It started with a little experimentation. It always does. HGTV's Flip or Flop, maybe a little light Five Day Flip from time to time, First Time Flippers, whatever; you can stop whenever you want.
In the seedy underground housing market, HGTV is known as the "gateway network." It's all fun and games, till things get out of hand ...
It starts with lingering a little too long on that "for sale" sign in the bad neighborhood. No one else sees the potential here. The fools. YOU can see it. You have it, the vision, the real estate Shining.
You could keep your day job, you think, just turn flips on the side from time to time, make some quick cash, save up some money. I control my own destiny, you think. But the next thing you know, you're five years deep in the game. Day job's long gone, 'cause you went all in, baby, and now you're out in these streets trying to get your fix 3 percent at a time.
HARD FACT: There is a real estate agent epidemic in Charleston.
Want proof? How about some COLD HARD FACTS?
Ask any Charlestonian (three Ohioans will do in a pinch). Everyone you ask will know someone currently in the "lifestyle."
Almost 100 percent of homeowners in Charleston will come in contact with a Realtor at some point in their lives.
Eighty percent of Charleston billboards are controlled by kingpin Jeff Cook, who advertises his services with the menacing slogan "Your House Sells, or I Eat It."
Hey, remember that guy who tried to bully you in middle school, but struggled to find himself after the immediate validation of college wore off, and kinda disappeared after his parents forced him into rehab? You guessed it; he's a Realtor now, and he's acting like he didn't call you "funky toe Joe" for all of eighth grade because of your mild toe deformity, but you know it's just because he sold a house on your street and knows you have an open floor plan.
How did we get here?
The history of Realtors in Charleston is as old as the cobblestones on Chalmers Street tripping up CofC girls stumbling to Vendue. In fact, Charleston is built on this secretive and blue-blazered industry.
FACTUAL HISTORY LESSON:
In 1663 King Charleston II granted the chartered Carolina territory to eight of his loyal friends known as the Lords Proprietors, even though natives inhabited it previously. Historians note that this was the first documented fuckboi move in the Americas. The newly-minted Lords Proprietors looked into getting matching jackets, but disputes arose over style and lettering, and the idea was soon abandoned.
It took seven years for the Lords Proprietors to arrange for the settlement of Charles Towne. At this point, the warlike Citadel Mall stretched over much of what we call West Ashley, operating as an independent state before being brought to heel in the 1970s.
In 1681, Anthony Ashley Cooper, HBIC of the Lords Proprietors, announced that Charleston would become a "great port town" and immediately built several poorly-constructed apartment complexes with unreasonable pet deposit rules. The original beige carpet has been preserved and can still be seen in some of these units today.
The explosive growth of these apartments put pressure on the other Lords Proprietors to specialize in single-family housing and the flipping of old powder magazines into hip live/work spaces, and an industrious trade of buying and selling of homes became commonplace.
This business model persists essentially unchanged to this day.
What should you do?
This doesn't mean that Realtors shouldn't be used. On the contrary, the real estate arts can be a life-saving service when practiced by a professional.
But if we don't get real about realty abuse, it could be you getting propositioned at a barbecue by your friend's girlfriend's tag-along guest with the offer to give you a $100 Amazon gift card for any and all leads.
It could be your daughter dropping out of college because ripping original features out of a 1920s row house to put in an Ikea kitchen gives her a RUSH that the CofC marketing department never did.
As they say in game, it takes 9 nos to get one yes. Charleston, let's keep them nos comin'.
Joseph Coker is a comedian, a kids Jiu Jitsu coach, and hosts a weekly stand up show at Elliotborough Minibar every Thursday.