- RE/MAX broker hires homeless man to hold his sign.
- Panhandler trades cardboard sign for RE/MAX placard.
- Manzanares wants other Realtors to follow his example.
Christopher Rezac practically finishes Realtor Joe Manzanares’s sentences, as he warmed up in Manzanares’s car on a cold morning this week.
They have only known each other for a few weeks and might seem unlikely friends – Manzanares is a successful RE/MAX broker who sells tony townhomes and houses in places such as downtown and West Highland, while Reza is a homeless man who spends hours holding a cardboard sign asking for help, as car after car whizzes by him on the sidewalk in front of a Walgreens at Speer and Federal boulevards.
“Funny story,” Manzanares said. “I ran out of gas and needed a push.
“Funnier than heck,” piped in Rezac. “I’m holding this cardboard sign and a brand new BMW runs out of gas right in front of me.”
Rezac pushed the car down the hill to the Shell station at Zuni Street and Speer.
After he filled the car with gas, “I went and picked up a burrito and gave him $15 for pushing my car,” Manzanares, 49, said.
He also had an idea that had been percolating in his mind for months.
Why not help out this guy who was down on his luck?
“As a Realtor selling in Denver for over 20 years, I have been trying to put people in homes,” Manzanares said. “As a Realtor, helping people get into a home should include working with the homeless.”
Ever since, he has been paying Rezac,42, to hold a sign that includes the trademark red, white and blue RE/MAX ballon and big letter that read: “NO NEED FOR YOUR CASH. I’m Sponsored by JOE MANZANARES, with his phone number and his web page, Homesforsale303.com.
Rezac was forced to move from one friend’s house to another and panhandle on the street after a nasty divorce two years ago, he said.
“Yeah, I’m homeless,” he said. “My wife got everything.”
To compound matters, a year ago he was hit by a car, breaking his leg in five places, his shoulder and six teeth.
That has made it difficult for him to pursue his trade as a welder, something he has been doing since he was 12.
“I grew up in a stone quarry, like Fred Flintstone,” Rezac said, where he learned to work with hands.
ln better days, he was a foreman for more than seven years, earning $22.85 an hour.
“I built light rail stations from Colfax all the way to I-225 and I built half the buildings in the Denver Tech Center,” Rezac said. “I have built some big buildings.”
Manzanares is trying to find steady work for him.
“I don’t want him to be a panhandler and homeless,” Manzanares said. “I’ve got some feelers out to try find him a job in a welding shop, so he doesn’t have to do things like walk up and down ladders, which is really hard since his accident.”
Rezac agreed that a job in a welding shop would be a dream come true.
Manzanares typically pays Rezac about $25 a day, although he plans to kick in a little bit more this week, given it is the holiday season.
Rezac switches off between holding his cardboard sign and the RE/MAX one.
“I was out here at 6:30 this morning,” Reza said on Monday. “It was 18 degrees when I got out here.”
Even before Manzanares hired him, he said most commuters treated him with respect.
“I think 95 percent did,” he said. “Some people would holler “get a XXXXing job,” but most people were nice.”
Manzanares said that he drove past Rezac many times, either on his way to his office near the Pepsi Center or to a listing.
“I live right down the street,” Manzanares said. “I do pay attention, so I did recognize him. I’m like everyone else. I feel guilty when I see guys like him and don’t stop and give him money, but then get busy and kind of forget about him.”
Rezac’s cardboard sign reads: “homeless and hungry.”
“Sometimes construction guys will stop and give me $4 and tell me to buy some beer,” Rezac said. “I tell them I’m going to walk down the Safeway and get me some chicken. Believe me. I would much rather get a banana than a dollar.”
One thing that the sign holding hasn’t done yet is sell a home for Manzanares.
“Not yet, but it hasn’t been that long,” Manzanares said.
But the publicity has been overwhelming.
“I posted it on my Facebook page (on Dec. 19) and in the first hour I had 100 “likes” and probably 75 comments. Even FOX 31 did a story about it.”
Drumming up business would be nice, but that’s not the goal.
“If I made one sale from this that would be great,” Manzanares said. “But the thing is, I’ve taken Chris under my wing. I want to get him off the corner.”
Manzanares would like other Realtors to follow his example.
“I hope other Realtors will do what I did and kind of adopt one person. As Realtors, we spend a lot of time trying to sell homes and make money. I think we also need to help people without homes.”
Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.