Black Diamond Real Estate

Because we are a small firm by design, we are personally involved in every step of the buying and selling process, from listings to showings and from contracts to closings. When you have any questions, you deal directly with us.

Housekeeping: Spiraling Out of Control

Housekeeping is not an issue in determining a home’s value, as long as the home appears to be in reasonably good condition and not in need of immediate repairs.Here’s another interesting story about a request I received to appraise a home in Greenway Park in Graham, the neighborhood behind the Graham High School Football Stadium. Great I thought, this neighborhood typically has lots of homes that turn over every year and they are pretty much all the same size. Measuring and finding plenty of comparable sales to choose from should be easy. In other words, these are the type homes appraisers love to appraise since they can be completed fast! After accepting the appraisal assignment, I scheduled an appointment with the homeowner and off I went. When I arrived at the home, no one came to the door. I had driven to Graham and had been stood up, which rarely happens to an appraiser since the homeowner has a vested interest in having their home appraised.

When I got back to the office, I called the lender who contacted the homeowner. The lender then called me back a couple of hours later saying that the homeowner was sick and for me to reschedule the appointment. Per the lender’s request, I rescheduled the appointment and went back out to the home the next day. When I arrived, I rang the doorbell and the owner greeted me with the front door partially cracked open. Although her demeanor seemed strange, she told me she had been sick and was sorry she was not able to come to the door the day before. Oh well I thought, at least I hadn’t been stood up again, so I proceeded to measure the exterior of her home.

After finishing up with measuring, I went back to the front door and rang the doorbell again. Same thing happened, the owner spoke to me with the front door partially cracked open, except this time she said she didn’t want me to come inside. I advised her that an interior walk-through was required by the lender in order to refinance her home. Reluctantly she obliged to letting me in, but not before warning me that her home was a mess. I was thinking, yeah-yeah, how messy can it be, I’ve seen countless homes that were less than tidy and clean.

As she opened the door, I immediately discovered why I had been stood up and why she did not want me to come inside her home. I had just walked into a hoarder house, exactly the type home one sees on the TV show Buried Alive, and this was before the show came out. I was speechless and didn’t know what to think, other than I had to see the rest of the home. There was literally stuff stacked throughout the house and all over the place and the only way to go from one room to the next was through a landfill like path. The entire house was filthy and looked like a disaster, to say the least.

After finishing the walk-through, I immediately called my supervising boss asking him what the heck to do. He calmly asked, as best I could tell, how did the exterior of the home look as well as the interior walls and floors? I advised that there did not appear to be anything structurally wrong with the home, that it had good curb appeal with it being a brick ranch, and that it was located in a pretty good neighborhood. He then asked if all the trash was removed from the home, did I think the home would be in reasonably good condition? After carefully considering this question, which seemed like forever, I finally decided that I thought it was in good condition. In response, he said something I’ll never forget, that housekeeping is not a factor in determining the home’s value, if the structure itself is not in need of immediate repair. In other words, unless there were visible and observable red flag issues such as holes in the walls, floors, roof, etc., housekeeping was a non-issue.

I wish I could say this story has a happy ending, but the truth is I don’t know. The sad part is this woman had lost her mother three months earlier and had gotten hooked on prescription pills. She had quit going to work and her life was spiraling out of control. I don’t know if the lender was able to refinance her home or not, but it looked like to me that foreclosure on her home, which she had inherited from her mother, would be inevitable if she didn’t turn her life around fast. At first it was hard to wrap my head around appraising her home, but I had a job to do for my client who was trying to help her, so I completed the appraisal assignment having learned that housekeeping is not an issue in determining a home’s value, as long as the home appears to be in reasonably good condition and not in need of immediate repairs. Having said this, if I had observed that the home was in need of significant immediate repairs, then it would have been necessary for me to have made an appropriate monetary condition adjustment in arriving at my final opinion of value.

