Kirkus Reviews QR Code
OPEN HOUSE! by Joey Sheehan


An Insider's Tour Of The Secret World Of Residential Real Estate For Agents, Sellers, And Buyers

by Joey Sheehan

Pub Date: May 13th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-64704-329-2
Publisher: Canterbury Books

A veteran real estate agent shares stories and lessons from her career.

In this professional memoir, Sheehan, the author of Wang Kuo-Wei: An Intellectual Biography(1986), recounts tales from her years in residential real estate—her second profession, following an academic career focused on Chinese history. The stories in this book range from the mundane to the absurd to the heartwarming, and Sheehan uses them to explain her overall philosophy of real estate success and also to counsel readers who may be considering the purchase or sale of a house themselves. The book explores the challenge of being both a salesperson and a therapist for some clients, the difficulties involved in bringing all parties together for an agreement, and the satisfaction of developing one’s knowledge and skills over the course of many years. The clients in these stories, who are fully anonymized, represent a wide variety of personalities, motivations, and financial situations. Her fellow realtors are variously portrayed as allies, opponents, or merely marking time until retirement, and Sheehan makes it clear that she has little patience for those who don’t share her sense of ethics and professional responsibility. But although some of the tales here focus on bad behavior, the book never takes a salacious or gossipy tone, and Sheehan's evident sympathy for her clients—even when their indecisiveness and capriciousness cost her time and money—turns even the most outrageous accounts into object lessons.

Sheehan is a proficient storyteller, and she turns her tales of last-minute negotiations, questionable septic systems, and stubbornly overpriced fixer-uppers into high drama: “I had never seen fungus on an interior wall before,” she notes at one point, “much less redfungus.” The book is informative as well as entertaining, and readers will come away with solid knowledge about home inspections and contingencies, purchase and sale agreements, and the intricacies of setting a correct price when a property enters the market. Buying or selling a home is as much an emotional transaction as a financial one, and Sheehan gives full weight to the significance of the process for all parties involved. She also displays a soft spot for the houses themselves, arguing that a buyer or seller may be wrong about a place’s worth, but the house itself is never at fault. The author’s repeated references to the prestigiousness of various properties can be grating; one, for instance, is described as being “on Crestview Lane, one of my sales region’s most desirable addresses,” and several others are noted as being “upscale” or “luxury” homes. However, these descriptors can also be taken as evidence of Sheehan’s clear pride in her work. The book’s tone also tends toward the extravagant (“Aside from a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, is there anything more beautiful than this?”), but it generally avoids melodrama and makes for a fast-paced and enjoyable read. Overall, she manages to turn even the most difficult parts of the real estate process into good stories.

A skillfully written and emotionally engaging account of buying and selling houses.