Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Long Silence

After hiring Santa Claus to sell my house, I expected to get occasional calls or emails with updates on how things were coming along. When I sold my mother's house after she passed, I had a real estate agent who contacted me at least once a week, more often every other day, whether he had news or not. He'd call just to tell me that no one looked at the house that week.

When the house hadn't sold after two weeks, he wanted to drop the price. He continued pressuring me to drop the price every two weeks until I told him to piss off and get to work on trying to find buyers instead of wasting all of his time hassling me. I could get rid of the house myself if I gave it away, which is where things were headed after he insisted that I drop the price by nearly $200,000 after being on the market just four months. I knew the market was bad, but the values of homes weren't changing that rapidly. The agent just wanted to get it sold at any cost to me. He was as slimy as a used car salesman.

Because of that experience, I told Santa that I was under a lot of stress and hoped that he could buffer some of that for me by keeping the bad news down to a minimum and not pressuring me into constantly dropping the price.  He was good about not bothering me about the price, but he didn't seem to understand my sentiments regarding keeping the bad news to a minimum.  He kept calling or emailing me to complain about the painter's job performance.  I'd call the painter and he'd assure me that my real estate agent's concerns were unfounded, and that Santa just didn't know what was going on.

Because I wasn't at the house to see with my own eyes what was going on, I didn't know who to believe.  It was one man's word against the other.  I later found out that Santa was a bit of an alarmist, confused, and lazy about checking his facts, while the painter was dishonest and quite possibly a compulsive liar, so neither man was supplying me with the truth.  I came out the loser in every argument between these two, and got to the point where I just didn't want to hear it anymore.  It was like being a mother to a couple of bickering kids.

Then Santa began contacting me to relay rude remarks that snobby potential buyers made about my house.  He'd use some of these buyer comments as excuses for why he couldn't sell my house.  For instance, he said that no one wants to buy an outdated floor plan from the 1970's.  Obviously, I couldn't tear down the whole house and rebuild it, so it was up to the buyers to pay attention to the year in which the house was built, and only tour homes that fit their criteria.  Sellers can provide fresh paint, new flooring, new roofing, remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, but once you get into knocking down walls to keep up with the latest architecture, only the very rich are privy to such changes.  It hurt to hear such nit-picky complaints when I invested such a huge amount of money into making the home clean, comfortable, updated, and with newer appliances for the new homeowners. 

Since these criticisms were just plain rude and not anything I could change, I reminded him that I was under a lot of stress and only interested in hearing good news.  I knew how these buyers from big cities were always disappointed in the farm houses they find when they are ready to move into a rural area, and I really wasn't interested in their cut-throat criticisms of the country life.  I know that the rest of us seem to be hicks with primitive ways of living, but that's all a part of what makes rural living charming for some.  I suppose city people can always buy some land and build something to resemble their penthouse suite and hire a doorman or whatever else they think they need, but they'll quickly learn that septic tanks overflow, wells run dry and wildlife invades out in the less populated areas.  If they don't want to lose their conveniences, they're better off staying in the city.

I was simply asking Santa to limit his communications to productive ones that aren't meant to do anything but insult me and excuse him from failing at his job.  If there was a problem that required my attention that I could actually fix, I did want to know about it, but I was already juggling a lot of problems and didn't need him adding ones that were impossible to solve.  He took my request to the hilt and went A.W.O.L., not communicating with me at all. If I wanted to know what was going on with my house, I had to call him.

I called him to ask how the painting and flooring installation were coming along, and could barely hear myself speak because he had some sports event on TV that was ridiculously loud. As usual, he had nothing good to say about the painter, but the carpet installers were long time friends of his, and they could do no wrong in his eyes. (In reality, they made just as many mistakes as the painter did, but he turned a blind eye to that.)  I asked about the lawns, and he said, “I'll have to drive out there later and take a look.”

Ding ding ding ding ding! Alarm bells went off in my head. Wasn't Santa supposed to be watering my yards? How could he not know if the lawns look okay? Especially if he drove by my place every day like he said during his job interview with me? He knew I had hired gardeners to handle the mowing and watering, but I still needed him to pick up any slack by doing extra watering and keeping a close eye on the place in my absence.

I waited for him to get back to me on the condition of the lawns, but heard nothing. So, I flew out to have a look myself. My pasture was a fly's wing away from being dead. The front and back yards were in similar distress. Stepping inside the house, I found a pig sty that the workers left behind. The house wasn't even in showable condition, and my real estate agent said nothing.

I called him up and conveyed my disappointment and anger over the state of my home. He blamed it all on the painter, who he obviously did not like, but I knew the painter didn't kill my lawns.  The painter did a lot of bad things, but he had nothing to do with the dead grass. Santa tried to convince me that the painter did kill my lawns by laying his tarps and equipment on them and leaving them there for days.  I asked if he saw the painter do that, and he admitted he didn't.  It was just an assumption.  My pasture was so far away from the house that it made no sense for the painter to set up equipment all the way out there.