If you are ready to buy or sell, call Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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Seller Sabotage

Gas stove burner In the Spring of 2017, I helped a nice young lady sell her home in Mebane. She had recently broken up with her boyfriend, had taken out a restraining order against him, and decided to sell her home and leave town. When I listed her home just before Spring, she had already moved out. The market was good and we had a number of showings. Some of the showing feedback received mentioned a strong pet odor type smell. This seemed odd since the home was vacant, clean, and had hardwood floors. We just thought that these couple of showing agents had very sensitive allergies since she did have a dog when she lived there.

About a week later, the weather turned cold and the showing feedback was the heat would not come on and was not working. The seller had an HVAC technician come out and when he took the outside over off the unit he discovered that someone had put a dead fish in the duct. He even took a picture of it and sent it to us. The seller felt for sure her ex-boyfriend had done it since he had been stalking her, but of course, she could not prove it.

A police report was filed for the incident. Unfortunately, about one week after that, we received showing feedback that her home did not have a kitchen range as shown in the MLS pictures. Someone had broken into the home and stolen it. The police were called out again and another police report was filed.

The seller suspected the ex-boyfriend had stolen it out of retaliation, but none of the neighbors had seen anyone removing the range from her home. The agent that brought the missing range to our attention got the home under contract with her buyer. As a closing condition, the buyer specifically picked out the range they wanted the seller to buy, which she did. This buyer ended up terminating the contract adding more insult to injury. Fortunately, another buyer soon came along and we finally got her home sold.

I had heard stories about these types of things happening to other people and had even seen some similar incidents happen on TV, but I never imagined it happening to one of my sellers. It just goes to show that you will see almost anything imaginable happen in real estate the longer one is in this business.

If you are ready to buy or sell, call Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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Three Mentors

Three girls eating cotton candyI don’t believe that life’s journey is meant to be a solitary endeavor in whatever one’s chosen line of work is. Mentors serve as great role models by helping us grow and making life more meaningful. I am no expert to this age-old concept. Aside from my family’s support and guidance, there are three real estate mentors/educators that played an important role in my life in terms of influencing me, from them leading by example, to persevere and succeed in opening and running my real estate appraisal business and real estate firm.

My first mentor was Dan Mohr, who at the time was the owner and lead instructor of Dan Mohr Real Estate Schools. Dan was one of the hardest working men I have ever worked directly under (and tallest, towering at 6’7”). His father was an Army drill instructor who helped write their training manual a number of years ago. Dan followed in his father’s military footsteps by attending a military school, The Citadel. While at the Citadel Dan played on the basketball team with Pat Conroy. When I was working at Dan’s real estate school, Pat was writing a book about their senior year called “Losing Season”. While manning the phones Pat would often call in and ask to speak to Dan about his recollections of the season, coach, and teammates. It was a unique experience talking to Pat and listening to him crack a few jokes about Dan, as only Pat could do. As a student and employee of Dan’s, I hung onto every word of advice he offered. He was dead serious but once you got to know him, he had a wonderful sense of humor. To this day, Mary Staton and I, run our real estate business like Dan ran his school, as a husband and wife team. The one thing that stuck with me about Dan was his business/life philosophy, “Whatever it Takes”. Dan literally did whatever it took to succeed and I’m lucky to have had the privilege of learning and working under him.

Prior to going to work for Dan Mohr, I enrolled in the real estate broker courses at Alamance Community College (ACC), since Dan was not offering them at the time I needed to take them. My expectations about the quality of instruction at ACC were not very high since Dan had established such a high bar of excellence in real estate education. Boy was I surprised how wrong I was and quickly realized during my first broker course how fortunate I was to have another master real estate instructor in the late great Everett Mogul. Everett’s teaching style was totally different from Dan’s. Dan was more of a hard nose dig it out of the book kind of guy, while Everett had the gift of helping his students more easily understand a comprehensive and often complex subject matter. Everett had a wonderful sense of humor too. When it came to the wording of a test question’s fairness (which were often designed to trick you or create doubt or confusion in your mind), his standard response was that “life’s not fair, the fair is in Raleigh. It has cotton candy and all kinds of good stuff, they even have someone who will guess your weight”. In regard to reading the course material, he liked to tell his students, “If you have indoor plumbing, take it with you”. From a classroom lecture point of view, it was a sight to see. The real estate course 500+ page book that he taught from was so worn from use that the hard-bound cover had come apart. He would walk around the classroom holding his tattered book like a minister talking about various topics and reciting sentences and page numbers from having memorized them. Everett made learning fun. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, Everett did not show up to teach one morning and the class was dismissed. I found out the next day that he had died of a heart attack. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to have known and studied under Everett. He was one of Alamance County’s finest walking, talking, real estate encyclopedias. Although his life was cut short, his legacy lives on.

