pad.”)

9) “Does ‘surround sound’ refer to the noise in the neighborhood?” (No, it refers to the voices in your head, my dear.)

10) “They said it has ‘armed patrol’  – so where does the guard stand?” ( “Armed Patrol” just means that the cops in the area all have arms…legs are optional.)

11) “Can you convince the noisy paparrzzi  at _____’s house across the street to go away?” Most certainly…as soon as you can convince famous athletes to keep their junk in the trunk.)

12) “It says Cary Grant once lived here. Who was he?” (He’s the guy who is buried in Grant’s tomb. He was our 62nd president. He originated the expression, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” in reference to a scandalous event wherein singer Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fell out of a canoe while crossing the Delaware and froze his cajones. President Cary Grant married singer Amy Grant. They gave birth to actor Hugh Grant and newspaperman Lou Grant. He also invented the fifty dollar bill so he would always be in your pocket like every other politician we know.

It’s a Baker’s Dozen!

13) “We don’t like the listing agent. Can you get rid of her and do the whole deal yourself?” (Shhh… don’t disturb me, my brilliant clients… I’m trying to figure out a way I can do this and stay out of the slammer. I’ll get back to you in 2010. Happy Holidays! )

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn,, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.

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  1. David Pylyp

    December 11, 2009 at 7:55 am

    We need to maintain our sense of Humor in this business.
    Thank you for your post

    To your continued success!

    David Pylyp
    Living in Toronto

  2. Lani Rosales

    December 11, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Number 12 should get a punch in the face for not knowing. They should get their citizenship pulled. There, I said it.

  3. Joshua Dorkin

    December 11, 2009 at 10:09 am

    It is rare that I find a real estate related post that gets me laughing out loud. Thanks for sharing all the wackiness that is the real estate biz, Gwen! I love it!

  4. Kevin B. Morrow

    December 11, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Love it – A blog post as sarcastic as mine. Too many Realtors have become a little too politically correct.

  5. Gwen Banta

    December 11, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Thank YOU, David. Be sure to send me some good material from beautiful Canada.

  6. Gwen Banta

    December 11, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I agree, Lani. I personally have been asked who Elizabeth Taylor is – I swear to God! Also: Frankie Avalon, Nancy Pelosi, Faye Dunaway, Quincy Jones, several of Saturday Night Live’s original prime time players, and Anne Bancroft. Hell, there’s even a song about Anne Bancroft (of sorts). Where would this world be without Mrs. Robinson? I think it’s because we have a lot of embryos with deep pockets who are purchasing homes in the Hollywood Hills. However, in the interest of fairness, I didn’t know who Ryan Cabrera was (stop laughing Stigliano) , nor did I know a few other of the bands popular with my younger musician clients. I am also clueless about that group of vampire cuties. There, I admitted it. But puh-leeze….Cary Grant!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Gwen Banta

    December 11, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Thank you, Joshua. I am just the messenger. If anyone reported on the dumb things I have been known to say, you’d be laughing for months!

  8. Paula Henry

    December 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    To end the year 2009 – I will say it out loud – I love Gwen Banta! Not like you think :), but it’s these wild wacky stories, told as only Gwen can, that makes the craziness of my day seem, well – “trivial”

    Gwen – can’t wait to see what 2010 brings for “tales from the RE World” All your tales combined would make a great coffee table book, or better yet and agent training manual. -Best

  9. Gwen Banta

    December 11, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Paula, You made my day! And I love you, too…and maybe in the way you think 🙂

  10. Gwen Banta

    December 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Love to you Tempe!

  11. Brittany Loan

    December 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Too funny! Thanks for the smart a** remarks- they are priceless.

  12. Portland Condo Auctions

    December 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Wow. Some people really need to think a little bit more before asking a question. Who would dig up and take their septic tank? I’m not particularly sentimental with mine.


  13. Gwen Banta

    December 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Hi Tyler, and hello to Portland. Perhaps the perp of that dumb question was thinking “spa.” I’ll try to give the benefit of the doubt. I am delighted to hear you are noit attached to yours. That would be sh_tty.

  14. Joe Loomer

    December 11, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Wasn’t Cary Grant’s dad that famous real estate mogul – Land Grant?

  15. Bonnie Lelak

    December 12, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    What a great laugh! Glad to see a great sense of humor about some of the things asked. I really like the one about the septic tank…

  16. Patrick Flynn

    December 12, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Gwen-Where do you get this stuff? I’m very interested in knowing what you know!