After three harrowing days of trying to fix everything that was messed up while I was gone, I read the riot act to my real estate agent, my gardener, the plumber, the painter, and the flooring installers until I was satisfied that everything wrong was made right.  This was a result of collective laziness and poor customer service, so I made each businessman take responsibility for the damages he caused.

With the house cleaned up and the lawns revived, I had confidence that the house would sell. I waited months and heard nothing, so I talked with my other real estate agent who helped me buy my house in Arizona. She gave me some good suggestions and informed me of my rights in dealing with a lazy real estate agent. She said that I could break the contract at any time. However, my bleeding heart chose to give the guy a fighting chance. I had already cut the length of the contract in half from the standard six months to three months since I wasn't sure if he would work out. He only had a few weeks left.

She also suggested that I drop the price just a little bit, so that it would bring my property back up to the top of the MLS listings as a “price reduced” property, which people look for. She also informed me that I can put the house up for rent at the same time that I have it up for sale, and I can take whichever comes first – a buyer or a tenant.

I approached Santa with the idea of dropping the price just a little bit to refresh it in the MLS listings. I didn't want to drop it too much, because the asking price was right in line with its value. I also sent him a link to a news article about the housing market improving in our area. I didn't hear from him for several days and almost called his broker to ask if he was injured or sick.

Then, out of the blue, I received two nearly identical emails from Santa in which he ranted and raved angrily about how insulted he was that I would send him a link to a news article about the housing market, because he's a professional and knows what is happening long before any journalist gets a hold of the statistics. He told me that my house wasn't worth nearly as much as it was a couple of months before, that no one wanted to buy a horse property, because it was dirty and attracted flies, that anyone who ever owned horses was smart enough to get rid of them as soon as the economy started going south, and that if I want to sell my house, I should drop the price by 20 times the amount I requested.

By the out-of-control tone of these emails, my guess was that Santa was coming out of a 2 or 3 day drinking binge and was in a very foul mood. I was taken off guard, especially after he insisted half a dozen times that he was a “professional.” News flash! Professionals don't treat their clients that way.

But what really got my goat was that he said that he didn't want to do the work of lowering the price until he knew where he stood with the listing. He warned me that sometimes sellers go with a different agent, and that agent talks them into lowering the price significantly. Then the house sells right away and this new agent gets to collect on the commission when the old agent was the one who put all of his time and money into advertising the house. He then asked if I would be willing to extend his contract another three or six months, and recommend him to other people.

I wrote back and said that I decided to take the house off the market and would rent it. I told him that he could give the key to the property manager.


appydoesdressage said...

Good for you for firing this guy, what a mess. Hope this story is headed to a happy ending!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Santa didn't deserve a fighting chance. He had already overstayed his welcome.
Maybe, just like the real Santa Claus, he believes in only working one day out of 365?


Mikey said...

Unreal. I can't believe what you had to go thru with this guy. He was totally unprofessional.

Katharine Swan said...

Santa, my ass. No matter what he looked like, this is the anti-Santa. Instead of giving, he's taking... as in, taking up your precious time!

By the way, this struck me as really odd:

"He warned me that sometimes sellers go with a different agent, and that agent talks them into lowering the price significantly. Then the house sells right away and this new agent gets to collect on the commission when the old agent was the one who put all of his time and money into advertising the house."

So... if he was afraid you'd go with a new agent and they'd drop the price significantly and that would earn them the sale, why would HE refuse to drop the price unless you extended the contract? By his own logic, if he dropped the price, the house ought to sell before the end of the contract.

I think he sounds like an idiot. Definitely unprofessional, and he sounds lazy too. Based on something you said earlier, it sounds like he thinks selling a home is nothing but listing a house in the MLS. Which makes it rather amusing that he would gripe about sellers switching agents when the old agent has already invested in marketing the home. What exactly had he invested, besides the cost of the MLS listing?

Oh, and actually, that makes me think -- I'll bet that it happens to him all the time, and that's why he was griping about it. And I'll also bet that the reason the new agents are able to sell is not because of the sudden price drop, but because they are actually MARKETING the home. Something he was too lazy or too ignorant to do.

Cheryl Ann said...

Good for you! He sounds like a lazy #%%. And, yes, HE is the one who sounds unprofessional! Doesn't sound like he did much marketing for you, or anything else for that matter!!!

Cut-N-Jump said...

Atta girl Nuzz! Sometimes you just have to take charge and lay down the law. That's when people sit up, take notice and think Uh Oh! She means business.

Sometimes people see quietness or kindness as weakness. That is of course until they get a big ol' slap up side the head with REALITY!

Sucks that it has to come to that, but if everyone had been doing their job all along- there would be no need.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...


If I wasn't having to deal with someone (not real estate related) of the same ilk...I would probably be more shocked at this guy's behavior...but 'they' are everywhere. These losers that think they are 'owed' something and it's everyone else's fault that things aren't working out like they should. And it's worse when they kind of know they have you in a bind.

I would like to come unhinged on the guy that I am having to deal with, but can't until another matter is settled. But I am counting the days....Ohhhh...Am I counting the days!! He isn't gonna know what hit him when I let fly. ;-)