Real Estate Lessons in Movies: Closing Escrow (2007)

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You'd be forgiven if, while watching Closing Escrow, you thought you were watching a documentary instead of an actual feature film. This award-winning independent comedy takes a look at the lives of three married couples and their real estate agents during their search for the perfect home. Filmed in the same style as some of your favourite reality television shows (live-action and pre-filmed interview segments), this film convincingly portrays the struggle between buyer and seller when it comes to presenting and purchasing real estate property. What are the buyers looking for? What kind of property would best suit their needs? Does the agent fully comprehend the importance of keeping within their client's budget? And, something we can all relate to, how do homeowners cope with the incessant train of people walking through their homes during a showing or open house?

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Tom (Andrew Friedman) and his wife, Dawn (Patty Wortham), are looking for their dream property. Tom is a gentle, timid, somewhat weedy man who left his first wife to marry the whimsical, sometimes genuinely frightening possessed hippie Dawn. When we meet this couple, they are living in Tom's old house, which he shared with his previous wife. Dawn insists that they find a place of their own, free from the shackles of Tom's "past mistakes." The two of them hire real estate agent Richard (Ryan Smith) who employs the following strategy to keep purchasing prices down for his clients: carry a chainsaw with you to all home showings and begin destroying walls and floors, countertops, and mantelpieces in the hopes that the existing homeowners will cut $50,000 off their asking price. Despite his clients' horror, Richard stands by his unique method of price reduction and wreaks havoc in every listed home he visits with Tom and Dawn.

Bobby (Cedric Yarbrough) and his wife, Tamika (April Barnett), currently occupying a small apartment in the city, are on the hunt for a trendy, upmarket downtown loft that will both impress their lawyer friends and allow the two of them to spread out and live among high-vaulted ceilings and industrial-style building features. They hire elitist realtor Hillary (Wendi McLendon-Covey) to find them their perfect city abode but stress that, despite how financially successful the two of them are, they have a budget in mind and would very much like to stick to it. Hillary automatically sees dollar signs and begins taking Bobby and Tamika to beautiful, spacious city lofts that are lovely, but that the couple cannot afford. Hillary is driven to make a sale, but things go horribly wrong when Bobby and Tamika reveal that they are expecting a baby. Because of the new addition to the family, the couple's plans for a home have changed. The couple are now looking for a charming house in suburbia, the bane of Hillary's existence. A happy camper she is not. Not only has her clients' budget gone down, but she will also have to begin showing them lifeless, generic bungalows located on plots of land so close together that you can see into your neighbours' houses just by gazing out your dining room windows.

closing escrow

Allen (Rob Brownstein) is a successful accountant and his wife, Mary (Colleen Crabtree), is an avid scrapbooker. They have one pre-teen daughter and are looking for a larger home to raise their little family in. Upon first glance, Allen is quite unassuming and content with his lot in life. But when he hires neighbour Peter (Bruce Thomas) as his and his wife's realtor and begins spending more and more time with him, Allen begins coveting everything Peter has — from electronically controlled home lighting to the customized dance room Peter built for his daughter in an upstairs spare bedroom. It is beginning to look impossible for Peter to find Allen and Mary the home of their dreams because Allen keeps changing his mind about what he wants. First he wants a pool, then he wants a bigger lawn, a customized dance room just like his neighbour has, a bigger floor plan, and perhaps even a sewing and crafts room for his beloved wife. Real estate agent Peter cannot keep up and finally explains to Allen that, if he cannot stick to one plan, he and Mary will never find their next home.

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The final third of the film brings all three couples and their realtors together when they casually meet at an open house. If you're a realtor or an experienced buyer and homeowner yourself, I bet you know what's coming next! Yes, you guessed it. After a long and fruitless search, all three couples are interested in submitting an offer for the home they're all currently traipsing through. Automatically, the audience understands that because there are three couples bidding on the same home, each one will have to offer more than the asking price in order to gain a foothold and come out the victors. Yes, we understand that, but the characters in the film have a harder time coming to terms with the fact that not only will they have to go over their set budget, but that someone else has their eye on what has become their dream home.

The situation quickly grows tense and the audience is left wondering who will ultimately win the property. If I said the film's final frames weren't anxiety-inducing, I'd be lying. It's no wonder I ruined my pristine manicure while sitting through the last twenty minutes of Closing Escrow. I couldn't stop biting my nails! Don't worry; I'm not about to spoil the ending for you here. I'd much rather have you watch it and see how it all unfolds in real time yourself.

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Real estate wisdom hidden between the lines

There are many lessons to learn watching Closing Escrow. Despite its comedic take on the real estate business, its subject matter is still depicted in a fairly realistic light. Yes, it's hilarious and uproariously funny and you'll occasionally find yourself wiping tears of laughter from your eyes, but it's important to keep in mind what we all can learn from a film like this one.

Realtors know all too well the struggle of finding the perfect homes for their clients and the non-stop hard work that goes into each and every deal. Buyers can be an indecisive bunch and it's essentially up to the real estate agent to assuage their clients' doubts and convince them that the right house is, indeed, out there just waiting for people like them. The real estate market is a competitive one and prices are fairly high at the moment, making for all kinds of trouble and second guesses. If you have clients that are continuously changing their minds like Allen and Mary do, or if you have clients who require a drastic last-minute change like Bobby and Tamika when they become pregnant, you have to keep on your toes, adjust your marketing plans, and adapt to the situation in order to make that sale.

Hiring a real estate agent and actively engaging in the cut-throat housing market can seem quite intimidating for a great many buyers, and this is when mistakes are made. As a buyer, you either go way over budget or you settle for a property that you later realize doesn't suit your tastes or lifestyle at all. It's important to know what you're looking for ahead of time, even before you hire a realtor. Sit down and make a list of the things you are looking for, set a definite budget, and research areas that you feel would be the perfect match for you. Once you have everything on paper and set in your mind, then you can begin looking for a real estate agent. Once you find one, don't deviate from your plan. Follow through and make your wishes known, and before you know it, he or she will have found you the perfect place for you to call home!

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