See. 211. A real estate broker should, if possible, locate on the ground floor, where people can walk in without effort, and where he can place his signs in the window or on the outside to attract attention. If he is in a large city, where there are building having elevators, he should locate in such building, as people, at the present time, will not walk to the second story if they can ride. One can begin, of course, with only a small desk and occupy space in an office at a cost of not exceeding $5.00 or $10.00 per month, and, in the real estate business, many men who now have finely furnished offices, began in this way. The size of the desk is no limit to the amount of business that can be transacted over it. Ordinarily, the broker cannot afford to incur heavy expense for office rentals until well established. In large cities, ground,floor offices are generally so.expensive in the way of rent that a large room, if devoted to the real estate business, is divided by the means of railings into spaces, and a number of persons occupy the same room. This is not always desirable, as among the tenants may be some unscrupulous fellow who will "butt in" when one is talking to a customer. The expense of telephone rentals is considerable, and this causes office men to herd together where they can use one 'phone, with extensions to several desks. On the whole, a real estate broker or firm will find that an office, or two or more connecting offices, in an up-to-date building, where light, heat and janitor service are included in the rentals, to be best adapted to the business, as, if the broker has the right kind of property at the right prices people will find him even though he be on the top floor.
Sec. 212. The furniture and furnishings should be in keeping with the character of the office and be pleasant and harmonious in effect. If a broker has not sufficient business to warrant him in employing a stenographer, he should procure, and learn to run, a typewriter, as, with a typewriter he can do more rapid and legible work than with a pen, and a typewritten letter is more modern and has a better effect.
Sec. 213. At the outset the broker should adopt some distinctive mark or sign in connection with his name, such as and this should appear on all his cards, letter heads and signboards, so that any one upon seeing the name and sign at a distance will instinctively say: "That's Baldwin's."
Sec. 214. Stationery should be of good quality and artistically printed. It is the broker's representative among persons who do not know him, and will make a good or bad impression as it is excellent or cheap.
Sec. 215. For listing property some brokers use simply an ordinary blank book. At the present time the vast majority of brokers use cards. These cards are of two kinds; one has both the description of the property and the contract of the owner as to commission and length of time the property is to be listed on one side of the card; the other form of card has the description on one side and agreement as to commissions, etc., on the reverse. The latter form has some advantages over the former, but costs more to print. The cards are arranged in a tray, alphabetically, either by names of owners or names of streets, etc., or by valuations. By the use of cards, listing is reduced to a system, but care must be taken to replace the cards where they belong or confusion results. One publisher furnishes for one dollar a loose-leaf listing outfit which is very convenient and practical. (See also Lesson V (Listing And Advertising), Listing and Advertising.)
Sec. 216. As soon as a business has assumed any magnitude, it is well to arrange the cards according to whether the property is in the city or in the country, and the following is suggested as a suitable classification:
CITY. Business, semi-business, lots, houses and lots.
COUNTRY. Suburban, beach or sea shore, ranch and farm, groves and orchards, mining.
BUSINESS CHANCES. Bakeries, cigar stands, laundries, lodging houses, restaurants, etc.
Houses for rent, rooms for rent, furnished and unfurnished.
Houses and lots can be arranged by prices, and separated by guide cards indicating the price.
Sec. 217. As to buying an interest in a firm already established, it may be said that the buyer should first investigate the matter very thoroughly. Any list of property which a firm may have is not of very great value unless verified anew. A partnership is often times an uncertain ship in which to sail. Each partner can contract debts in the name of the firm and each is liable for the entire debts of the firm. Tricky real estate firms have been known to sell one-half interests to three or more persons. In large cities some crooked individual engaged in the real estate business will advertise for a man to learn a paying business, and offer to take him in as a partner and teach him the business for $250 or $300. Two or three confederates are necessary to work the scheme successfully, and when the buyer appears in answer to the advertisement the advertiser seems to be very busy. He calls up his confederates on the 'phone, and they, in turn, call him up and big deals in real estate are discussed, and the large commissions which will accrue are brought out prominently. If the inquirer asks for references, he is referred to one or both of the confederates, who give the advertiser an excellent character. The advertiser declares that he is driven to death with business and cannot find time to sleep. Business looks good to the innocent victim and he invests. Shortly afterward the advertiser is called away and the victim is left alone and remains alone so much that he gets lonesome. The 'phone rings no more, and he finds that he has paid a high price for an ordinary roll-top desk and office rug.
Sec. 218. A real estate firm, doing practically no business, in one of the large coast cities, decided to sell out in this way: One partner would offer his half interest for sale, no price mentioned, with the understanding that the other partner would remain and teach the new partner the business, and as soon as the new partner was fairly started would sell out also and thus they would both be out. The half interest had been advertised for some time without success, when one day in walked a large and well-dressed colored man, who inquired about the interest in the business. They had intended to ask $300 for one-half interest, but in view of the circumstances, gave the price as $1,000. The visitor made some inquiries in regard to the business and stated that he would think the matter over and return on the following Monday, it being then Saturday. After the colored man had gone out, the partners looked at each other in a dazed sort of way, and one of them exclaimed: "If he returns, what are we going to do with him?" "I'll tell you," said the other, "let's open a branch office in A., as the real estate business is brisk there, and put him in charge." Monday came and so did the colored man with his fifty twenty-dollar gold pieces. He was given an interest in the business and the plan of opening a branch office at A. and putting him in charge, was broached to him. He was entirely agreeable to the project; one of the partners went with him to A., where the branch office was fitted up, the colored man bearing the expense, of course, and he was duly installed, and the partner returned to his native heath. After a time the colored man returned, said that he had closed the office in A., and sold the furniture, and wanted to know how much of the proceeds the firm desired. He said he had done no business. He was told that the firm did not desire anything. He expressed himself as well satisfied with his experience and stated that he was going back to South Africa, from whence he had come and where he had made money in the diamond fields, to show those negroes down there how to do high finance in real estate. It is not to be inferred from what has been said that every interest in a real estate firm is of doubtful value; some such interests are very valuable and desirable. As heretofore stated, the proposed purchaser of a partnership interest should investigate thoroughly.