Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Love My Job

Oh the joys of the Real Estate world! Yep, love it, love it, love it.

Actually, today's rant has little to do with the real estate market. It focuses on a former client. The one who gave me my first-ever listing. The one who refused to accept any offer below 200k. Not even 198K. The one who's newly-constructed split-level spec house(amateurish finish work, but is what it is) was brilliantly staged by me (for free). That took a considerable amount of time. Let's face it, trying to make carpeting in an aqua-teal tone look good is quite a challenge. Especially when it's in the main hallway and master bedroom. Guaranteed it was on sale at the local carpet warehouse. I mean who would buy that color? Unless, of course, you were going for the retro Florida-in-1985 look, in which case...this was definitely the carpet choice for you. However, this being 2007, it was new and yet seemed so....dated. No accounting for taste, and I made it look pretty damn good.

I also brought in furniture to help tie in the Master BR with the accompanying full bath. I was hoping to draw attention away from the 2ft-wide (or should I say narrow?) MBR closet and feature the spa-like qualities I was trying to invoke. Blah blah, my partial staging of this vacant house was pretty good given that there are not quality furniture rental stores in this area and Mr. Seller would never have paid for that anyway. I brought in my own stuff, and made the most of this rather bland, albeit new, split level ranch.

The main problems with this particular property (amateurish cabinetry installation and tile work notwithstanding) are the lot (2.5 acres--2 acres of which are sloped upward from the back of the house at approx. 45 degrees) and the remarkably high taxes that this particular town bears. And we marketed the hell out of it. We ran photo ads EVERY weekend. Held open houses...with little success...not a top pick town, unfortunately. Hosted a broker's open house with fabulous prizes. Dropped extensive listing sheets to all the major employers in the area. All kinds of promotion on the local MLS site.

Of course all the advertising and marketing ideas in the world were not going to change the lot or the taxes. Nor would they make the closets any bigger. (There were really only 3 closets in the whole small one in each bedroom. Then there was an odd slope-backed sorta-closet created above the stairway that led to the basement which was fitted with steps and a light...but these steps led to, um, nowhere).

Now as the expiration of this listing was approaching, Mr. Seller had indicated that he was also interested in selling his own personal residence. I prepared a comparative market analysis, and called him to let him know it was ready. He's not a big talker, and rarely answers the phone, so I left a message. And then another message. And another. Yes, and another. Finally, I called and got his teenage son out of bed...and he got his father. We finally set up a time to meet to go over the info. Keep in mind I had only seen the exterior of the house.

Of course, we ended up rescheduling the listing appointment. When we finally met, I was somewhat dismayed to see that the same quality of work was evident in this house. Let's face it, buyers' standards are somewhat higher in the $300k range, right? Now, the view from this place is spectacular. Truly. But the (again, for lack of a better word) amateurish finish work from slightly un-squared tile placement to crooked dormer walls and raw carpet edges at the top of the stairs were a disappointment, as was the mildew creeping up the walls in the two semi-finished basement rooms. This house has two large bedrooms upstairs with one large full bath. The main floor has a large-ish living room with a hanging light fixture (think dining room Home Depot special) square in the middle of the room hanging over...well...the carpet. Raised high enough to clear unless you're 6+ feet tall but serving no real, or at least appropriate, purpose other than to throw a lot of garish light and avoid the use of a ceiling blank or installation of a ceiling fan or who knows what. It's just the wrong light for that space. There is a large picture window which takes advantage of the great view of distant mountains, so that's the best feature of this room. There is dead space along the side of the stairway. Should be a closet...but it's just dead space...housing a vacuum and a couple of boxes when I was there. Not the greatest first impression as you enter the main door, which I did not. More about that later... There is a third enter it off the former mudroom. I say former because Mr. Seller had recently completed adding a two-car garage with breezeway/mudroom which rendered the former mudroom to empty tiled square hallway, really. The downstairs 3/4 bath with laundry are also off of this room. So the way I entered the house was through the new garage, into the new breezeway/mudroom (which is not complete, poured concrete floor...not stained or anything....sheetrock with joint compound, no paint...scrap wood plank steps leading to the house...and the piece de resistance....a very large deer-hunting trophy (for the uninitiated that is the head of a dead deer). The trophy ties in nicely with the highly varnished wooden gun rack which is given pride of place in the master bedroom. And, no, I'm not going there...) So from new breezeway to old mudroom is a lot of empty space with a bedroom and laundry room/bath off either side which leads to the living room (don't get me started on the poor furniture placement). Now off the living room is the kitchen, which is not visible until you actually go around the corner. Well, umm, kind of a disappointment here, as well. Small with laminate counters, low to mid-grade cabinetry with kind of cheap hardware and only two small windows, one of which overlooks the tumble-down shed that sits behind the house. It's one of those dead-end kitchens--not exactly the open-concept feeling buyers seem to go for these days, particularly in this price range--except there is no door to close it off completely. Again, the word disappointment is really the most appropriate. Nothing inherently wrong with it, but it certainly doesn't incorporate anything close to "wow". here's the rundown....3 br (2 up, 1 down) 1 3/4 baths, 1 unfinished mudroom, 1 unused mudroom, mildewed basement rooms, uninspiring kitchen, less-than-excellent finish work, altogether odd layout. The best part is the farmer's porch off the front of the house that takes in the view. Again, it's really the only thing going for it. About 4 or 5 acres of semi-useable land. Reasonable taxes. Comps for this property run in the $300-320k range (for pretty good quality stuff...not too many DIY properties in this particular mix) and, frankly, after taking in the whole thing, I couldn't in good conscience recommend anything much higher than that. I asked Mr. Seller what number he'd been throwing around in his head (for what seller doesn't have some figure he's imagining to be the right price?). He hemmed and hawed (as I said, not much of a talker) and then sputtered out $340k. I then sputtered internally...there was really no way his house would fetch that. I told him that based on recent market analyses, etc. houses of this type were selling for $300-320k, and he got all wide-eyed one me. Sputtered some more about having to talk to his wife about that...(fyi, she fancies herself a real estate expert....I mean she follows the public she knows what she's talking about) Ok, Mr. Seller, I say. I completely understand, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't tell you what I honestly think your house would sell for in today's market. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. I am confident that it would not sell for that much money. I'm not comfortable listing a house at an unreasonably high price just to stroke some self-proclaimed real estate expert's ego, and, frankly, it's bad business. Emotional attachment to houses is very real, I get that. Particularly when they've been built by their owners. I also understand that keeping the peace at home supercedes everything else. If Mrs. Seller has determined that I don't know what I'm talking about, it doesn't really matter what Mr. Seller wants or what I say to him. Did I mention that Mrs. Seller is Mrs. #3?? Keeping the peace is probably a financial imperative on Mr. Seller's part. And my broker told me (I hope not just to be nice) that she wouldn't be surprised if Mrs. Seller considers me some kind of a threat. As if! Mr. Seller is soooooooooo not my type. EEEEWWWW....SO-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O NOT!!!

