Sellers’ and buyers’ agents aren’t exactly adversaries, but the one who holds the carrot (the listing) calls most of the shots; I prefer that side. So when my dear friends, the “B’s,” called to tell me their daughter and son-in-law wanted me to help them buy a house, I had mixed emotions.
“OK,” I said,”but let’s wait until after the holidays; there’ll be lots more foreclosures on the market then.”
“Sure, but we’ll just start doing some research on our own,” they sweetly replied.
The “research,” I knew, would drag me out of my cozy home office many evenings and weekends to write multiple offers, losing to all-cash investors, in the cold, in the rain, well past the holiday season for which I had great plans because (lemonade out of lemons) real estate is in the tank. And Bubbles and Spot wouldn’t like it, either.
Divine intervention: we found the house in one month — on December 17! But it was all downhill from there. The house was gorgeous — why was it still here after 30 days on the market (per the Bs, who had found it on some real estate website in the sky)?! Why couldn’t I find it on my Multiple Listing Service?! Why was there no “For Sale” sign out front?! It all became evident very soon; this house was not on the listing agent’s radar.
Foreclosure agents tend to become very impressed with themselves — their heads swell in proportion to the number of listings they have. This fellow had over 200 listings; he was waaaay beyond bigheaded — he had become … a deity! When you are this huge, you’re much too important to talk to the buyer’s broker. You delegate (and use e-mail when there’s no way to avoid the other agent).
“God’s disciple,” aka “Thor” (yes, the name was changed to protect … me), was most charming — while he was here. He announced to me on December 21 that he would be on vacation until “after Christmas.” So for that week, during which we had to have all of our inspections and remove all of our contingencies to meet the foreclosure lender’s insane deadline, Thor would be gone. Oh well, he could put together whatever fell apart on the following Monday. He also promised me seller’s signatures on the purchase contract the next day, as he cheerily signed off.
On December 23 we were scheduled for a home inspection, a pest inspection, a fireplace inspection and a roof inspection — so fortunate to get any inspectors out during the week before Christmas, and luckier still that they agreed to be there on the same day. To be on the safe side, we went to the house to assure that the water and power were on, as we had been told they would be. Power — yes. Water — no.
I call Thor’s office.
Me: Water’s not on.
Secretary: Yes it is.
Me: Really, well it’s not coming out of the pipes.
Secretary: I’ll call the water company and call you back.
Four hours later (two days before Inspection Day) I call Thor’s office:
Me: Any answer on the water?
Secretary: They haven’t called me back. (Very proactive.)
I call the water company.
Me: I’m told the water is supposed to be on at “cute little foreclosure house.”
Water company: No, God hasn’t paid the back water bill.
I call God’s secretary.
Me: You have to pay the bill before they’ll turn the water on.
Secretary: Oh, I can’t do that.
Me (syrupy sweetly): Really, well who can?
Me: Well, may I please speak to God?
Secretary: He’s in a meeting; you can leave a voice mail.
I call God’s voice mail and get his “I’m such a mellow guy if you’re a foreclosure lender calling to give me another listing” voice. I leave my message.
I get a return call the next morning (one day before the four inspections) from the secretary. “God took care of it.” To be on the cautious side, I call the water company. “No, we haven’t heard from him.”
I call God’s office again and repeat this. Only this time I’m getting tired, and scared. The secretary says, “Call God’s wife.” I leave a message for her, explaining the urgency of this. No return call. God’s wife (who, with all his money, has better things to do at Christmastime than deal with us) is MIA. At 4 p.m. (the day before Inspection Day) she calls me.
Mrs. God: IT’S TAKEN CARE OF!!!
Me: OK! Thank you! Merry Christmas!
I go to the house. The … water … is … not … on.
At this point, I have no choice. I must talk to God! I leave him a voicemail, words to the effect of, I am so unworthy, but please, merciful God, have pity on these lowly first-time homebuyers who need shelter. I MUST HAVE AN AUDIENCE WITH YOU!!
GOD RETURNS MY CALL! He sure has a different voice in person vs. his lilting “in case you’re a foreclosure lender and want to give me another listing” voice mail tone. In his “other agent” voice he imperiously informs me that he has “220 foreclosure listings and this is just a little water bill,” and adds, “don’t question me!” At the risk of committing a mortal sin, I do question him, to the point where it sounds like he actually might have a doubt himself. So I am ordered to call the water company again and report back to him.
I call the water company and get a manager who actually looks at the right computer screen and says, “They paid the water bill.” Hallelujah. Now it’s just a (relatively simple) matter of getting the field guy out there the next morning, the day before Christmas Eve, before noon, to remove the lock on the water meter so we can proceed with our four inspections. Which did happen. Which is not the end of this story.
True to his word, Thor returned “after Christmas” … on January 4. Now we’d like to close escrow. But the signed purchase contract, which he had promised me two weeks before, had still not materialized. You see, with foreclosures the buyer and his agent spend hours and hours and hundreds of dollars, trusting that the foreclosure lender will honor his unwritten commitment and actually sign the contract. This state of affairs, of course, increases the buyer’s anxiety and the buyer’s agent’s urge to kill. Lenders abide by that Golden Rule: “We have the gold, so we make the rules.”
Then began the closing dance. I called Thor and said (to his voice mail), “Happy New Year, we’ve been in escrow 18 days, have fulfilled all of our terms, our lender is ready to close, and we just need a signed contract.” No response. I try again. No response. I CALLED GOD. No response. My buyers called me.
“When are we going to close?”
Me: “WHEN GOD SAYS SO!! Sorry, kids, it must be getting to me. Seriously, you’ll know as soon as I do because the skies will part, winged angels will appear, trumpets will blow and your signed purchase contract will drop from the sky.”
After seven more days of monitoring the skies, I received the signed purchase contract and we closed shortly thereafter.
The B’s are still my friends. After all this, they showered me with praise (extremely important to a codependent real estate professional), wrote me a beautiful thank-you note (who does that anymore?), told me I don’t get paid enough, and they bought me a poodle ornament! It’s all good.