"They made such a beautiful home."

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Photo source: AP Photo/XETV 

Yesterday’s news was all about the earth that gave way on Soledad Mountain Road in La Jolla. Again, I felt that sick feeling, the one I remember from 2003 when the Cedar Fire claimed hundreds of homes in San Diego, 343 of them in Scripps Ranch.

I knew many of the families whose lives were forever changed in my own Scripps Ranch community, yet I know none of those who today find themselves homeless in La Jolla. The difference is that I feel as if I do; their loss touches me. This is particularly true of one of the properties now considered destroyed.

Nothing is more personal than one’s home, and real estate agents come to know families through their homes. In the case of the Cedar Fire, I will always remember too clearly the first time I ventured back into the ravaged neighborhood. I was taking my daughter’s friend home, and I missed my turn. And I began to cry. I missed my turn because my landmarks were gone. As an agent as much as a resident, these streets and these homes had been intimately familiar to me. I had represented families in purchases and sales here, of course, but I had seen so many more of them over the years as they had been offered for sale through open houses and buyer showings. I remembered the remodeled kitchens, the gleaming wood floors, the curious green wall paper, and all of the other uniquenesses that made each of these houses homes.

One of the destroyed homes yesterday was almost my client’s home. I find it curious that no one in the press, to my knowledge, has brought up the fact that this particular home had been listed for sale – listed for sale, that is, until yesterday. Maybe they just didn’t find it important. To me, it was personal. My clients by all accounts should have been living there. The contract had been written and the signing appointment had been set. But for a last-minute change of heart, and what I thought at the time was a huge mistake, they would have closed escrow by now.

I am yet again reminded of how deeply personal is the real estate transaction. I phoned my client yesterday morning when the news was breaking. Her initial reaction was expected. “Oh my G-d! We would have been living in that house by now!” It was her next statement that reminded me of the basic goodness of people. “That poor, poor family. They made such a beautiful home. This is so terrible for them!”

The fact that this home was worth well over a million dollars is immaterial. To my client, the fact that this could have happened to them was ultimately of no greater import than that it happened to someone, and it was someone they knew. We knew them, because we knew the home they had made, and we are touched by their loss.

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