From A Pet Situation To A Celebrity Encounter In Luxury Real Estate With LA Jolla’s Top Agent, Pete Middleton

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From A Pet Situation To A Celebrity Encounter In Luxury Real Estate With LA Jolla’s Top Agent, Pete Middleton

A hawk and rabbit situation. A trippy house. A visit with a kid. All of these and more count for all the fun and interesting stories Pete Middleton is going to bring to the table in today's show. Pete and the Middleton Team are one of the top five most successful teams in luxury real estate in the San Diego areas of LA Jolla, Del Mar, Rancho, and Santa Fe. He joins Valerie Fitzgerald and Bob Hurwitz to share with us some of the memorable experiences he'd had in his career. He talks about a celebrity encounter that had him reflect on dealing with people, finding what benefits them and agents, and coming to a conclusion on what is best. Follow along to this episode to hear more of Pete's great escapades.


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From A Pet Situation To A Celebrity Encounter In Luxury Real Estate With LA Jolla’s Top Agent, Pete Middleton

You're going to want to pay real close attention to this one. Pete Middleton is our guest. Pete and the Middleton Team are one of the top five most successful teams in luxury real estate in the San Diego areas of La Jolla, Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe. They transacted 117 transactions in 2020. That's incredible. Pete and I have been colleagues and friends for many years. Hey, Pete.

Hey, Valerie. You caught me right when I was taking a sip but thanks for having me on.

It's great to have you and this show is very different than any other show or podcast. We're all about looking behind the curtain at what occurs in the business not the bogus scripted shows or any of that. Whatever you got, it's okay. If it's funny, bring it on. Great to have you here. I do have a question. I went to San Diego State and I'm curious about what's happening with the market down there. What crazy stuff have you had?

I sold a house where people have bought it at the end of February 2021. It's a funny story. You guys know there are all types of different stories. A lot of time, Valerie and I sit there and laugh for hours, telling stories back and forth and these people are super nice. They reached out to us. We sold them the house, they bought the house and they were happy. Everything was going well. A few months later, they called us and said, "Can we get together?" I said, "Sure. What's going on?" They said, "We're not happy." I said, "I want you to be happy. We'll come over."

We went over and I said, "I want to understand and listen to you. Share with me why you're not happy." They said, "We've been here a few months. We don't know if this is our scene. We're going to move back out to Orange County." I said, "Okay. I don't mean to come across the wrong way but can I ask you another question?" They said, "Yeah." I said, "What's the real reason?"

They looked at me as if I was crazy and they said, "Our cats aren't happy." I said, "Excuse me?" They said, "Our cats aren't happy." I said, "Please expand on." They said, "Come with me." They took me outside on the deck off of the kitchen and they said, "The cats typically sunbathed on the deck." I said, "I get that. I understand. I love animals. I love pets. There are kids basically." I said, "I get it." They said, "If the cats aren't happy, we're not happy." I understand.

I said, "Why are they not happy?" She said, "Look up." I looked up and there were two hawks flying around the deck that were on this canyon. I said, "I can see why that would make them unhappy." She said, "We don't know what else to do." I said, "Maybe we should go get some crows because hawks don't like crows. Crows don't like hawks."

They said, "Are you serious?" I said, "Yes. Think about that. That's a solution. I focus on solutions, not problems." I said, "Let's think about it. Call me back." They said, "We're going to sell it." I said, "Great." I put it on the market. We sold it. We closed it for over $5.9 million. That's five months. The turnaround was $4.65 million to $5.9 million but it was triggered by the cats.

I remember sitting with my right-hand assistant and we were tabling how to market this property, what the target market would be and so forth. We're in the middle of it and I looked at her and go, "I'm going to leave." She said, "You don't have anything on your schedule. Where the hell are you going? We're in the middle of mapping out all the marketing."

I said, "I'm going to run down to one of the shops." She said, "What shop are you going to go to? What do you need?" I said, "I'm going to go down to the pet shop." She said, "What are you doing there?" I said, "I'm going to buy a bunch of hawks. I'm going to have my own aviary." Every time these people move, I'm going to release the hawks. We’re going to keep reselling the property. She goes, "You're insane. This is crazy." That was the one that caught me off guard but it was funny. There are a number of them that we've had in the past few years that are crazy situations.