    Best wishes,


  17. Gwen Banta

    December 13, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Actually, Joe, Land Grant was Cary’s cousin. Cary’s real name was Archibald Leach. His father was Archibald Cox of Watergate prosecution fame, whom Nixon called a “slimy leach” (he couldn’t spell). Thus, the Cox family took on the name of “Leach” when they went into witness protection after Gordon Liddy threatened to cook their livers on a George Foreman grill. The change to Grant occured when Haldeman and Erlichman “grant-ed” them pardons and presented them with a dog named Checkers. (named such because the dog worked weekends as a coat checker.) That is the history wrap-up for the day. Tune in next week to hear how Kitt Carson, upon seeing his newly born son, yelled, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

  18. Gwen Banta

    December 13, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Bonnie, I liked that one, also. “Waste not, want not.”

  19. Gwen Banta

    December 13, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Just hang out with me, Pat – my life is, well, bizarre. My friends are nuts, too. Maybe it’s all a result of the Los Angeles water supply…

  20. Nashville Grant

    February 24, 2010 at 11:18 am

    How about this question that I got from a seller whose home had just miserably failed a home inspection: “Wow, I can’t believe that my house has that many problems. Do you think I could use the buyer’s earnest money to fix all of these problems?”

  21. embroidery stabiliser

    March 24, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Thank you for taking the time to write this!

  22. Gwen Banta

    March 24, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Grant, somehow this just got to my mailbox…and I am laughing hysterically – just can’t stop!!!

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Opinion Editorials

Ways to socialize safely during quarantine

(EDITORIAL) Months of isolation due to quarantine is causing loneliness for many, but joining virtual social groups from home may help fill the need for interaction.




Quarantining, sheltering in place, staying home. We’re tired of hearing it; we’re tired of doing it. Yet, it’s what we still need to be doing to stay safe for a while longer. All of this can be lonesome. As the days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the alone time is getting to even the most introverted among us.

Solitary confinement is considered one of the most psychologically damaging punishments a human can endure. The New Yorker reported on this in a 1992 study of prisoners in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, as well as Vietnam veterans who experienced isolation. These studies showed that prisoners who had experienced solitary confinement demonstrated similar brain activity to those who’d suffered a severe head injury, noting that “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.”

We aren’t meant to be solitary creatures. Your “pandemic brain” is real. That fogginess, the lack of productivity, can be attributed to many things, including anxiety, but being kept apart from other humans is a big part of it too. Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and join others virtually. Be it an app, a class, a Facebook group, a chat room, or a livestream, someone somewhere is out there waiting to connect with you too.

The good news? We are lucky enough to live in an era of near limitless ways to interact socially online. Sure, it is different, but it is something. It’s important. The best thing about this type of social interaction is being able to hone in on your specific interests, though I’d caution you against getting caught in an online echo chamber. Diversity of interests, personality, and opinion make for a richer experience, with opportunities for connecting and expanding your worldview.

Here are a few suggestions on ways to socialize while staying home and staying safe. Communicating with other humans is good for you, physically and mentally.

Interactive Livestreams on Twitch:

Twitch is best known as a streaming service for video game fans, but it offers multiple streams appealing to different interests. This is more than passive watching (although that is an option, too) as Twitch livestream channels also have chat rooms. Twitch is fun for people who like multi-tasking because the chat rooms for popular livestream channels can get busy with chatter.

While people watch the Twitch hosts play a video game, film a live podcast, make music or art, mix cocktails, or dance, they can comment on what they’re watching, make suggestions, ask questions, crack jokes, and get to know each other (by Twitch handle, so it is still as anonymous as you want it to be) in the chat room. The best hosts take time every so often to interact directly with the chat room questions and comments.

Many Twitch channels develop loyal followers who get to know each other, thus forming communities. I have participated in the Alamo Drafthouse Master Pancake movie mocks a few times because they are fun and local to Austin, where I live. Plus, in my non-quarantine life, I would go to Master Pancake shows live sometimes. The chat room feels familiar in a nice way. While watching online is free, you can (and totally should) tip them.

Online trivia in real time:

There are some good options for real-time online trivia, but I’m impressed with the NYC Trivia League’s model. They have trivia games online on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The NYC Trivia League seems to have figured out a good way to run the game live while keeping answers private from the other teams. They run games on Instagram Live with a live video of the host, and participants answer via the question feature. Clever!

Online book club:

First I have to shout out my Austin local independent bookstore, BookPeople, because they are fantastic. They run book clubs throughout the year, along with readings, book signings, and all things book-related. BookPeople hosts several online book clubs during these lockdown days, and most people will find something that appeals to them.

