A State Over Real Estate

My friends and family know that I move a lot. And, I mean, a lot. In the past year alone, I’ve moved three times: into a place in Valencia, Spain; out of that place and into a different one; and I moved my stuff out of storage and into an apartment in Cardiff, Wales. I have dreams in which there is somewhere I have forgotten about.

And yet I really live in Manhattan, New York. Weird, right?

I always say that the two happiest days of my life are the days I move into somewhere new, and the day I move out of the old. When I see a removal van on the street, I am filled with longing and a little bit of envy: wanting to be that person who has the joy of unwrapping carefully packaged goods, often with an element of surprise when something turns up you thought you’d lost or thrown out years ago.

I’ve reviewed countless numbers of TV shows relating to property; I shout at the screen when yet another couple on aplaceinthesun.com have wasted an hour of my life, deciding, after viewing five properties, that they will return “in the future” (ie never) and go home to “discuss it with the family.”

They won’t. They’ll leap onto that easyjet.com flight, grateful to channel4.com for providing them with a free holiday, and thank their lucky stars that they don’t have to up sticks and move to whatever hellhole Jasmine has shown them for their ridiculously tiny budget of £30,000 (“We thought we’d get something bigger for our money”).

They always begin with such optimism. “Can you see yourselves sitting here with a glass of wine?” “Ooh yes, definitely; watching the world go by.”

I hate that phrase. Why do you want to watch the world go by? Get off your fat lazy backside and be part of it.

When I was looking for a foreign property to buy a couple of years ago, I applied to the show but never heard back. I suspect they don’t really want people to buy anywhere at all, as they might become embroiled in paperwork they could well do without.

But anyway, I’m happy with rentals now and, during lockdown, decided to study to become a realtor. It’s one of the few jobs I’ve always really wanted to do, and the US shows Million Dollar Listing (my favorites are New York and Los Angeles) bravotv.com fueled my obsession.

So, I paid my $99 for the 75-hour online course with realestateu.official.academy and began.

Blimey, it was tough. I learned more about the well and drainage systems in New York than I ever thought I would need to know in a lifetime. I became adept at doing sums involving NOI (Net Operating Income – keep up!), capital gains and percentages. I sat for hours taking instruction from lawyers who looked in the first stages of rigor mortis, boring me senseless about liens.

Hang on: I thought it was a simple case of “D’you like this house? Great, sign on the dotted line; here are the keys.”

It took me 10 months to complete the course, not least because the lessons don’t allow you to move onto the next one until you’ve successfully completed the first and all its tests; and also,  I was doing other things – my job (writing about TV for dailymail.co.uk), broadcasting cookery “shows” on my YouTube channel (Jaci’s  Box), setting up this website, and learning Spanish.

On the day of the exam, I confess to having been in a bit of a state. You have to put your bag in a cupboard and go into a room with just a calculator and then wade through the questions on a computer.

Not having sat an exam in 42 years, I’d forgotten the terror of feeling at the mercy of a system. My anxiety escalated when the mouse of the computer started playing up. I work with just a left click mouse on a mac.com; this was a double click mouse and I kept hitting the wrong side and bringing up what looked like a NASA program.

The system tells you immediately whether you’ve passed (you’re allowed just two fails, otherwise you have to do start the 75 hours from scratch); praise be, I did. I felt very proud.

But next I’d face the State exam, which meant a ton load more studying. I read books, did practise exams, studied for hours and hours and was sure I had it nailed by the time I arrived at the exam site.

The stress I had before the first exam was nothing compared to the second, when mounting hysteria almost gave way to a full-blown panic attack.

“You’ll need one of these,” yelled the woman guarding the door, brandishing what looked to me like a pen. Phew. I had my pen. Two, in fact. I also had my calculator, and I’d obeyed the instruction not to bring a large bag with me. I am nothing if not obedient.

“Stand back!” came the cry of the Gestapo guard when my toe edged an inch closer to the door. I swear, if she’d been the officer in Sophie’s Choice, she’d have taken both those kids away.

I finally sat down, only to face a sheet with loads of tiny circles and the instruction to use an HB2 pencil. Where the hell was I going to get one of those? I spotted a container, risked the wrath of the guard again, and took my seat. Oh, no! What exam number was this? I didn’t know, so went up to the registration desk to ask.

“SIT DOWN! came the cry. Jeez, I wasn’t told off this much in my entire school career.

Then the exam paper came, and we were told to start. Well, it might as well have been in Russian for all the sense it made to me. Nothing bore the remotest resemblance to anything I had studied. Then, I discovered I’d filled in some of the little circles on the registration page incorrectly, with a tick, instead of coloring them in with the damned HB2 pencil.

I started to decipher the question, hoping that within them was a nugget of something comprehensible.

At the end, I went over my answers and reckoned I’d got 10 correct, 26 at a push, 42 at a real push. You needed 53 out of 75 (70%) to pass. They give you 90 minutes to complete the exam; I was out of there in 40, just grateful to make my escape. I saw no point in going over my answers again; quite clearly, re-reading them wasn’t going to have them make any more sense.

I left, sure in the knowledge that I hadn’t passed and went into a three-day depression, feeling an abject failure, not just at real estate but life.

I checked the access site obsessively for the result and, on Tuesday morning, there it was: Pass.

Reader, I celebrated. My next task is to find a sponsoring broker and, hopefully, a new career beckons.

I am already on the case and will let you know how it goes.

And if anyone asks me for an HB2 pencil, I’ll tell them where they can stick it.