That is a trip.

Did we talk about animals and kids before? We're all working parents. At some point, we probably had to regard kids with us to work like showings, meetings or open houses. Are there any unusual experiences you can recall that happened to bring your kids along?

When you're trying to get listings, always mimic the people.

I brought my kid who now works for me and crushes it. Ever since he was five years old, I used to take him to houses and I took him to this one house. It was a trippy house. It's the one I spoke about on a previous podcast where the person faked their own murder to get out of the deal but it had a train that ran around the house around a tennis court. It had all these different water elements. I was afraid I was showing the house and I thought my kid because he's only maybe 3 or 4 fall into one of these dangerous elements of the house. It is weird sometimes when you bring your kid along but that could be good.

A quick segue. When I went to Panama to interview on this huge project on a man-made island in Panama, I flew there and then I had my son who was probably about fourteen at the time, meet me over there because we were going to go spearfishing and free diving after I had the meeting. I didn't know what to do with him. I keep him in the hotel. The head of this company is family-oriented, "Bring your kid to the meeting." Here I am with this big board of directors and my son, I presented the whole project and got the project. He's a good luck charm.

I could tell you a quick one. My daughter was little. It was a hot summer and I had to take her with me because I had no babysitter. There were five lawyers at my client's house. They're looking at buying a big building at that time on Wilshire Boulevard and this deal would have helped me because I was starting out and struggling.

I took her and we're sitting there and all of a sudden, she falls in the pool. I dive in the pool, closed at all with my suede shoes, blazer and the whole thing. I pick her up and try to distract her so she's not crying, scared and afraid. The horror of five lawyers standing there looking at me, standing in full soaking wet. I got out of the pool and I had to end up finishing the meeting and my client's son's boxer shorts and t-shirt.

That would have been a much better story if he would have stripped down on her clothes and leave on the floor.

It was boxer shorts and a T-shirt. That wasn’t bad enough but the things we do with kids.

There are a lot of things that you do with kids. It's crazy. It circles back. I got a great one for you guys. This is another pet story. I'm moving away from the kids back to the past. My father taught me growing up when you're trying to get listings to mimic the people. We've all learned that. A lot of it has to do with NeuroLinguistic Programming, NLP and all these other things that you mimic. New sound and so forth because it affects the projects. I remember early on in my career when I was down here in San Diego, I was called to come out to list a townhouse near the Pacific Beach. This guy is a great guy and he calls me and he says, "Can you come down?" I said, "Sure. No problem."

I show up. This guy is a shorter guy and extremely intelligent. He had a Master's from Harvard and undergrad from Harvard. He had an MBA from Harvard. This guy's name was Max. he’s a great guy and has been a client of mine for 23 years. I walked in and we're talking about his place. In the middle of it, he says, "Can we go outside for a little bit?" I said, "Are you going to show me the patio or what?" He said, "No. I got to take my pet for a walk."

I go downstairs and I'm waiting for him. He's very sensitive about everything. He doesn't like people in his house and we're going over things. He shows up downstairs with a rabbit. It's a rabbit on a leash. We go on the bayside on the sand and he takes the rabbit off the leash and we're walking. The rabbit is on the sand. I started asking questions. "What's the rabbit's name?" He said, "The rabbit's name is Jimmy." I said, "That's interesting." He goes, "It was interesting until I figured out that Jimmy is a girl rabbit."

I stop. He's very serious. I said, "Max, can I ask you a question? Are you ever nervous about the rabbit running away from you and hopping away? She could hop all the way down the beach. You let her off the leash.” He goes, "No, Pete. She doesn't get that much traction. That's why I put her on the sand. One time she tried to hop towards the water but I beat her to the water first.” He put her back on the leash. We go back inside and we're up there and he said, "Let's talk about my place selling it." He puts the rabbit away and its cage. I said, "Sure, no problem." He said, "I don't want anybody in the house."