Of course, I don't get that listing. They give it to another independent agency owned by a very nice man. He lists it at 329.9k. A little high, if you ask me, but not totally unreasonable given Mrs. Seller's "expertise" (cough..cough). Now as we approach e-day on the spec house listing, I call and leave message after message after message...I finally get hold of Mr. Seller, days later...and I say that we're fast approaching the expiration on our listing agreement. Before I can say another word, he blasts out "I'm not extending the listing...I'm going to rent it out and try to recoup some of my losses". I say, "ok, I completely understand considering how long you've tried to sell, and the market isn't really lined up with your expectations of what you want for the house."(did I mention that I'm listing agent #2?) I'm thinking that renting is probably his best bet since he wouldn't accept any price below his desired $200k and any houses that have sold close to that range have been on the market at least 200 days (I had it for 178). Before I got off the phone with him I had to ask "is there anything you feel I should have done, or think I should have done differently? I want to make sure that you feel I did everything I could". Oh, no, everything was fine, just didn't sell. Needs to recover some money somehow. blah. blah. blah.
Ok...his house, his decision. I grouse internally at the amount of dough we've invested in his property, but I figure hey, he's not upset with our services, he's renting it out. I asked him point-blank for criticism and got none! Ok, life goes on (and, no he never mentioned giving the other listing to another agent!)

I craft a heartfelt "break-up" letter and return his keys to him. I mention that I have completely cleared out all of my belongings from his spec house and it is all ready for its future occupant. I also tell him that I think his renting out the house is for the best given the current market conditions. I reiterate the predominant reasons I've been given (repeatedly) as to what buyers don't like about the property (lot and taxes, remember?) and also state that it is unfortunate that we were unable to see a purchase and sales through to completion (we had one almost sealed...then it fell through--the buyers knew his family, it became a kind of passive-aggressive Hatfield&McCoy kind of thing, they backed out under the guise of financing problems) and had two others almost ready to sign on the dotted line but he wouldn't consider dropping below 200k. I then slide in a closing line wishing them the best of luck selling their own residence, and assure them that I will keep it in mind if I should have any clients that may be interested. Don't hesitate to contact me with questions or if I can be of help in the di dah, la di dah...Thank you and goodbye.

Fast forward two days later...and I see the new listings on the MLS. Yep, he relisted it. With the other agent. For $199.9K

I love my job.

1 comment:

Peg said...

Mr. Third-times-a-charm-in-the-wife-department needs to find the scrotal essence to actually...oh, I don't know...tell the TRUTH??

He's a Losah and your well rid of him. Who needs an albatross like that when there are other clients out there, just waiting for your excellent staging and magnificent customer service skills?