This was going to be one of those human interest pieces for which newspapers are famous – the kind where the reader shakes his head and not only has empathy for the story’s subject, but realizes he has avoided a similar situation only by the grace of God.

I was going to write about people who can’t sell their houses.

And this story wasn’t going to be about that house that stays on the market for six or eight months. No, how about the one on the market for six or eight years?

And in the East Dallas real estate market, which has wallowed in the muck since the mid-1980s, I thought I had seen one of those houses around every corner.

What a story, huh?

Here’s some poor schnook, desperately trying to unload his $1,300-a-month note, and he hasn’t had any takers. You can imagine the panic on his face as he talks about the sacrifices his family has had to make to keep the foreclosure notice off the door.

You’d have been in tears.

And what a coup for the poor homeowner. At worst, he would have gotten some free publicity and some sympathy. At best, he might have attracted enough attention to finally rid himself of his burden.

Apparently, though, I was mistaken. There aren’t any of those houses on the market.

I know, because the people who own the houses told me. I know, because real estate agents told me.

I know, because after some fairly extensive research in the finest tradition of investigative journalism, no one was willing to admit that their house or their listing had been for sale much longer than it takes to put up the Realtor’s sign.

The owner of one house, which I have walked past almost daily for the past seven years (taking note of the “For Sale” sign each time), said his house has only been on the market for two or three years. And even then, only off and on. Because he’s not really serious about selling it. And it is paid for, by the way.

One real estate agent, after hearing what I was looking for (“Think of all that free ink,” I offered), said he’d call me back. When he didn’t, I called him again. Repeatedly. I’m thinking of submitting his name to the Guinness Book of World Records: First Realtor not to return a phone call.

In a way, I can’t blame any of these people. It’s probably embarrassing to admit your “For Sale” listing has aged better than a $40 bottle of wine. For some people, I suppose, that would be a mark against their man- or woman-hood.

But they are approaching their dilemma from the wrong direction. This is 1991. In Dallas. What’s more fashionable than having a piece of real estate you can’t upload?

Think of your company. Ross Perot’s kid. Starke Taylor’s kid. Bum Bright. And they are in a lot more trouble than some Lakewood or East Dallas homeowner who bought a 2/1 in the “M” Streets for $165,000 in a fit of passion during the early 1980s.

Think of the possibilities. In Hollywood, there are tours of the stars’ homes. In Dallas, we could have tours of the “starred” houses – the ones that have been sitting on the market. And sitting. And sitting.

If, of course, anyone can find such a house.

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