The Mansion, Part 1

By David Armstrong

Jack and Francine wanted to buy a house. More than anything in the world, they wanted to own property and have a place to raise their children.

They engaged a real estate agent whose advertising promised “the deal of a lifetime.” The couple asked their new agent to find them properties in an upscale neighborhood near the center of town. They were sure this was the perfect place for them to put down roots and raise a family. The agent showed them several lovely homes, but the couple quickly discovered that they could not qualify for a home in the target price range.

The agent took them to the outskirts of town and showed them some rundown fixer-uppers. Jack and Francine weren’t thrilled with the neighborhood or the prospect of putting a great deal of sweat equity into renovations, but if they could qualify for a smaller mortgage, they would go for it.

Much to their dismay, they learned that they couldn’t qualify for a mortgage of any amount. Bad credit rating, some unpaid bills, and a past bankruptcy simply put them out of the running for a loan from any reputable institution.

The agent, however, told them not to despair. He had one more idea that might just work. He wanted to take them to a property for sale by the owner of his company. Desperate to keep their dream alive, the couple agreed to look at one more place.

They piled into the agent’s SUV, and he drove them several miles past the city limits. He pulled up in front of a fabulous mansion situated on acres of property. The lawn was immaculate; the trees and shrubs were beautiful. The two-story home was faced with stone, a vaulted roof overhanging the expansive porch. The large windows were trimmed in white as were the eaves beneath a dark gray slate roof.

The agent escorted them through the front door to an equally impressive interior. Large entryway, elegant living room, state-of-the-art kitchen, a winding stairway to the upper floor. The master suite was magnificent, with a sliding glass door opening onto a railed balcony that overlooked a peaceful valley.

The mansion was far beyond anything Jack and Francine had ever dreamed of. It took their breath away. After the grand tour, however, Jack pulled Francine aside. “If we can’t afford the payments on a shack, there is no way we can afford this mansion. I don’t understand why our agent brought us all the way out here to see this. It’s like a slap in the face.”

Francine frowned. “I know what you mean. This place is spectacular, but I wish he’d never even suggested we look at it. I just want to go home.”

They found the agent on the front porch, sitting in the covered swing. “What did you think of this home?”

“It’s beyond belief.” Jack squeezed Francine’s hand. “It’s also obviously beyond our means. We don’t understand why you insisted on bringing us out here. You know our past and our situation. This is just impossible.”

The agent smiled. “I want to make you an offer. If you two can come up with a reasonable down payment, I will give you the rest of the money out of my own pocket to buy this mansion for cash—no mortgage.”

The hair on the back of Jack’s neck stood up. “I don’t know what kind of a con you’re running here, but we want to go home right now. I want no part of your shenanigans. We are honest people.”

“No shenanigans, my friends. I’m totally on the up and up here. I’ll draw up a legal contract, and you can hold me to it. I promise I’m not trying to swindle you or con you.”

Francine stepped forward, her expression fierce and determined. “Why would you buy this house for us? You don’t know us. We’re just plain people.”

The agent motioned for the couple to take the seats across from him in the shade of the porch. “I’m an excellent judge of character. I can see you are good, honest, humble people who would take good care of this property and enjoy it and make good use of it in raising your family. My father is a very wealthy man. He has set up a foundation to help people get the homes of their dreams. I run the foundation for him. I really like you two. It would be my honor to do this for you.”.

The agent opened his briefcase and pulled out a sheaf of papers. He handed the pages to Francine. The word “Contract” stood out in bold letters across the top of the first sheet. “Read through this and tell me what you think.”

Jack and Francine perused the pages together. The conditions of the sale were most extraordinary. The contract stated that the buyers must sacrifice to make the down payment. They must quit their jobs and go to work for the agent. They would run errands, deliver groceries, drive an Uber service, work in a soup kitchen, and help him find other clients.

In return, the agent would pay them commissions until they had earned the required down payment.

Jack straightened the papers and handed them back to the agent. “This is crazy. I’ve never heard of such a thing. We work for you, you pay us the money for the down, which we give back to you, and then you give us the money to buy the house. Preposterous! That’s not how the world works!”

The agent’s smile was warm and kind. “True, the world doesn’t work this way, but this is how my father’s foundation works. I promise you, it is all legitimate. This is a legal, binding contract on both parties.”

Jack looked at Francine and shook his head. “This makes no sense, but the contract looks legal to me. Either we’re crazy or you’re crazy. But can we think it over?”

“Certainly.” The agent stood and motioned to his car. “I’ll drive us back to my office in town. Think about it on the way, and I’ll leave you two alone in my conference room to talk it over in private. Fair enough?”

“Let’s go.” Jack took Francine’s elbow and followed the agent to the SUV.

The pair sat quietly in the backseat for the duration of the ride. At the real estate office, the agent showed them to the conference room, laid the contract on the table, and walked out, closing the door behind him.

Francine read the contract out loud to Jack as they pondered. They talked about the pros and cons for a half hour. One the one hand, the mansion was beautiful, and the prospects of living in such a magnificent home were thrilling. On the other hand, neither of them had jobs that paid well or that they liked. They weren’t excited about the kind of work they might have to do for the agent, but he seemed like a decent fellow. They promised each other that if either of them ever felt like the agent was asking them to do something illegal or unethical, contract or no, they would bail out instantly.

Their minds made up, they opened the door, and the agent walked in. Jack spread the contract on the table. “Like I said before, either you or we are crazy. But we’ll sign it on good faith that you are an honest man.”

“Marvelous!” The agent took out a pen. “You have made a wise choice. My secretary is a notary public. I’ll bring her in and we’ll make this official. I promise you will not regret your decision.”

The next day, Jack and Francine turned in their two-week notices.

Part 2 will be posted next week!

Photo by Dominika Greguu0161ovu00e1 on

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