Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Howard Roark

In Hollywood films, there are few heroes in the world of real estate.

Most real estate developers, brokers, and sales agents are portrayed as villains, greedy sniveling weasels who take pleasure in destroying the environment, evicting widows and orphans from their homes, and stealing the dreams of everyday people just to make a profit.

The list of negative portraits of real estate professionals in the movies is long, very very long.  And the list is always getting longer for me.

The other night I watched Eddie Murphy star in THE HAUNTED MANSION, the 2003 film based of all things on a Disney theme park ride.  (Just like Johnny Depp's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films, by the way).  In this (boring) movie you can see real estate agent Eddie sleaze his way through all sorts of real estate deals.  My favorite is when he doesn't think the listing agent needs to reveal that the mansion they are trying to sell is....HAUNTED.

All this may seem like harmless fun but it is not.  DECADES of these negative portrayals have left the general public (and their elected representatives in your local City Hall zoning and land use offices) with the idea that the only reason people go into real estate development is to make lots of money at the expense of the poor and the innocent.  The presumption from the start is AGAINST your projects,  your subdivisions, and your renovations because profit is the motivation, not altruism or the desire to actually provide safe, clean, and affordable housing and office space.

Try to get a new real estate project approved, even one you can prove is necessary for a community and will create jobs and other benefits.  The battle is always uphill.  Always, no exceptions.

Hollywood and its relentless message of real estate greed is part of the reason.

One of the few real estate heroes in all of film history is Howard Roark from Ayn Rand's famous novel, THE FOUNTAINHEAD.  Portrayed by Gary Cooper in the 1949 film, the architect Roark is hired to build a housing development called Cortlandt but only on the condition that no changes be made to his plans.  When his patrons betray him and gut his project, Roark destroys Cortlandt with dynamite.  Charged with a crime, he offers this defense in court---and is acquitted.

It is certainly one of the longest movie monologues in history outside of Shakespeare.

But I dare you to listen to it and not think about this year's election.  AND what being a real estate professional means to you.  Is it really just about money?

Ayn Rand wrote the screenplay.  Those are her words you hear.  If you like them, read more.

You can also start with this impressive interview she gave with CBS reporter Mike Wallace.

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