How I learned to use my Thomas Guide

Another story in the LAT sent me hurtling toward memory lane again. What was it about, you ask? The business built around foreclosure homes.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, that my childhood home was foreclosed. Oh, but so much else happened prior to that, including my mom’s work similar to what these guys do:

As he navigates the suburban streets, map in hand, he rehearses his pitch. “Your name came up on a list of people who might be interested in selling their house.”

That sounds neutral, even sympathetic. If it works, he’ll have his first distressed seller.

There’s a lot of speculation about where the housing market is headed. Some analysts contend the shakeout is already over. Others maintain it hasn’t even begun.


When they reach their target house, they don’t approach it immediately. Instead, they warm up with the neighbors. Maybe they’re also broke. “It’s Dave from Home Center Realty,” Hennigan shouts at a woman he glimpses behind the drapes. She instantly retreats into the recesses of the house.

He leaves a flier he developed when prices were zooming upward. “Are you a first time buyer?” it asks. “Are you looking to refinance? Are you looking for that 2nd or 3rd home?”

In October, he added a fourth line: “Maybe you are in notice of default or foreclosure!”

My mom was never a realtor or a real estate agent, but we did go house to house, passing out business cards to folks in foreclosure. For the folks who bit, my mom got a referral fee. What was my role in all this? Well, I didn’t drive, but when my mom got a packet of homes to hit up, she would hand them to me to map out.

Because most of these addresses were homes, I had to learn to map routes through neighborhoods, construction sites, dead-ends, etc. I couldn’t use freeway routes too much, because sometimes it would be too far out of the way. Plus, I had to make sure the routes we were taking were the most time efficient and mileage efficient.

Even with Google Maps and Yahoo Maps, the knowledge still serves me well. Freeway driving is a snap compared to trying to make my way through Hacienda Heights, La Puente, West Covina, Rowland Heights, El Monte, even to Arcadia, without backtracking too much.