Life at the DMV


We’re all born brave, trusting, and greedy, and most of us remain greedy.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966

This business can be so trying. I mean this not from the standpoint of hard work and long hours, but from the almost daily disillusionment I experience at the hands of many of those I encounter. This week I met a lot of great, honest, fair people. However, I have often said that if you want to see a true cross-section of America, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles. Everyone – rich, poor, kind, and mean-spirited – at some point or another will likely have business there. Some days I just feel like the DMV. 

This week I had the pleasure of meeting a man who appalled me at his unadulterated lack of respect and his greed. I received a call late on a Sunday afternoon, which happened to be the very same Sunday afternoon when San Diego was in quite a quandry. Do we watch the nationally televised Charger game or the nationally televised Padres game (in the playoffs)? He wanted to see a listing at 6:00 pm. No worries; Steve is the big sports fan and, for both of us, business will always come first. After spending an hour or so in the home, this man expressed sincere interest in purchasing the property. Now comes the zinger I have become accustomed to expect. “I can walk into any real estate office in town and find an agent who would be happy to write the offer for me and give me some of his commission. How much will you give me?” Fair enough. We talked about the implications of dual agency, how in general terms the seller had structured their contract with me, and so on. He asked for the name of my “preferred lender”, at which point I gave him the name of a lender I trusted to be competitive, responsive and perform on time. We agreed to talk the following morning.

Here are some of the fun sound bites from the next day’s conversations:

  1. Conversation #1: “I am not prepared to pay anywhere near the asking price. So as to not waste time, have the seller give me their bottom line. I will tell you if it is good enough. In addition, tell me how much they will be willing to credit me for (list of items) and how much you will give me from your commission. Agents like to tell me to just make an offer, but that is not the way I like to do it.”  I am looking forward to his class on Negotiations.
  2. Conversation #2: “While you are waiting on the seller to get back to you, think about this. You may not be aware of what is going on in the market, but prices are falling. Just thought you would like to consider that. Every month the seller doesn’t sell, they will lose 1% in value, yet I am willing to buy today. Keep that in mind”. Gee, thanks. I really don’t keep up on the market-thingy.
  3. Conversation #3: From me, “Since you asked me to ask, I had an obligation to present your question to the seller. Here is a range of what the seller is willing to entertain at this time. Imputed in their range are credits to you for (list of items) and real estate fee considerations. At this point, they would like to see an offer in writing”. From him, “What about your commission? How much are you going to give me?” Hello? Are you listening?
  4. Conversation #4: From the lender, “Who is the listing agent you have been talking to?” To the lender, “I don’t remember her name”.  After an hour showing the home and three subsequent phone conversations, you don’t know my name? I know yours.
  5. Conversation #5: To the lender, “I can get a much lower rate from any internet lender. By the way, how much are you kicking back to the agent”?  Kickback? Are you kidding me?
  6. Conversation #6:

There was no sixth conversation, as after having gone through 48 hours of verbal gymnastics, I was not given the courtesy of a return phone call. I can only surmise that the “incentives” offered (or not) by the seller, the listing agent and the lender were not considered to be a sufficient prize package. Of note is the fact that I offered on several occassions to send this gentleman comparable sales data to assist in determining value, but he had no interest. I guess the only thing that was important was how much he could stick it to everyone else.

Men are respectable only as they respect.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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