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Real Est-hate

, , , , , | Working | February 1, 2021

When I was working, I was transferred multiple times, and each time, I had to deal with buying and selling homes. What follows is the tale of the worst experience my wife and I had in a real estate transaction.

It began when I was given a four-plus year assignment from Houston to Canada. At the time, my company expected us to sell our house but in a recent policy change, they no longer provided assistance. (I can still hear the HR mantra, “We’re not in the real estate business,” in my sleep.)

So, we hired a realtor to market our house. The woman we chose was a Big Deal in the area. Her ads always described her business as “[Realtor] and Team!” as though she was bringing in superstars off her bench. Plus, there was a property manager associated with the brokerage to make it full-service.

The market was very slow at the time and we ended up leasing the house for two years. Near the end of the lease, we reactivated our agreement with [Realtor]. She recommended an aggressive price and we actually got an offer from what looked like an investment company.

Unfortunately, it was for 5% less than our asking price, which we thought was already low. I called up the realtor’s office to discuss the offer and, for once, got through to [Realtor]. I intuited from her voice that she was startled to be talking to me, but she persuaded me that the offer was okay and that she would be glad to take a 5% cut for one of her houses. As it turned out, this was the last conversation I’d ever have with her; the rest of the time I was talking with browbeaten underlings.

After we signed the sales contract via fax, there were two immediate surprises. The first was that the buyer was not the company itself but a woman on whose behalf they were negotiating, and the contract was flipped to her name. She was soon to be widowed and wanted to move to the area to be near her grown son. No problem.

But the second was that the selling price was raised by $48,000! They wanted to use the extra in a loan for her to put in an exercise pool. [Realtor]’s team assured me this was okay — it was before the 2008 meltdown — and we signed. To be fair, they added a statement that their commission would be based on the original sale price, as we’d get no extra equity. Things proceeded apace.

Then, the closing papers arrived. The first thing I noticed was that our proceeds were much greater than what we expected; all the extra money was listed as coming to us and not going into an escrow account for the pool. And there was a $26,000 charge for “repairs” on the house, a total surprise.

I called [Realtor] and, of course, got a team member. They had no idea what was going on. I called the property manager and she confirmed that no repairs had been done. It turned out that the “repair” company used burner phones and a rented private PO box, so there was no way to trace them. We refused to sign with all the problems — a good thing, as I found out later that we could have been arrested for fraud if we had.

For the next few weeks, we went back and forth trying to get the deal to go through, but the buyer’s realtor would not allow us to get the extra cash into an escrow account. [Realtor] was no help and her team was ineffectual; I had to do most of the leg work myself. Ultimately, I hired a lawyer to handle things. 

In the meantime, we got an offer to rent the home, which we wanted to take. The house had fallen out of the escrow time limit and my attorney informed the buyer that the sale was cancelled. And her realtor told us they would sue!

Two days later, my lawyer contacted me and told us that the buyer had never actually paid a down payment — something [Realtor] should have known — so there had never been a contract. If anyone was going to sue, it was us. That ended things. We got the renters in and eventually reoccupied the house when my assignment ended.

I tried to file a complaint against the buyer’s realtor but [Realtor] wouldn’t cooperate. I tried to find out who had supplied the phony repair bill but got nowhere. And I tried to get an authority to look into the repair company and the buyer’s loan officer, who had been party to all the shady moves, without success.

There is an epilogue. Three years later, I was moved again, this time with the company’s help. As part of the package, we had to pick a realtor that they had vetted and we got a good one. She did everything [Realtor] hadn’t and we got moved without a headache. However, while the house was listed, [Realtor] called my wife and had the gall to ask why we hadn’t selected her. My wife spouted some platitudes about our company’s requirements, but I am less polite. I sent her a long email outlining the problems we’d had with her representation; surprisingly, she never responded.

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