I go, "How do we sell it?" He said, "The only way I'll permit somebody in the house if they're fully qualified, they're fully approved for a loan and you've run a background check for them." I said, "That's going to limit the people to see your house." While he's talking to me, he does these pauses and I swear, I thought he was having some conniption or something. He would talk and he would say, "When I'm selling the house, how would we show the house if people will not buy different information."

I'm sitting there and I'm trying not to laugh and he's asking me these pointed questions. I said, "The way that we show the house and ask for their information is I'll reach out to their approved lender and get pre-approval." He's looking at me dead serious and he goes, "I like that sound. You get what I'm saying." I said, "Yes." He said, "Can you go over the contract with me?" I'm thinking, "This contract is fifteen pages long. I may not get out of here until next week."

RERL 9 | Luxury Real Estate

Luxury Real Estate: The average age in the west side for sales is probably easily in the sixties.

I paused and we worked through the contract. He paused 9,000 other times and went to me and he goes, "You're the first realtor who gets me. You even sound like me when you're talking." I said, "Really? Max, we're going to sell your house.” He goes, "I know." We sold the house. The full circle of that story is I sold the house. I sold them another house and he called me one day said, "I have to ask you a question." I said, "Yes." He said, "Do you know any attorneys?"

I said, "What do you mean a criminal? Did someone break in your house?" He said, "I was on the road." I said, "Excuse me?" He said, "Yes. My neighbor is watching. When I came back and I saw her in the freezer. I'm trying to figure out, should I do an autopsy and look into this because I think she might've been killed on purpose." I said, "I don't know how you pursue the criminal case on a rabbit. You think it’s a male rabbit but it's a female rabbit. Did they put them in the freezer?" He said, "She’s perfectly frozen because they knew I'd be upset and they didn't want to discard the rabbit without me being home." I said, "That was considerate." He goes, "I'm trying to figure out my next step." I said, "I don't know what direction you're going but I'm sure you can find somebody. Let me know how it turns out."

That's a classic story.

That is wild. Have you had any unusual requests from buyers or sellers?

Max is one of the most unusual ones.

It's hard to chop that.

Let me see what other unusual requests I've had. I'm going through my database.

How about funny things that have happened at showings?

I got a great one. I was down at the beach one time and I'm showing this property. This is a quick one. We go through this property. It's right on the beach. I say to my client, "You have to check out the rooftop deck. It's unbelievable." We go up to the rooftop deck and the wind blows the door shut. This guy is looking at a $4 million townhouse on the beach and he had met me. We're out there and we're looking. I go over to open the door and it’s locked and nobody is in the house. It's completely vacant. I'm going, "This is a trip." It's not near any other places. It's very secluded. This guy says like, "The deck looks great.” I was like, “You've got to look at this."

I'm trying to buy time and trying to figure itself. What do I do? All of a sudden, I looked over the edge. We're looking over the edge and I'm showing them different parts of the neighborhood, the parks, the water, all the amenities and everything. This woman came up to the house next door and it was far away. I yelled at her, she looked up and she says to me, "I don't speak English. I speak Spanish.” This guy is looking at me saying, "Why are you talking to this woman? You're showing me the house." I said, "Hold on." I switched to Spanish and I said to her, "Can you do me a favor? Come through the front door of this house. I give you permission and you have to come up and unlock the door because I'm stuck on the roof. I had no way of getting back."

He goes, "You’re an Irish guy from Boston. You are pretty good in Spanish." I said, "It comes in handy all the time." I said, "I was asking her, what does she charge they claim a house like this if she can come in and give us an estimate because I think you should buy the house. We can then set up all the people you need." He goes, "That's a brilliant idea. You're thinking I have the time." She comes up, she unlocks it as she moves through so I started speaking to her and I say, "Meet my client. He's going to be the new owner. What would you charge for him to clean this house?" She pointed at me, "Dumb fox." I said in Spanish, "Do me a favor, give me some quote." He ended up buying the house but I got stuck on the roof and I panicked. I go, "How the hell am I going to get off?” I'm 35 feet up in the air. That's what happened. That was a weird showing.

Our job isn't to be driving people around. It's to help them come to the decision that benefits them and us.

