Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rule #47

Every Realtor has a war story or two- stories about that buyer who for one reason or another became a memorable experience for the agent who helped them find the home of their dreams. I have a few. But two of my favorite stories are about a young couple who was buying their very first home. One of the stories is about him. The other one is about her.
We had found a house they both loved in a gated community in south Tulsa. The owners had been transferred and we would be dealing with a relocation company. That’s important to know for later. But before we got to the negotiations we made several trips to the house to look it over. Notes were taken. Rooms were measured. Questions were asked. And asked. And asked again. It was mainly because the husband was nervous. This was a big decision and he was desperate to make sure he wasn’t making a bad one. 

In the master bath we encountered an “issue”. There were stains all along the top of the walls at the ceiling. We would later be told by a contractor that the stains were caused by the repeated presence of steam from the shower that would drift up and condense on the wall at ceiling level. Over time it had caused the oil based sealer on the crown molding to bleach through the water based paint that covered it.  The solution was to repaint  and all would be well. This was enough for the wife but not enough for the husband. In each subsequent visit he would always drift back to the master bath and stare at the stains on the crown molding. He finally convinced himself that the contractor was wrong. There must be a leak in the roof.

On the next visit to the house after this epiphany he brought a flashlight. He headed upstairs to a bedroom closet that had an access doorway into the attic. Before it dawned on me what was happening he was in the attic making his way across the joists toward the area above the master bathroom. And before he had taken four steps across the joists his foot slipped and he fell through the ceiling into the bedroom below.

He didn’t actually fall all the way through. It was exactly like you see in the movies. His arms caught him on the way down so that the upper half of him was still in the attic while the lower half of him was dangling from the bedroom ceiling. It’s funny to think about now; not so much when it happened.

We got him out and only his ego was hurt. But now there were several hundred dollars worth of damage done to a house that wasn’t his and he decided that he didn’t want to go any further with the purchase. It seemed that to him falling through the bedroom ceiling was a bad omen. Nothing good could come from this situation now that the house had shown its true colors to him.

So we stood in the master bathroom with the stains and I explained that he was liable for the damage anyway and that what we needed to do immediately was fix the hole. Then we would back up, take a deep breath, and look at it again later. He agreed to do this and as we walked out of the bathroom the wife looked over and whispered a quick “thank you” under her breath. She really wanted that house.

Now on to her story. Once it was decided that they would make an offer we discussed the price. It was a relocation home that they needed to sell quickly and it had already sat on the market longer than it should have. They weren’t willing to make any repairs (that included painting the master bathroom molding) so we took that into consideration in our offer. The relocation company danced back and forth with us verbally  about what they would be willing to do with the price and from my viewpoint it was already priced competitively for the area. As I and the husband discussed our final offer the wife sat quietly. We added and subtracted this and that and worked out an offer that took into consideration the cosmetics that needed to be addressed. I was proud of the final number because I felt like we could get the sellers down to our level on the price. After the husband and I agreed the wife spoke up. “Go five thousand lower,” she said.

I looked over at her. She said it again. “Go five thousand lower.”  I looked at him. He looked at me. “Okay, ” I said. “Five thousand lower.” I didn’t believe for a moment that we would get that to work. But we did. Three days later we had a signed contract at the wife’s price. It just goes to show that you never really know until you ask.

That was five years ago. To this day every time I see a water stain on an interior wall I think of my friend and his flashlight saying, ‘there is a leak.” And every time a client wants to try to negotiate just a little bit more I think of his wife. It’s a fun business that teaches you something new every day.

Today, it’s a hard and fast rule that I never let a buyer with a flashlight walk into an attic.

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