What EXACTLY do the contract & amendment(s) stipulate?

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Paying attention to the seemingly little things can have a very positive impact on a client's purchase or sale. However, failing to do so can have a negative impact on an agent's pocketbook.

We closed a transaction a couple of weeks ago that highlights this in a very clear way. In truth, this transaction was not unlike any other transaction I have been involved in. We proceeded through the contract negotiations, inspection, amendment to address concerns, owner completed repairs, final walk-thru, and a seemingly smooth closing. Sounds simple, right?

The day after closing, however, I got an email directly from the buyers who were quite upset about a landscape water feature not staying with the property, expressing that the water feature was vital to the entire sale from the start, and demanding that my clients or I replace it immediately. This was quickly followed by a call from the buyer's agent relaying that there was also a problem with the fireplaces.

As you might imagine, I was a bit surprised that something like this was coming up since we had closed the transaction without an expressed concerns. I informed the buyer's agent that I would review the concerns with my clients and broker; and get back to hear promptly.

Upon review, it all came down to a misunderstanding and improper expectations.

First, the water feature was not attached to the home and thus my client's personal property, nor was the feature referenced in the offer made to my clients for the purchase of the property. The buyers also provided a list of personal property items that they were interested in purchasing from my clients. Since the feature was not included in that list, my clients assumed it was not of interest to the buyers.  This situation was regrettable, but absent being in the contract or personal property interest list, my clients were perfectly within their rights to take the feature with them.

Second, the fireplace issues came down to what was wanted, versus what was actually written, signed and agreed to in the amendment to address concerns. The amendment indicated that the fireplaces and chimneys were to be cleaned, inspected and the burners cleaned if necessary. This is precisely what my clients did. The buyers, however, also expected my clients to repair any issues that were uncovered in that inspection. There is no question that this would be a normal expectation, but repairing any issues that were uncovered was not included in the language in the amendment. Consequently, my clients were not responsible for any repairs to the chimneys and fireplaces, nor did they make any.

At the end of the day, this one points out a few key things that any agent must do when protecting their clients interests:

  1. Understand as best we can all the things that are critical to the sale or purchase of a property. It is my take that the buyer's agent really had no idea the true importance of the water feature to her clients. I am sure that if she had it would have been included in the offer and thus a moot point. I for  one have added specific questions about exterior property features that might be important to my buyers.
  2. Make sure that all documents accurately reflect the intent and expectations of our clients. Truth is, any one of use, could have missed the one word absent from the amendment that prevented the buyers from getting everything they wanted in regards to the chimneys and fireplaces. That said, it does not take a rocket scientist to think that a client might expect their agent to make them whole in such a case.
  3. Do not rush the final walk-thru or do it at the last minute. Strongly encourage the buyers to take all the time they need to be comfortable. If there is a problem or concern, DO NOT close until those issues are resolved. Barring a contractual issue that survives closing. a closed transaction is just that; a closed transaction.

I learn something in each and every transaction, and this one is no exception. It reminds me how important it is to really slow down and focus, because when I move too fast, I can miss the little things that were in fact really big things.

Posted by

John B. McKernan II - REALTOR®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
(d) 404.822.5235
(e) John.McKernan@coldwellbankeratlanta.com
(i) ColdwellBankerAtlanta.com/John.McKernan

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