After Everett’s passing, I finished up my broker courses with Dan Mohr and ended up going to work for him shortly thereafter. While employed there, I decided to enroll in the Residential Real Estate Appraisal courses (R-1, R-2, & R-3). Upon completion of these courses I needed one more required appraisal course, G-1 (one of three courses required to be a commercial appraiser), to become eligible to take the residential real estate appraisal exam. As was the case before, Dan was not offering the commercial appraisal course at the time. As a result, I found the course being offered in Raleigh by the owner/instructor, Archibald “Baldy” Williams, of Triangle Appraisal & Real Estate School. While it was not as convenient to commute to Raleigh, it ended up being another blessing in disguise to learn under Baldy and get to know him. Baldy is from Wilson and never graduated from high school since he was recruited to play football for Carolina (yes, hard to believe but back then you apparently didn’t have to have a high school diploma, and yes, that was back in the day when they wore leather football helmets, and he has a scar on his forehead to prove it). Baldy is another master real estate instructor with real-world experience having been in the construction business (both residential and commercial), an appraiser, the former owner of a mortgage broker company - Atlantic Mortgage, and the current owner of an appraisal management portal company. He is hands down the best storytelling instructor I have ever had the pleasure to listen to, informative and funny. One funny story I recall Baldy telling in class one day was when he was a little boy he rode his pony into the local hardware store and it pooped on the floor. While his story was unrelated to real estate, he recognized the importance of not taking oneself too seriously and having a sense of humor. To this day Baldy is politically connected with the North Carolina Appraisal Board, the Appraisal Institute, and the North Carolina Professional Appraiser’s Coalition. I am blessed to know Baldy, he is more than a mentor, he’s a friend and a class act.

Yes, mentors no doubt play a very important role in all our lives. Why not take some time today to reflect and give thanks to some of the mentors that have had a positive influence in your life?

If you are ready to buy or sell, call Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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274 Hits

Client Golf

Two guys standing on a beautiful green golf courseA number of years ago I arranged a golf game at Alamance Country Club with my appraiser training supervisor, and the owner of a leading mortgage brokerage company here in Burlington at the time. The mortgage broker company owner who was a member invited another member to play, and I brought my boss as a guest. The game was set so we decided to play a friendly $5 Nassau to make things more interesting. My boss was from Kinston and grew up playing some golf with his older brother at Kinston Country Club, but rarely played once he settled down with his wife and in his appraisal career. I, on the other hand, went through periods of playing and not playing and had just gotten back into playing again. The mortgage brokerage owner didn’t play much but was a decent golfer and his partner played regularly. It seemed like a perfect and fair match in the making even though we had never played with or against each other.

I don’t remember all the details of the match, but what I do remember, however, is my boss who had played so little at the time and was hitting 2 iron tee shots flying about 240 yards straight down the middle of just about every fairway. He even birdied the first par three and played well on the holes I didn’t. It was the proverbial perfect brother-in-law display of golf between us. Our opponents played competitively on the front side, but we whipped them pretty good on the first 9-hole match. Recognizing that my boss and I were playing well, the dilemma we faced was to essentially throw the match and let our client and his partner start winning some holes on the second nine hole match, or to keep finding out how good we could play right up to finish. Being young in our early thirties at the time, we of course chose to keep playing as good as we could. The second match was similar to the first one and we ended up winning the front side, backside, and overall match, and $15.

The price of winning didn’t come without a cost, however. While our mortgage brokerage client didn’t stop ordering appraisals from us, we did notice a slight decline in volume over the next couple of months and we never played golf together again. If my boss and I had to do it all over again, we would have just played for fun instead of playing them in a match play game for money. Looking back 18 years later we now laugh about it and wonder what the heck we were thinking.

