Chalk’s “The Confident House Hunter” Wins National Book Award

by Kevin Hawkins on June 21, 2017

nBrussAwardWe told you about “The Confident House Hunter: A Home Inspector’s Tips for Finding Your Perfect House” by America’s new favorite home inspector Dylan Chalk just before it hit the bookstores and Amazon last year. Well, Dylan just won the Silver Award at the 11th Annual Robert Bruss Real Estate Book Awards, held during the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE) conference in Denver last week.

In my column from July of last year, I called his book a breakthrough in capturing “A Better, Different Way to Buy” a home. Now he has won one of the highest awards for real estate authors available.

The president of NAREE,  Michelle Jarboe of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, announced Dylan as this year’s Silver winner at a luncheon packed with real estate journalists from across the country, including writers for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, MarketWatch, Dallas Morning News, Newsday, Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, Denver Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Orlando Sentinel, Atlanta Journal Constitution, US News & World Report and many more.

In congratulating Dylan, Michelle shared this: “The judges said that Chalk used an innovative approach to evaluate and organize home systems. The judges also noted that book offers clear and helpful advice for anyone examining a home.”

A Proud Moment

I was sitting next to Dylan at the luncheon because Dylan was not only a client of mine when he first started writing the book, but he is a fellow Islander: Dylan also lives on Bainbridge Island as I do, just outside of Seattle, and we know each other well.

Dylan and I also worked together when I was in the mortgage business several years ago. We supported each other’s businesses by hosting a seminar for real estate agents called “How Green is Your Listing?” Clearly, we were way ahead of our time, but the gist of the 3-hour clock class in Washington was to provide agents with a way to market the green features of a home and how to focus on improving energy efficiency of existing listings.

But I was most proud because I helped Dylan with his book at the very beginning. We spent a ton of hours working together, as I set a schedule and gave him a framework and then pushed him hard to get his first draft finished.

So when his name was called as a winner of a Silver Award from NAREE at their national book awards event, I was as over the moon as he was. Maybe more because of the connection this award has to the person it is named after.

Dylan ChalkThe Backstory

While my first column tells the backstory of Dylan’s book and how he came to write it and how I came to be involved with “The Confident House Hunter,” there is another backstory worth telling to explain why I was so deeply moved that Dylan won this particular award. It has to do with Bob Bruss, the namesake of NAREE’s Robert Bruss Real Estate Book Awards.

If you have been in the business 20 years or more, you know that Bob Bruss was a real estate legend. He wrote for decades, the “Real Estate Mailbag” that was by far, the #1 real estate column in America. It was syndicated to more daily newspapers and often appeared on the front page of most Sunday real estate sections. The format was “Dear Bob” – just like “Dear Abby” – with letters from consumers asking their most pressing real estate questions of the day.

Bob often selected the most controversial questions, much to the dismay of real estate agents, and his responses that were always pro-consumer were often seen as anti-agent by the industry, so he was known to ruffle a few feathers. But Bob was the most loved and popular real estate writer of the day and if Bob in one of his answers ever mentioned your company favorably, it had Oprah-type power in terms of its positive impact.

Gentleman Bob

In 1986, I met Bob as a very young Great Western Bank PR rep during a NAREE dinner at a steakhouse in New York during the NAR convention. He immediately recruited me. I later learned that Bob and Lew Sichelman, both top syndicated columnists, were NAREE’s best recruiters because they got a free annual membership based on hitting a certain target of recruits. They seem to always hit their goals. Bob and I became business colleagues and friends and shared many meals together in many cities where we attended NAREE and other real estate conventions.

Bob also was a lawyer, published two monthly newsletters, which generated significant income because they were incredibly popular, taught college classes, and I would later learn, did a lot of volunteer work and mentoring in his community of Hillsborough.

For over 20 years, I worked with Bob Bruss as a resource. If I didn’t have a source internally, I would find one externally. He was one of my favorite writers, and favorite people. I remember that he kept a stash of tools in his trunk because he fixed up the homes he would buy and rent out. I remember Bob was a little slow embracing the Internet, so I went ahead and reserved www.bobbruss.com for him and held it for several years. He asked to “buy” it from me about five years later and I gave it to him, as it was always his, I just didn’t want him to lose it.

But the other thing that Bob did — that has disappeared from the real estate journalism landscape — is Bob used to review real estate books. He did a real estate book review column regularly, and that gave authors an outlet that I am certain was a meaningful motivation for many to write their first book. I loved reading Bob’s book reviews. He was a master at it.

When I “retired” from Fannie Mae, Bob was so appreciative, he insisted on hosting a dinner for me in Las Vegas during the Builders Show. He booked a dinner for a dozen of us at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, at Caesar’s Place. Bob picked up the bill and that was an epic moment in my career.

When he passed away ten years ago, I learned of all the things he did for others that none of us really knew about because he was so private – so quietly kind. And then I remembered Bob was from Minnesota – well of course, Minnesota nice.

Dylan winning the Silver Award for the book he wrote with Bob’s name on it, well for me, nothing could be nicer.

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