It would have been ugly if she was not a housekeeper but some rich owner of the place next door.

That’s unbelievable.

That's thinking fast on your feet.

I asked her, I said, "What are you doing?" She said, “I’m going right on to me.” I said, "That's awesome." That one was a weird one. I had a few back East when I first started real estate because I sold real estate at a place called Brockton, Mass and Brockton is the City of Champions. That's where Marvin Hagler and Rocky Marciano are from. It's a very tough city. It is twenty miles South of Boston. It was the shoe capital of the world at one point.

All the shoe factories were there. When all the shoe manufacturing went overseas, the whole city collapsed. It’s a very tough city. A lot of immigrants and a lot of different things. I remember when I was first starting off for real estate, I had my first showing and this woman was a part-time nurse. She said, "I can only meet you at 8:30 at night at the office." I said, "Sure."

She met me at this office and she said, "Line up some houses and let's go see them." I set the scene. It's January and South Boston is around 4 feet of snow all over the place and ice everywhere. She bowls up in a big van with these two guys. The two guys look like they're in the Hells Angels. He comes in. I'm 21. I looked like the paperboy. They come in. They smell like pot. They open up the doors. It's like Spicoli getting out of the van and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. All this smoke comes out. She comes in and she says, "What have you lined up for me?" I show her the four places. I said, "We're got to go because you guys are late. We got to stay on track."

I said, "Follow me to the first house." I'm driving in a Jeep Cherokee in 1885 and they're following me in the van. We come up to the stoplight, a tough part of the time and we got to go left. There's a car across from me. Nobody else, it's snow, it's icy and everything. The light turns green. I do what any good Massachusetts driver does. I darted to the left and take the left. I say, "They're following me. I got to make sure I don't lose them. They don't know where the hell they're going." I looked in the rear-view mirror. They go to take the left, the guy across, the fluorescent smashes right into the van. It’s the very first showing of all the time.

I pulled up to the side of the road. I go, "They going to kill this guy." I get out. I start running to them. It's all ice. I'm trying to keep my balance. It's crazy. I run up to them. The two guys get out of the van and I see the 75-year-old guy in his car rolling up his window as fast as humanly possible. They start rocking his car and smashing the windows saying, "We're going to kill you." I ran over and I said, "We got to get going. We got to be late to this appointment. We're not going to be able to see the house." I said, "The guy is going to have a heart attack. They're going get you for attempted murder. You got to get moving." One guy says the other guy, "I'm on probation. We can't stick around him."

The old man is shaken. He can't even talk. I said, "Hop in the van. Let's go." We go over to the house. We come up to the house. It’s the very first house, vacant and no lights on. I go to walk up the stairs. The stairs have 3 inches of ice on them. I'm going up there. I'm carrying all my stuff with me with a flashlight and they're behind me. I slip off the top step. I go flying back down the stairs.

It’s my first showing up, I'm pop up, I'm all bruised, I jump up, I opened the door and all the pipes had exploded in the house. The whole house was like a skating rink. They look at me, they go, "This is the house you want us to buy it?" I go, "I didn't anticipate this. I have three more. Let's go." I said, "Now you have only three options to buy from." One is out. You're not going to buy the one with broken pipes and that night, I sold the house to the three people. I didn't even know their relationship.

That's amazing. You stayed in real estate after that experience on the first showing.

It's crazy stuff. That was one of my first showings.

RERL 9 | Luxury Real Estate

Luxury Real Estate: Some people will have something in their house that seems like it's a benefit, but it's only a benefit to them.

It's funny because you're down in San Diego and some of the most bizarre showings I had were a house I was selling down in La Jolla. It was a Wallace Cunningham and it was called The Razor. Right about Black's Beach. I sold it to the original builder. It was interesting. I'd show this property and I swear at least half a dozen times, there would be a huge argument between a husband and a wife about the property.

