Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Burning to Make a Sale

 California bungalow
Suppose that you were in Los Angeles, shopping around for a good real estate deal, in the spring of 1914 - almost a hundred years ago. There were plenty of nice houses going up - especially California bungalows, which I really like. These are big, substantial houses with one or one and a half stories, big front porches; often they are Arts and Crafts style, which I love. There is a green California bungalow in my neighborhood that I have my eye on, though it's never for sale.  You never know, though. Maybe someday.
Burning House Pop Mech Mar 1914
Popular Mechanics, March 1914

Now imagine we're back in LA in 1914, checking out the real estate market, when - say, what's that smoke? What in world is going on? Imagine how surprised you'd be - just like I was when I came upon this little piece in Popular Mechanics - to see what one enterprising real estate agent (with a strange imagination!) was getting up to to attract buyers. He wasn't just aiming to light a metaphorical fire under would-be buyers. He actually set a new, unoccupied house on fire. Literally.
How was this allowed? Why did the people feel good about buying lots when they saw one of the houses going up in smoke? I tried to find out more for you, I really did. But so far: nothing. I'll keep this story in mind though, and I'll let you know if I find out anything more.

Now even though this seems to have inspired the crowd that gathered 'round to buy from this agent, nowadays there are much much better ways of attracting attention. Rather than using smoke to attract a crowd, you can use - oh, how about a telephone? Agents who know what is the mojo dialer can make lots of calls easily. (Speaking of mojo, did you know that it originally meant a magic spell or charm, and was first used as a slang term in the US in 1926? Some dictionaries say that it was derived from the West African language Fulani, in which the word moco'o meant medicine man.)

Just by using the phone, an agent can tell clients all about which houses are for sale, and even about financial things like REITs (or Real Estate Investment Trusts). This is just so much better than making a bonfire out of a bungalow.


Dr. Julie-Ann said...

Oh those crazy Californians! They'll do just about anything to get attention, won't they?

Oh wait. I'm one of them, aren't I?

Seriously, though...Los Angeles was still pretty wild and woolly in 1914 so I'm not surprised by this stunt. I'm only surprised that it didn't set the whole state on fire!

vanilla said...

That bungalow you pictured. Perfect. I like these very much. Burning houses, not so much.

Kath Lockett said...

California bungalows were also very popular in Australia in the 1920s and even now they're eagerly sought after and renovated, being known as 'Cal Bungs' !

Bill said...

Maybe the investigators should scrutinize realtors & developers next time there's a big fire in California.

Scrapyard Butterfly said...

Can you imagine the toxic smoke if this stunt were tried today with a modern mcmansion? The vinyl siding alone would choke everyone for miles around!