If you are ready to buy or sell, call Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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Two Pigs in a Trailer

Is it safe for to walk through a home with two pigs in the house?I wanted to share a funny story that happened to me when I was first getting started in the appraisal business. On this particular day, I received an order to appraise a double wide home located in Eli Whitney, a township situated at the crossroads of HWY 87 South and Greensboro-Chapel Hill Rd, in southern Alamance County, known for its annual “Uncle Eli’s Quilting Party” and home to the late great real estate instructor Everette Mogul. I was looking forward to this assignment since I enjoyed driving all over Alamance County and visiting places like Lake Cammack, Glencoe Mill Village, Bass Mountain, Saxapahaw, and Snow Camp, as well as other picturesque tranquil settings located throughout the county. As an added bonus, I was happy to be appraising a double-wide since it took less time to appraise, and paid the same amount of money as most larger homes did which was the typical $300 at the time.

When I arrived at the home midday, I did the same thing I always did, greeted the homeowner at the front door and then proceeded to measure the exterior. Within about ten minutes I finished sketching the dwelling and jotting down my measurements, so it was now time for me to do an interior walk-through of the home, to certify that I had been inside and that it was in good condition. When the homeowner opened the door to let me in, the first thing I noticed was that she had her stereo cranked up, was drinking a margarita, and dancing in the middle of her living room with two full-grown pigs by her side – I kid you not! As if this was not a sight to see in and of itself, I was totally taken back (to say the least), when she then asked me if I wanted to party? Pausing for a split second to collect my thoughts as to what the heck was happening before my eyes, I instinctively and politely said no thank you, and asked if it was safe for me to walk through her home with her two pigs in the house? She said not to worry that they were her pets and friendly animals.

Having grown up a city boy in Country Club Forest and never been around a pig that wasn’t fenced in, I proceeded with caution to complete my walk-through while keeping a close eye on the two pigs, got the heck out of there as quickly as possible, and went back to my office to complete the appraisal report.

If you are ready to buy or sell, call Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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Wee Doggie!

Here’s another funny story going back to my days at Mill Creek. One of the little things I enjoyed was driving across town through Burlington and Haw River on Church St./HWY 70 to work in Mebane.  

On this particular day, it was hot so I decided to stop off at the Little General convenience store before turning onto Dodson Rd. to take the back way by Eastern Alamance to Mill Creek. Wearing my coat and tie, I jumped out of the car, got a drink and walked up to the counter to pay. Behind the counter was a young girl sitting in an upholstered rocking chair watching tv, with her mother tending the cash register.

The little girl looked up at me and said Wee Doggie! At that moment, I thought that was a strange thing for her to say but paid for my drink, got in my car, and went on my way. After pulling out of the convenience store parking lot it dawned on me that she was commenting in her own country way about how I was dressed, saying exactly what Jed Clampett would say, Wee Doggie!

Reflecting on the moment, it made me smile and laugh. I still pass by the little General in my travels to Mebane from time to time and still think about that moment, but I haven’t stopped in since. I may stop in again sometime just for the heck of it, but if and when I do, I can assure you I won’t be wearing a coat and tie to attract any unwanted attention.

If you are ready to buy or sell, call Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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Jackpot

Hands on pile of moneyBeing in real estate sales you often never know who your next buyer is going to be or where they are going to come from.  As fate would have it, a Chapel Hill Realtor who sold one of my listings in Mebane last year referred a buyer to me looking to buy a home in Burlington.  Not knowing the particulars of the buyer, other than they were a cash buyer, I referred him to Mary Staton since I was busy working another deal.

After accepting the referral, we discovered that our buyer came into a large source of cash by winning the North Carolina lottery.  After showing him several homes, we finally found the perfect one which he bought for his parents. Using the left-over money, he bought a new car for himself and put the rest into savings. When the sale closed, we paid a referral fee to the referring agent and couldn’t help thinking how mysterious this business can sometimes be.   