The husband is always wanted to get the property and the wife is, "Our kids will be killed," because it's a dangerous house. It was a strange thing. I'm sure we've all experienced this but where you've got these people getting aggro with each other and you got to take a step back. It’s either be a peacemaker or let them do their thing. That was pretty bizarre. To this day, I still get people emailing me going, "That is the Iron Man house." I go, "It isn't. That was a CGI thing in a movie." "It's the Iron Man house." I said, "Iron Man wasn't even out when this thing was being built." It's pretty funny. That's a unique property over there for sure.

I've been on the property. It's not the Iron Man house but it looks like it. The interesting thing is I don't know if you're aware of this but they shot a Visa Black commercial there, which was phenomenal. Ultimately, the guy that bought it, I don't know if he bought it off the builder. I think he bought it during the foreclosure of it.

That's when I had it listed.

This guy bought it and he fixed it up. He added some things. I met Wallace over there and he designed some different elements and then they sold it. They ended up selling it to Alicia Keys.

When I first got the listing on that property, I get this call from the guy that built it, who was a brilliant guy. He made his money by designing all of the mathematical stuff for banks but that was years ago. He spent $34 million. I saw the bills on the property. I'll never forget because I had a meeting with him. There was so much traffic coming from LA.

I was a single person in my car and I was going on the diamond lane 80 miles an hour and everybody else was at a stop. I figured the cops weren't going to be on the road either because there was dead traffic. I met him and I'm going to the house. There was a CFO on the property but the kitchen wasn't completely done and he had this big radius window, which I have on my place on the beach.

It was distorted when I looked at the window. I said, "What's with this window? He goes, "It's a structural glass. It's a new technology." I said, "Whatever it is, it needs to be fixed." You've got this view of Black's Beach and as well as the people flying by on their ultra-lights. The bottom line is that property, I had a $30 million offer in the first 2 or 3 weeks I had the listing and he turned it down. It was a French guy, as I recall but he ultimately went into foreclosure, bankruptcy and sold it to the guy then eventually sold it to Alicia Keys. It wasn't done when I sold it.

That's what I heard and it's a dynamite house. It’s 11,000 square feet, above class and infinity-edge pool. It's an architectural masterpiece but can also be an architectural nightmare. Heating and cooling that house and it gets haunted by the elements.

The Black Card commercial was a great commercial for us. Calvin Klein got a good commercial there. I remember talking to Wallace about the house and the way they made the house was unbelievable. It’s like a ship. His personality is very much copacetic with what I am too. He’s like, “Have fun doing it.”

You have to because it's a crazy business. You've got to have fun. The problem is I'm a Bostonian competing with all these people here who've been here for 70 years. I said to him, "You got to love this farm." We're at this top producer's meeting, this was a while back and they're all sometimes egotistical. They're all in there and talking about different things and they said something about their production.

If you're a good talker, you can make a lot of money. But if you shut up and listen, you'll really make a lot of money.

I said, "You guys are never going to beat me." They looked at me and they said, "What are you talking about? We already beat you. We beat you pretty much every year." I said, "I'm not talking about production. I'm not talking about what you did last year. That's your ego. I'm not talking about what are you going to do this year. That's your pride. I'm talking about right now but I'm making that statement because you are never going to beat me."

They're all looking at me going, "What are you talking about? Do you have a screw loose?" One guy is from the East and he doesn't get it. I said, "You don't get it. Here's the deal. The youngest person here is 64 years old. The oldest person is 83. I'm 51. All you good people are going to die before me so you're never going to beat me. I'm going to outlive you unless you run me over or something happens."

One of the guys that had dialect and he goes, "Did you say that?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "I go listen. I love all of you guys. I respect you. You work hard and you're great. We have great relationships. I'm joking around with you. I think it's funny when you have to look at it in a different perspective." Their reaction was funny. It was priceless. I wish I had a camera at that point to catch their reaction to it.

There are a lot of dinosaurs everywhere down in San Diego.

It’s the same thing here, Bob. Don't you see? I had dinner with someone. It's interesting because the Rap Guys spent $70 million on a house that I sold a few years ago for $21 million. They had completely redone it and tricked it out. It was a make-me-move price. We were talking about the average age probably in the Westside for sales. It’s probably easier in the 60s because there's that whole group that is in their 70s and even early 80s which is wild.

