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Thursday, June 20, 2013

When Real Estate Deals Go Bad

Oh yeah.  We were selling the house, weren't we?

Well, we were, and then we weren't.  And now we're not.  And in case I never got around to telling that story, here it is.

The whole point, you know, of selling the house was that it needs an expensive sewer pipe repair.  Not only is it expensive, it's also annoying; we'll have to move out for at least a couple of days, we don't know what to do about the cats during that time, the logistics are mind-boggling even if you aren't mentally interesting and the whole thing upsets my wife, and what does it say in the marriage manual on page one?  Never, ever upset your wife.  In italic print, no less.  So somehow, it seemed like a great idea to just sell the house and let someone else deal with it.  As if packing up, buying another house (with problems of its own, considering our budget) and settling into a weird new neighborhood was going to be less stressful than just fixing the damn sewer pipe, already.  And trust me, they were weird neighborhoods.  There was this one where we looked at a duplex that--actually, I liked that duplex.  A lot.  I just wanted it to be built somewhere else, that's all.

The first sign that This Was Never Going To Work was when our wonderful real estate agent, who helped us find this place after a day of running around in the rain, suddenly didn't work for the agency anymore (we never did find out what happened) and the agency assigned us another agent.  The new agent was--well, it didn't really matter, because I never gave her much of a chance.  I tried to.  I even muttered it through my teeth; "Give her a chance, Jen.  Give her a chance."  The truth is that I have very little patience for certain kinds of professionals, and one of them is real estate agents.  Before we found the Wonderful Real Estate Agent, I fired three others.  (Or was it two?)  In that particular transaction, we had 48 hours to fly into Dallas, buy a house and fly back out again.  We. Did. Not. Have. Time. To. Fuck. Around.  So the second one of them started messing with us (and they do that; they give you weird hand signals during a viewing that you're supposed to understand sight unseen, they show you places that have everything you don't want and say things like "Just wait until you see the kitchen", they show you places you can't even remotely begin to afford and say, "Now, with an FHA loan, you only have to put down 3 1/2 percent!"), I fired them.  But I was fair about it. When the next one came on board, I'd say, "Don't do this, this or this."  Then either they did, or they found a new and exciting way to mess with me, and I fired them.  God has a special place in Her heart for these people.  They had to put up with me, after all.

So here we are with this new agent, and already things aren't going well. She wants us to "dress up" our house so it'll sell faster, which basically means stripping it of everything that suggests two human beings live there.  She wants the pictures gone, the paintings gone, the craft stuff gone, the bells and chimes gone.  She wants the frick'n meditation cushions gone and makes some crack about it doesn't look good to homebuyers if you're worshipping a pagan god.  (Damn. Well, reschedule the human sacrifice til next week.)  She wants the doors replaced, the kitchen painted, the back yard redone.  Oh, and she has no sense of humor.  She didn't actually curl her lip at us and say, "How charming," but she could have and I wouldn't have been at all surprised.

The other thing was that she had a specific kind of person in mind to buy the house, a "target market," as it were.  Which was great, if the specific kind of person was ever going to come within fifteen miles of our neighborhood.  Our neighborhood was built in the late 50s/early 60s, and apart from the fashions and the presence of people who have skin colors other than white, it's kind of like it never left.  Kids ride bikes around and toss the football after school instead of going to some expensive day care. What's more, they walk to school.  Both ways.  In the snow.  Our street is about half white, half Hispanic with a smattering of Other, largely working class, largely multilingual.  Our across-the-street neighbors just got here from somewhere south of the Rio Grande, and on most weekends they have friends over, barbecue something, drink beer and tell jokes until the wee hours of the morning.

It's not suburbia, is what I'm trying to say here.  It's really not the scene for the soccer mom and the downtown lawyer dad.  Yet when we tried to suggest they print the flyer in Spanish, she looked at us like we'd just grown nine heads.  And when it arrived, a beautiful four-color laminated flyer that was all in English, we'd also lost a bedroom.  Somehow we went from a 3-bedroom 1-bath to a 2-bedroom 1-bath with an "extra living space."  But that wasn't supposed to have any effect on the price.  People like extra living spaces. Um, I checked Zillow and until my scroller got sore and there wasn't a single 2-bedroom 1-bath anywhere around listed for as much as we were.  3-bedrooms, sure, but no 2-bedrooms, extra living space or no extra living space.

Then the agent e-mailed me and suggested we drop the price, because there hadn't been very many showings.  Hey, was that the crack of doom I just heard?  I was delighted--not about dropping the price, but because I didn't think there had been any showings.  I immediately called her up to see what people had said during the showings.  Was there something particular they liked or didn't like, something we could fix, play up, learn from?  No reply for a while.  Finally she said there actually hadn't been any showings.  At all.  None.

I can put up with a lot, but when I lose respect for you, I do it all at once and very hard.  In this case it wasn't the lack of showings, it was the fact that she lied to me.  It was a ridiculous lie, too; all I had to do was call the lockbox company to find out how many showings there had been.  It was a good thing we weren't having too much luck finding something to buy, either, because I was about to fire another real estate agent.

Only I couldn't.  We'd signed a contract.  The only way to get out of it was to take the house off the market.  So that's what we did, and we're still in our little house.

Which is good.  I love my little house.  And my shrink, when I mentioned all of these goings-on, got a bit annoyed and said, "You know, if you'd told your psychiatrist you were considering this move--and you should tell your psychiatrist, when you're planning a major life change--he would have told you not to do it, because it would be a lot of stress you wouldn't need right now."

Oops.  Duly noted.

No, the sewer pipe isn't fixed yet.  If you have seven grand you don't need, you could send it our way.  And maybe come pick up our cats for a little while.  But anyway, that's what happened with the selling of the house.  And now (Paul Harvey voice) you know the rest of the story.

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