Just another short story.

short sale
Creative Commons License photo credit: TheTruthAbout…

Real estate has gotten so weird.

I was showing my client a home last week — a short sale. Now, we have come to expect that in a short sale situation the home is going to be slightly inferior to, say, the Taj Mahal. This was no exception.

In the case of this particular home, the agent (one who resides in another county and has never actually seen the property) told me that an auction date had been set three days prior. He had lobbied for and gotten an extension – for one month. Consequently, the home must close escrow in 27 days or off to foreclosure it goes. Umm… OK. It’s unlikely but not impossible.

So, I set about making an appointment to view the property, but it turns out that this home with no sign is also missing a lock box. Showings are by appointment only, and the seller, I would learn, is quite busy. He is so busy in fact, that I have to wait 48 hours to gain admittance and am assigned a random, mid-afternoon, time-certain time slot. Take it or leave it.

I’m pretty good at math, so I quickly determine that if my client likes the home, if we write the offer on the hood of the car, and if the sellers and their lender approve our offer in the driveway, we will have 25 days to close.  My client needs a loan, rendering the odds unfavorable but, hey, I’ve seen more improbable things occur (like Paris Hilton’s career), so why not?

We arrive at the appointed time, and based on the indifferent expressions of the seventeen family members occupying the various rooms (including four on the couch – I counted), we conclude that they are far more interested in whether Judge Judy is going to throw the book at the defendant than they are in finding a buyer for their home. We’re a scrappy bunch though, my client and I, so we barrel through undeterred by the looks of contempt. The sellers, we understand, are not in a good place right now.

As we proceed with our tour, I begin dutifully pointing out some of the more charming features of the home, like the green swimming pool channeling a Petri dish.  I am doing this as a courtesy to the seventeen people sneering at me and not for my client’s sake, as we have already exchanged the “let’s be polite and get the hell out of here” looks. Suddenly, I am compelled to give props to the wood burning stove in the corner. I am actually feeling for them. That’s when one of the angry throng counseled, “That doesn’t come with the house.”

Now, and I wish I had a picture, both my client and I set our gazes at the base of the fireplace and allowed our eyes to drift skyward until we were looking at the point where the flue extends through the roof. “But it goes through the ceiling,” I stammered” Won’t there be a hole?”

“We bought it,” the daytime TV fan barked. “It’s ours.”

They bought the home too, I am thinking, but I suppose that is just a technicality.

I have seen a lot of things missing from distress sale properties over the past year including appliances, light fixtures, cabinets, bathtubs and even, once, most of the dining room wall. Having someone tell me they are taking the fireplace, however, is a first.

This story won’t have a happy ending. I predict it will proceed to foreclosure, and I am quite certain that by the time the new owner (probably the old bank) takes possession, the gaping hole in the roof will be the least of their problems.

Clearly this family has given up. In fact, it seems that the only one even moderately interested in avoiding foreclosure is their out-of-area agent.

There are so many sad stories out there – so many sad houses. Encounters like this would have been a rarity in our last down cycle and unthinkable several years ago, but it is becoming our new normal.  I liked the old normal better.

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