I have a quick question for you and Bob. Have you ever had famous people that you've sold houses to that have had odd requests or things that had to be a certain way like dealing with their handlers or anything funny with their personalities or how they approached seeing the houses or buying the houses?

I had a house that was up on Oak Pass. This is all public information so it's okay that I mentioned that. It was Mark Wahlberg's house and he had an airplane hangar that was a gym. It was the most incredible thing I've ever seen. He had a real life-size boxing ring in it. The doors opened up like a garage hangar door and then you had the full basketball court. He had the Boston Celtics emblem right there in the middle of the court.

It was the full-on sports thing. A lot of buyers, interestingly enough, weren't drawn to that. They did not see the advantage of that. The ultimate buyer did but a lot of celebrities did look at that and felt it was too much over the top. Celebrities tend to want certain specific things. Of course, privacy. We know that. Bob, you still do a gazillion celebrities as well.

People are weird. One guy was the manager for Axl Rose. He was trying to sell his house and he was burying a statue. That didn't work. One thing Valerie said is true. Some people will have something in their house that seems like it's a benefit but it's only a benefit to them. They think it's great but who else needs that weird thing? We run into everything. Pete basically said it. It's like, "You've got to be a chameleon. Our job is to get the deal done." Everybody benefits when the deal closes.

I tell the story, I said, “I've never yet had anybody upset because they bought a house. They're only upset if they lost the house to somebody else.” Our job is not to show the property. When I first got in the business, my dad owned a real estate company. If I went out and showed a property and I came back without a deal, he'd go, "Are you a chauffeur or are you a salesman?" Our job isn't to be driving people around. It's to help them come to the decision that benefits them and us. We do have to not get our egos involved, see where they're coming from and then answer their questions appropriately to bring everybody together.

I completely agree. That's why you have to be very tactful with asking them questions and listening to what they want so you can match it up. We're matchmakers. We need to know the inventory, match it up to and then ask for the order because most people freeze or get caught up in things. Bob, when you were talking about that, I have a listing here in La Jolla. It’s a beautiful house. This guy owned it from Arizona.

RERL 9 | Luxury Real Estate

Luxury Real Estate: You have to listen to truly and authentically understand, not listening to interrupt or say what you want to say.

He’s a great guy and an older guy. He had a much younger second wife. She was from South of the border and she was very nice but she didn't want to sell the house. He did. He was trying to get his assets out of California. He kept up the house. It was a second home for them. He said, "Pete, I've maybe spent twenty days in this house in 2020.”

It was costing them a fortune to keep it and so forth. I was the third realtor brought in to selling this house. I remember speaking with him when he was trying to decide to give me the listing and he told me the story about when he bought it, he was in San Diego on his yacht. He didn't like how the yacht felt at night, sleeping on the yacht.

A friend of his said, "I may have an opportunity to La Jolla. You may want to look at it. Being from Arizona, you got to sleep on the boat. It's close enough to the Marina and you can check it out." He said, "Better yet. I'll get it where you can stay there for the weekend. If you like it, we'll buy it." It was like a test run and that's what made this go off.

He ended up buying it. They ended up fixing up the house and doing a ton of work. There were a lot of stories in between there. However, he called me and said, "I need to sell the house. I'm getting out of California. I've been trying to sell it.” We had it on for $19 million, $17 million, $15 million. All these people made all these promises that Hollywood people would come down and all this nonsense.

He said, "I'm never getting any traction. I've only had a few showings and it's irritating me." I said, "Have you had any offers?" He said, "I offer it for $10 million. They didn't take it. Spend on the market now around two and a half years. You have your work cut out for you.” I said, "Have you had any recent appraise?"

He said, "Yeah. I had an appraisal two months ago. They told me it was worth $11.9 million.” I said, "Dynamite. $11.9 million." He said, "Yeah." I said, "Give me the name of the guy." He said, "Who?" I said, "The appraiser." He said, "Why?" I said, "He wants to buy the house." He goes, "No. What are you talking about? He did the appraisal." I said, "He's an appraiser. It's not in the market. He's trying to give you what he thinks it’s worth. If he's not buying the house, it doesn't matter. What it's worth is what somebody is willing to pay you."