I’m also impressed with this list from Hugo House, a writer’s resource based out of Seattle. This list includes Instagram and Goodread book clubs, book clubs for Black women, rebels, and poetry lovers. The Financial Diet recommends the Reddit book club, if you are comfortable with the Reddit format. Please note that it’s a busy place, but if you like Reddit, you already know this.

Cooking class or virtual tasting:

This is doubly satisfying because you can follow these chefs in real time, and you end up with a meal. There are a couple on Instagram Live, such as The Culinistas or Chef Massimo Bottura.

You can also participate in virtual tastings for wine, whiskey, or chocolate, though you will have to buy the product to participate in the classes (usually held over Zoom or Facebook Live). If you are in Austin, Dallas, or Houston, I recommend BeenThere Locals. The cost of the course includes the wine, spirits, or cooking kit in most cases, and all of the money goes to the business and expert hosting the class.

Look for your favorite wine, spirits, cheese, chocolate makers, and chefs that are local to you to find a similar experience. Most either prepare the class kit for pickup or delivery within a local area.

Quarantine chat:

To interact with another quarantined person seeking social interaction, there’s Quarantine Chat. Quarantine chat is one of the ways to connect through the Dialup app, available on iOS and Android devices. Sign up to make and receive calls when you want to speak with someone. The Dialup app pairs you randomly with another person for a phone conversation, at a scheduled time, either with anyone or with someone with shared interests.

Quarantine chat takes it a step further with calls at random times. When your quarantine chat caller calls, you will not see their number (or they yours), only the “Quarantine Chat” caller ID. If you are unable to pick up when they call, they will be connected with someone else, so there is no pressure to answer. It’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, merely to talk about what you’ve been cooking or what hilarious thing your pet is doing.

Play Uno:

Uno Freak lets people set up games and play Uno online with friends or strangers. Players do not need to register or download anything to play. Uno Freak is web-based.

Talk to mental health professionals:

If your state of loneliness starts sliding toward depression, call someone you can speak to right away to talk over your concerns. When in doubt, call a trained professional! Here are a few resources:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET, 800-950-NAMI (6264) or
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to this text line 24/7 for someone to text with who will also be able to refer you to other resources: U.S. and Canada: 74174, U.K. 85258, Ireland: 50808.
  • Psych Central has put together this comprehensive list of crisis intervention specialists and ways to contact them immediately.

There are many ways to connect even though we are physically apart. These are just a few real time ways to interact with others online. If you want something a little more flesh and blood, take a walk around the block or even sit in a chair in front of where you live.

Wave at people from afar, and remember that we have lots of brilliant doctors and scientists working on a way out of this. Hang in there, buddy. I’m rooting for you. I’m rooting for all of us.

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Opinion Editorials

Working remotely: Will we ever go back? (Probably not)

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Now that the pandemic has opened the door on working remotely, there’s no way we’ll put the genie back in the bottle. But, here’s some ways you can adapt.



Woman working remotely on her couch with a laptop on her lap.

When it comes to working remotely, will the toothpaste ever go back in the tube?

Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale…” By 2030, Zuckerberg anticipates that over half of Facebook’s workforce will be remote. Many other companies are jumping on the work from home bandwagon. Working remotely has helped many businesses manage the pandemic crisis, but it’s unsure what form remote working will take over the next 10 years.

We know that employees are responding positively to WFH, as reported in this article – Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees. As offices transition to a post-COVID normal, here are some things to consider about your office and remote work.

What does your business gain from allowing workers to WFH?
The future of remote work depends on a conscious application of WFH. It’s not just as easy as moving employees out of the office to home. You have to set up a system to manage workers, wherever they are working. The companies with good WFH cultures have set up rules and metrics to know whether it’s working for their business. You’ll need to have technology and resources that let your teams work remotely.

Can your business achieve its goals through remote work?
The pandemic may have proved the WFH model, but is this model sustainable? There are dozens of benefits to remote work. You can hire a more diverse workforce. You may save money on office space. Employees respond well to remote work. You reduce your carbon emissions.

But that can’t be your only measure of whether remote work fits into your vision for your organization. You should be looking at how employees will work remotely, but you need to consider why employees work remotely.

The work paradigm is shifting – how will you adapt?
The work environment has shifted over the past century. Remote work is here to stay, but how it fits into your company should be based on more than what employees want. You will have to work closely with managers and HR to build the WFH infrastructure that grows with your organization to support your teams.

We don’t know exactly how remote work will change over the next decade, but we do know that the workplace is being reinvented. Don’t just jump in because everyone is doing it. Make an investment in developing your WFH plan.

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.




Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out. And even as we enter 2021, there is still more to be aware of – we’re not out of the woods yet.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note… So let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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