Truth in Advertising: One Realtor's Strategy to Sell Foreclosed Homes

Real estate agent Jim Klinge wants to know: Can you handle the truth?

ByABC News
April 15, 2009, 5:55 PM

OCEANSIDE, Calif., April 16, 2009— -- He calls himself simply "Jim the Realtor," and he's out to tell the truth about the houses he sells.

Jim Klinge, a Southern California-based realtor specializing in foreclosures, says that he's rewriting the realtor's handbook.

But in his version, you won't find effusive descriptions of vaulted ceilings, southern exposures, and natural light. Instead, you'll find words like "abomination" and "goofy" and "toxic."

"I don't know if this is a flophouse, brothel, retirement home, prison, fraternity..." Klinge announced on a recent visit to a bank-owned property in northern San Diego County, his home turf.

And this was a property he was trying to sell.

In a down market, Klinge is betting that unbridled candor will trump the usual realtors' tricks in moving properties that have already lost some of their shine.

His clients, increasingly banks trying to unload foreclosed homes, are impatient to make sales.

His main tool is online video. Every time he gets a listing he sets his point-and-shoot camera to video mode, presses "on" and lets his wicked wit fly.

Almost everything is fair game: décor ("Green walls! Lovely -- that'll keep you awake at night"), blemishes ("we've got a mold-like substance"), even placement ("We've got quite a backyard here. Hope you like your neighbors").

"I think I have the right attitude with my videos," Klinge said. "I roll up, I turn the camera on, I do two to three minutes and that's the end of it. I think my goal is to give an accurate perception of what's there without being glitzy or glamorous."

Glamorous? Hardly. More like brutal. And not like the usual pretty picture painted by other realtors.

"The unvarnished truth is what sells," Klinge said. "People want the truth. They want to just see it the way it is and if you just give them that, that alone is a draw."

Over a 25-year career as a real estate agent and broker, Klinge has seen the ups and downs of the local market, enough to name and shame everyone he holds responsible for the current housing crisis.

Topping his list of culprits are careless banks who peddled sub-prime, flexible-rate mortgages.

"If they would have just funded loans with fixed rates and one payment, so when the buyer comes in and they read what their payment is going to be, and they can count on that for the duration, we probably would have been fine," Klinge said.