He said, "What should be the price?" I said, "We should be priced at $9.9 million." I said, "To be honest with you, the house is only worth probably around $7.5 million to $8 million." He goes, "You got to be kidding me. I bought it several years ago for $7.2 million." I said, "It's got a ton of deferred maintenance. It's a very unique house. It has a lot of ins and outs that people are going to have to address. People want places like this with 10,000 square feet on 3 acres, completely done."

He said, "I'm sick of it. Price it at $9.9 million." We priced it at $9.9 million. I have 64 showings. I'm up there every day showing all the time. The wife comes in one day and says, "What the hell are you doing?" I said, "I'm selling the house. I'm Pete." She said, "I don’t care who you are. I'm not selling my house. What do you ever price that?" I said, "$9.9 million." She goes, "I have a friend who pays us $13 million." I said, "Send them over. I'll talk to him." The guy comes in and he's like, "I'm getting money from Saudi Arabia. I'm getting money from the Sheik in Asia. I'm getting this." I said, "How much money do you have?" He says, "I have no money but I’m telling you the truth. I'm going to get this."

I said, "Okay." I go back and I called the guy in Arizona. He's hilarious. I call him up and I said, "How are you doing?" He goes, "I'm doing good. How did it turn out with our little friend?" I didn't know, at this point, they were going through a divorce. I said, "The guy has no money." He goes, "Do you think that's an issue?" I said, "That's an issue. He goes he's getting money here. He's getting money there. He won't put in a righty. He wants you to carry all this." The guy says, "What do you think?" I said, "Are you sitting down?" He goes, "Yeah.” “Have you lost your mind? We got to sell to somebody else. The guy is not a buyer."

I go, "She doesn't want to sell the house." He goes, "Tell me about it. I deal with her every day, stress and crazy." I finally sold the house to a fantastic couple from Canada. They are great people. One of my favorite buyers ever. We're doing the home inspection. I call him, I say, "Rich, I'm going to be there doing the home inspection this day. I have all the paperwork. It’s already done. All I need is for your wife to sign it." He goes, "You're in luck. She's got to be at the house. I can't pin her down." I say, "Great." I'm at the home inspection at 7:00 in the morning. It's going to go until 6:00 at night in this huge house. I'm sitting there, she comes out and she says, "What are you doing here?"

I said, "We're doing the home inspection." She said, "I'm going back to bed. I'll be up at 10:00." I said, "I'm going to be here all day. Do whatever you need to do." She gets up at 10:00. She comes out. I said, "I need to sit with you. I talked to Rich. He wants me to go through all this stuff. He already signed it in Arizona. I need you to sign it." She said, "I have to run out."

Listen, not just let them talk. From there, you'll figure out what they need.

I said, "When will you be back?" She said, "I'll be back in a couple of hours." She goes, "What time are you going to be here?" I said, "6:00." She said, "I'll be back probably around 2:00. We'll go through it then I'll sign every file you got." 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 comes she's not there. My buyers show up and they said, "Do we have everything signed?" I said, "No. The woman who owns the house was going to sign it. She left and said she'll be back in a few hours but she never came back.”

They're like, "That's a problem." I said, "No. I'll get it done. I'm like the bounty hunter. I'll find her. It doesn't mean she can hide." I call her and I said, "I'm still here. If you want to meet at 7:00 or 8:00 at night, I can meet with you." She doesn't call me back. Do you know where she went? Cabo. I thought she was coming down the street. She flew to Cabo. I said, "What are you doing?" She said, "I'll be back in town on Tuesday."

I said, "There is no Tuesday. We got to get this sign now. You need to fly back or we have no deal." She goes, "I don't want to sell the house anyway." I said, "I'm going to have to call Rich," so I call Rich. Rich went through the roof. He said, "You got to be kidding me? She does it here all the time. She was all over the place. She doesn't want to sell it. She was trying to get more money from me. This is bullshit." He lays into her. She flies back in the next day. I meet with her. She signs everything. She started saying that we're selling it too cheap and all this stuff.

