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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

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?



Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.



Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?


At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.



Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

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