 If you are ready to buy or sell, call  Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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You Can’t Sell A House If Your Spouse Doesn’t Sign

One morning when I was first getting started in real estate sales, I received a call from an older retired man looking to get his home appraised.  I asked what the purpose of the appraisal was for since there are different types of appraisal assignments that can affect an appraiser’s opinion of value.  He advised that he was interested in an appraisal for sale purpose. I let him know I could help sell his home, but if I did, I would not be able to appraise it since it would be a conflict of interest.  The owner decided that since I was an appraiser, a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) performed by me would serve his interest just as well as an appraisal since he wanted to sell.  

After pulling and reviewing copies of the tax record and deed, a listing appointment was scheduled and I went out the next day to meet with him.  Upon arriving I covered Working With Agents with him and he proceeded to let me know why he wanted to sell.  As it turned out, he had purchased the home for his son to live in while the son looked after him.  The only problem was his son didn’t want to move back to Burlington so my client was moving to Texas to live with him.  He further explained that he was tired of living alone after his wife took him for half of everything he owned. I listened with empathy and promised I would do everything I could to help him sell his home for the best possible price so he could make the move to Texas and be with his son.  

After the second week his home was on the market, it was placed under contract with a financially qualified young couple.  Approximately four weeks later we met the buyers for the first time at the closing table. The first question out of the attorney’s mouth to my seller was, are you still married?  I was thinking this was just a formality and how could this man be married after explicitly telling me about how he had been taken for half of everything he owned? Then he replied yes he was still married.  

After hearing his answer my jaw dropped and I looked across the table at the young couple and their agent, looking at me as if they had just seen a ghost.  We were all taken aback and speechless, except for the attorney. The attorney asked if his wife was still in town to which the seller replied she was. He then asked if he had her phone number and that if he called her, did he see any reason why she would object to coming in to sign the deed?  To which he replied I don’t think so. As good luck and fate would have it, the attorney was able to reach his wife and fifteen minutes later she came in to sign the deed.  

After the closing successfully ended, I asked the attorney how he knew my seller was still married since the public records showed that my seller was the sole owner of record.  The attorney said that he handled the closing of the home when my seller bought it and knew he was married. My seller assumed that since he bought the home without his wife, that it was his to sell without her.  After hearing my seller’s sad story about being left by his wife and that he was the sole owner of record, It never crossed my mind to ask the magic question of whether or not he was still married. After this close encounter, I no longer assume that someone isn’t married just because they have settled up and parted ways.

If you have any questions about what you will need for a home closing,or if you are ready to buy or sell, call  Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.  

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762 Hits

A Home For Large Dogs

This day started off like most any day when I was appraising full time.  I jumped into my Yukon 

XL with my clipboard, file folder, Sony Mavica disk camera, pencil, trusty 100’ tape measure, and drove to Mebane to appraise another home.

When I arrived at the home, the owner greeted me at the front door and invited me to come inside.  As with any homeowner, I advised that I would come inside to do a walkthrough, but the first thing I needed to do was measure the exterior of her home.

So off I went to check out the back of the house and as I turned the corner the first thing that caught my attention was a barking Pit Bull chained to a stake by a small and run down looking dog house.  Startled at first, I relaxed seeing that there was not a single blade of grass around the circumference of the stake, giving me peace of mind that I was out of harm's way from this territorial looking dog.

No sooner than just having turned my back to the dog to hook my tape measure onto the house, I see out of the corner of my eye this large dog charging at me, beyond his well-worn circular dirt path.  

A quick adrenaline rush came over me and in a split second, I dropped my clipboard, raised my tape measure in the right hand and prepared to hopefully strike the dog when he attacked me.  I was thinking, I’ve got one shot and it’s got to count.

Then all of a sudden and out of nowhere the dog, still running in full stride, veered directly off to my left to chase after the neighbor’s dog.

Hearing the loud barking dogs, the owner came out of her home and authoritatively rounded up her dog.  After securing her dog back to the stake she apologized and said that her dog had broken free from his collar again and that she had to buy him a new one about every six weeks.  

