Show (Me The Way To Go) Home

, , , , , | Working | March 3, 2021

My wife and I are thinking of moving home. We spot a new build area in a good location, so we arrange a viewing of the show home. We get the tour. The size is great, and the layout and garden are, too, but the kitchen and bathrooms are decorated in a really dark and unpleasant colour.

Normally, if you buy new, you can choose all of this as it isn’t fitted yet. But the sales rep starts to push the show home.

Sales Rep: “You know, this plot is available. As you can see, it is ready to move in.”

Me: “Not really for us, thanks.”

Sales Rep: “Are you sure? It would be a few months until the others are ready, plus you would have to go through the whole long process of picking out tiles.”

Wife: “Actually, we quite like that bit.”

Me: “Could we have a moment to look around again?”

Sales Rep: “Sure. I will head back to the office.”

We chat and look around, and we both agree we like the house but hate the kitchen and bathrooms. We would be happier to wait and get something that works for us. We head back to the sales rep.

Sales Rep: “Hi, you two. Good news! I spoke to my manager and he has cleared a discount on the show home. It’s [a few hundred off]. What do you think? Shall I put your names down for a deposit?”

Me: “We have talked and would like to wait for the new builds.”

Sales Rep: “Are you sure? We get a lot of interest in that show home. You don’t want to miss out.”

Wife: “We are sure.”

Sales Rep: “Well, okay, then. I will add you to the contact list when they become available.”

We ended up buying one of the new homes when they became available, but not before being contacted three more times about that show home. It dropped very little in value and was one of the last properties to sell on the lot.

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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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You Don’t Get Commission If You Don’t Give Us Houses We Want!

, , , , | Working | January 22, 2021

We are looking to buy a bigger home. We know the location, the type of house we want, and our budget. As the area is very popular, it is just a matter of finding one and making an offer quickly.

We sign on with the local estate agents and I drop them a message.

Me: “We are looking for a house with three good-sized bedrooms and a garden in [Area].”

Agent: “Thanks. I will send over the properties I have that match.”

I get an email the next day. One house isn’t quite what we are looking for, one is an apartment, and one is a two-bed house without a garden.

The next day, he sends me another email.

Agent: “So, what did you think of the properties?”

Me: “To be honest, two of the three weren’t what we asked for. The first one was okay but overpriced for the condition it’s in.”

I copy our requirements again.

Agent: “Oh, okay. I will take a look and send you over some more.”

He did, and we started getting daily emails of all the properties they had. The emails were hit or miss to start with and then quickly got worse each time. In less than a week, none of the properties matched what I was looking for.

It just didn’t make sense, given the size of the area alone. We saw many For Sale signs with the agent’s name on them yet so little being sent over by email. Out of interest, I checked their website. I found dozens of houses, all of them exactly what we were looking for and all listed by the estate agent that was supposed to be helping me.

Taking a closer look, all the properties he sent did have one thing in common: they had his name as the contact on them. He had only been sending me the ones he would get a commission on and not the ones his coworkers were working on! I rang the office, confused.

I explained the issue to the agent who answered. She tried to argue with me and tell me that that wasn’t how it worked and that they wouldn’t do it, etc. I sent over the emails and she promised to come back to me.

A few days later, I got another daily email with properties on, but this time, they were far better and from someone different. A few weeks later, I happened to ask what had happened to the first guy. The agent quickly told me that he had decided to move on.

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Didn’t Listen Property Properly

, , , | Right | January 8, 2021

My roommate and I have applied to rent two different properties but prefer [Property #2] to [Property #1]. Because we put in for [Property #1] first, we have been expecting to hear back from them first.

Real Estate Agent: “Hello, this is [Real Estate Agent] from [Company]. I’m calling to let you know that you have been approved for [Property #2]. It’s yours if you still want it.”

Me: “Thank you so much! I’ll get back to you after I check with my roommate and the other rental we’re waiting to hear from. Thanks again. I’ll let you know soon.”

I speak to my roommate.

Me: “So, we’re approved for [Property #1]. I’m just going to give [Property #2]’s real estate a call to find out where they’re up to with our application.”

I call the number and the same real estate agent that I have just been speaking to answers.

Me: “Hi, this is [My Name]. I have a rental application pending with you and I was just wondering whether you could tell me if it has been processed.”

Real Estate Agent: “Um, as I just told you, you’ve been approved. That means it’s yours if you want it. Have you checked with the other real estate yet?”

Embarrassed, I pause while I hope for the ground to swallow me up.

Real Estate Agent: “You thought I was from the other real estate the first time, didn’t you?”

Me: “Yes.”

Real Estate Agent: “Do you still need to check with them or your roommate?”

Me: “No, yours was the one we wanted. We’ll definitely take it. Thank you.”

After getting off the phone:

Me: *To my roommate* “So, we got [Property #2], but I made a huge fool of myself.”

Roommate: *Excited* “We got [Property #2]?!”

Me: “I’m too mortified to be happy.”

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But Did You Keep The Neon?

, , , | Working | December 1, 2020

We nearly didn’t buy our current house. It had sat on the market for months as it was majorly overpriced. It needed some work, and it didn’t help that the owners had made very personal touches in decor.

We viewed it and the owner gave the tour, harping on about how “exclusive” her horrible kitchen was and how she was remiss, leaving the “dated and chipped” bathroom tiles. She rationalised every neon colour, as if it was the rate museum.

We made a reasonable offer and it was declined. We made another offer. It was declined.

Me: “I’m happy to just walk away from this one.

Wife: “I think we could make our money back in the restoration.”

We talked it over and I agreed, so we made an asking price offer (subject to survey).

This was eventually accepted and I instructed the survey. What I was not expecting was a major list of issues to come back with structural problems.

We talked to the agent and they talked to the owner, who was suspiciously not shocked by this major news. The agent apologised massively and asked if we wanted to withdraw the offer.

What both of them didn’t realize was that we planned to remove all of the problem wall and windows in the renovation, so we made a new offer, lower than the first. It was accepted, and within the first three months of living there, we extended and brought the house back up to standard.

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