Good grief. What is going on?
Part of my frustration stems from being a victim of circumstances. If you have ever enjoyed doing time in the food service industry, you remember what it is like when the hostess seats everyone in your station at once.
First, everyone wants their menu at the same time. Then, everyone wants their drinks at the same time. And then, suddenly, everyone is confronting you at once wondering where in the hell their Brawny Beef Combos are. (In case you have any lingering doubts that my grinning thumbnail didn’t make an interim stop in Photoshop, this Bob’s Big Boy reference should set the record straight).
Such has been our past two weeks in real estate land. What seems like forty-eight escrows all opened on the same day. Consequently, they are running on parallel paths. Forty-eight inspections are scheduled simultaneously, forty-eight disclosure packages are delivered or received on the same morning, and ninety-six appraisals are happening concurrently. Notice that for the appraisals, I multiplied my embellished number by two, because this season’s trend is for the lenders to assume the first appraisal is inherently flawed, perhaps prepared by their randomly assigned delegate under great duress, while in a seller headlock and heavily drugged. So, they order a second “appraisal review.” Oh, how I love doing things twice.
This stuff we can deal with. It is all those side orders, the afterthoughts, that are killing us. This week we have found ourselves running a gently used furniture emporium.
Sometimes the furniture bartering is civil. “Would the owner be willing to sell the curio cabinet? How about all of the whimsical Hummels inside?” they ask. Or, “We were hoping they would leave their playful miniature schnauzer, Rocko. He just goes so nicely with the house!”
Other times, the personal property starts to become the point rather than the distraction, and the buyers seem to forget what it was they were buying in the first place. “Either the bar stools convey, or we’re walking.”
There are two points in the transaction where the furniture showroom is open for business. First, it happens at the offer stage. Now, when we receive an offer, we often finding ourselves glossing over page one of the contract, the one with the price, and moving directly to the page stipulating the personal property to convey. Sometimes, what we see written into the offer is fairly routine — washer/dryer, refrigerator, sectional sofa, 12-year-old boy including his accessories, and so on. Then we usually find that the buyer has asked not only for the seller’s stuff, but they expect the seller to pay for extended home warranty coverage to insure the stuff, which requires a counter offer. “12-year-old boy conveys without warranty and with no implied value.”
Other times, though, the offer is a little vaguer. We received one recently that read (and I am not making this up) “We would like you to include the refrigerator and possibly some other furnishings with this purchase. We can discuss those items at another time — they are not deal-breakers.”
The “other time” is generally at the request for repair stage. Remembering that this is typically the final contingency hurdle and the last chance for negotiating, the request for repairs becomes a little like a bridal registration.
“Seller to repair cracked roof tiles. Seller to replace failed GFCI outlets next to sink. Seller to leave all flatware, big screen television in bonus room, and complete collection of Everybody Loves Raymond on DVD.”
Sometimes, they just ask for the gift card. “Seller to credit buyer $14,863 dollars in escrow because it’s a buyer’s market, and if you don’t credit buyer, buyer will walk, and we know you will ante up because you are already in escrow on your new home in Flagstaff and your moving truck is coming on Wednesday whether we close or not. Let’s just call it a credit toward closing costs. We would like to pick out our own furnishings, and we have our eye on a certain queen comfort set.”
Buyers’ agents allow this to happen by not helping their clients to remain focused on the main event, the home, and it has really gotten out of control. Home purchases are turning into garage sales, and inspections are turning into lessons in how not to negotiate. Every time someone asks my selling client to throw in the dining set “or else,” it serves not only to divide but to distract. You think selling a home is personal? Try demanding that the seller give you his La-Z-Boy recliner. You haven’t seen personal. And the first rule of successful negotiations is that you never cover old territory or raise new issues. Negotiating is an iterative process. If you start by asking for all of the guest room furniture and, after some back and forth, end up with a nightstand, don’t come back and ask for a toaster and the steak knife set. You should have thought of that earlier.
I have always said that buying a home is not like buying a pair of shoes. On the other hand, it is starting to feel that way.