I call Rich and I said, "I got it done.” I told her, “I'm usually going to fly to Cabo. I know my way around and I'll find you. You got a sign it or you can fly here and sign it in front of me. We're going to have to get a notary and everything down there." She said, "I'll come back." I said, "I'm never going to stop bothering you until you sign this." Otherwise, I got to go back to Boston, shovel snow and I'm not doing that. Rich said to me, "I've never seen somebody so persistent in getting paperwork signed. I can't believe you pinned her down having to sign it," then she signed it. We get to the closing and she doesn't want to move out. We’re doing everything.

It was crazy. It kept going on but we finally closed it. It was a successful sale. We landed it. It was one of the biggest sales in La Jolla that year. It was one of the greatest buys ever in La Jolla. These people are so happy and grateful and Rich was thrilled. Rich said, “You got me the hell out of California.” That's what that reminded me of because we always have these times where we're chasing people and trying to get paperwork signed. Everybody hates it. It’s simple. We put a sign in the yard or we advertise it somewhere. We have a champagne toast so we go to dinner and that's it. There's way more to it.

Valerie and I discussed this before but the divorce situations or there's acrimony between the couple, that's where you have to be good at what you do and be able to listen. That's the number one thing. People, even my own agents, they'll say, "What is the key to being successful?" I said, "If you're a good talker, you can make a lot of money but if you shut up and listen, you'll make a lot of money." You have to basically listen, not just let them talk. From there, you'll figure out what they need. That's a tough situation. I've had similar. I'm sure Valerie has as well.

You have to listen to truly and authentically understand. You're not listening to interrupt or say what you want to say next. When you do that, people give you gold, you then can pivot and see where you need to go to get them to the finish line. A lot of people don't realize that. They're so busy telling people how good they are or about their story. When you're telling somebody else your story, you can't hear their story and that's the most important story.

RERL 9 | Luxury Real Estate

Luxury Real Estate: 99% of the money is made by 1% of the agents.

It's quite a juggle when you’re representing in a divorce both people because when I've represented people in divorces, they usually have separate agents and then we have to work it out with the other agent, which might make it a little easier than being in the middle in being the same agent for both couples. How about when they both still live in the house? One lives on one side of the house and one lives on the other side of the house and then you have to show it. We're navigating so many different things, personalities, issues, emotions, a lot of money involved most of the time and a lot of anger.

It's tough to navigate those things.

Even to their own detriment, when someone is acting in a manner that is against their best interests because of an emotional situation, that makes it difficult for us to do the job but people do think it's easy. Agents are like, "I'm going to get my license. I'll make this money." Good luck. Ninety-nine percent of the money is made by 1% of the agents. It's not easy. That's why dealing with good agents is absolutely the most important thing.

Speaking of Pete, he’s one of the best agents and my longtime friend. For a long time, he was an amazing guy, dad and a business person. A hundred and seventeen escrows in one year are a lot. It's amazing.

I wish I had your price range. This would be unbelievable.

Talking to you has been amazing. It's certainly made my day. I want to say that if any readers would like to comment or reach you, they can find you at is my website. They can follow me on Instagram @PeteKnowsRealEstate or on Facebook @PeteKnowsRealEstate.


Bob, we had a great talk with Pete, didn't we?

Pete was fantastic. That was good. You can tell he is a real-world deal-maker, very intelligent, articulate and he understands the business and the psychology involved. He was great. I'd love to do some deals with him and have him back on again because I'm sure he's got a litany of other stories.

He does. I find when you and I get together for lunch and we would laugh but I get together with Pete also, we would laugh about crazy stories and things. He's a perfect match for us here. Tune in for more exciting stories right here in the show. You’ll never know what will happen next.

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About Pete Middleton

The Pete Knows Real Estate team started when Pete moved to San Diego in 1992. He worked for RE/MAX for almost a decade and quickly became the number one agent in the company. Always looking for a new challenge, Middleton opened a Keller Williams in La Jolla in 2006. Following in his father’s footsteps and proudly bringing the family name out west, he later founded the luxury boutique brokerage, Middleton & Associates Real Estate.

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