Vicious dog attack averted, thank God! 

If you are ready to buy or sell and you are looking for pet-friendly homes, call  Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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What’s In a Name?

How does one decide what name to choose when going out on their own to start a new business?  After all, it may be the easiest yet one of the most difficult decisions to make when starting a company.  I was faced with such a decision while in my late twenties with my parents supporting my decision to make a move from a career in credit and collections to real estate.  It all started when my wife and I bought our first investment property and formed a company named Black Diamond Capital, LLC. The name was suggested by my father because of my love and passion for snow skiing.  Not giving it a second thought, I agreed that the name was perfect. A few years later I went into the real estate appraisal profession and started my own appraisal company. A name change was in order but I didn’t want to drop the company name that my father came up with.  As a result, the new company was named Alamance Appraisals-Black Diamond Capital, LLC – DBA as Alamance Appraisals. Several years later when I opened up my own real estate firm, another name change was in order so the company was renamed to Alamance Appraisals-Black Diamond Real Estate, LLC. – DBA as Alamance Appraisals, and DBA as Black Diamond Real Estate.  

Now that you know the story behind the name Black Diamond Real Estate, what about my nickname, Bert, where did it come from and how did it stick?  Some forty years ago or so, when I was a kid, my parents hired George DeLoache to teach me how to play tennis and look after me and my brother when they were not home.  George was the best, not only did he teach me a lot about tennis, he even took me to his family’s outlet store, when it was located across the interstate, and gave me a Peter Frampton screen print t-shirt.  Simply put, George was cool and someone I very much looked up to. So being his sidekick, he one day out of the blue just started calling me Bert. I thought how creative and original, I now had my own identity since I was being called everything from Bob, to Rob, to Robert.  I didn’t know any Berts and my father goes by Bob, my cousin goes by Rob, and I felt being called Robert was just too long of a name. Being called Bert was perfect. Next thing I know, my best at the time, Bubba, started calling me Bert along with his parents and grandfather.  From there the nickname stuck and took off by the time I finished middle school. I’ll still answer to any of those names, but my friends call me Bert, and I go by Bert when I meet new people. 

If you are ready to buy or sell, call  Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.  

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Quicksand

Before I entered the appraisal profession I was a new home sales agent for Coldwell Banker HPW, Better Homes & Garden, representing John Wieland Homes, First Oakland Properties, and C. Richard Dobson Builders (now part of D.R. Horton) at Mill Creek Golf Club in Mebane.

One day while working in the C. Richard Dobson model home in The Park neighborhood, a middle-aged looking couple dropped in to tour the home.  They seemed impressed with the Mill Creek master-planned community development, and excited about buying a home there.

After touring the home, the husband decided to briskly walk the lot with his wife shadowing him from behind.  I decided to observe from a distance on the back patio giving them personal space to look around and discover the lay of the land on their own.

The husband, meticulously surveying the land, continued walking beyond the grassed backyard and onto the back end of the next door cleared lot, at the end of the cul-de-sac.  The next thing I know, I saw him walk right into a sandy looking quagmire, ankle-deep. Seemingly unfazed, he proceeded to take two more steps and was shin-deep, then another two steps and found himself thigh deep.  In just a matter of seconds be for things had gone from bad to worse. I was stunned and speechless as I looked on in disbelief at what was unfolding before my very own eyes. It was as if I was watching an old western movie where the good guy was being swallowed up in quicksand.  Nothing in real estate school or new agent training had prepared me for what to do in such a situation.

Determined, the man mustered with all his might and strength to somehow slowly trudge through it all and walk his way out of this sinkhole to freedom.  As he made his way back to the house, I made sure he was ok and saw that both pant legs were heavily covered in this quicksand looking slop. Thinking quickly I remembered that the home had a garden hose used for watering bushes that were hooked up to the front side of the house and I sprang into action to hose him down as best I could.

The man and his wife then quietly walked down the driveway, got in their car, and drove off.  I never heard from or saw them again and twenty-two years later I still can’t help but wonder where they ended up settling down.  

If you are ready to buy or sell, call  Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.  

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