Challenges, Challenges and More Challenges.

By
Real Estate Agent

This is not a post about a blog writing contest, or some other challenge to bloggers, so I am sorry to disappoint you, if that is what you were expecting.

This is a post about the challenges I overcame while marketing my most recently sold listing:

1307 7th Ave, Swarthmore, PA 19081 

This property was my first my first piece of business from a personal referral. (The Sellers were my financial advisor's mother-in-law and her disabled husband.)  My expectation of referral business was that it would be easier than other business I had previously had.  I was sorely mistaken, at least in this case.

They had just refinanced, and pulled 80% of the appraised value out of the property to buy in to a co-op near the Philadelphia Art Museum.  We signed the listing contract, at a 7% marketing fee, the day after they closed on their refi.  It was then that I found out that at the last minute, they decided to take an extra $20K cash-out when they did the refi, above what they had told me when I had prepared my Comparative Market Analysis.  I was a bit taken aback at the news, because this news forced us to list the property higher than I had told them it should be marketed for, just to have them able to pay off their new loan.  A challenge, to be certain, but I am always up for a challenge.

 The challenges didn't stop there.  The sellers moved out, and into their new co-op, but left a lot of their "stuff" behind.  I did my best to "stage" the abandoned furniture and clothing in one of the bedrooms, and near the fireplace, leaving the rest of the home largely empty.  I spent about 4 hours simply cleaning and getting the main floor of this spacious 3 Bedroom, 2 and-a-half Bath Rancher ready for the open house.

  

 

The Basement was another story.  I had given them information on clean-out services, movers, temporary storage facilities, etc., but none of them fit their budget. Even after 1-800-GOT JUNK removed 2 truck loads of stuff from the basement, there was still a lifetime's collection of art and craft supplies, clothing, and excess furniture.  The space available in the basement was fabulous, but most people would not see it that way.  They would see boxes, bags, and piles of someone else's stuff.  The built-in cedar closet was packed to the gills, so when you opened the door, you might miss the fact it was actually a walk-in!

 

 Curb appeal was a challenge as well.  Shrubbery was overgrown, trees needed pruning, and the garden was in bad need of weeding and mulching.  None of the landscapers or handymen that I talked to would touch the project for what the seller was able to pay, so I brought over my tools, trimmed the hedges, swept the walks, and weeded the garden as best I could.

Open Houses brought good traffic through.  A mix of neighbors and potential buyers were there nearly every Sunday.  Many comments were made about the wallpaper.  I mentioned it to the sellers, and suggested that they remove the 20-year old paper, and paint the walls neutral.  After a few more open houses, the wallpaper was actually beginning to fall off on it's own, so I donned my overalls, and removed it all.  The next weekend, the seller and her sister from down the street painted the walls themselves.  It was an improvement, but only a mild one, because the adhesive residue from the wallpaper had not been removed, so it left a "textured" finish.

A few verbal offers were received early on, but when asked to put their offer in writing for us to evaluate, nothing came.

During one open house, one couple came through, who they liked it enough to come back later that day with someone else, who I presumed was his mother.  The next day, his father (a real estate broker) toured the property and requested a Sellers Property Disclosure.  I was encouraged.  They ultimately (a few weeks later)made an offer, (in writing) that I could actually evaluate with my client. 

Then came the biggest challenge:  The Sellers's husband was in a hospital, on a respirator, clinging to life.  I had to go to the hospital to present the offer to her.  In her state of mind, she was not too pleased with an offer that was less than they owed on the property, but after I showed her that she had already taken her profit on the appreciation when she refinanced, that this was not actually a loss, merely a reduction of the profit she had already realized, and consultation with her son-in-law (the financial planner) she agreed to the deal.  To make matters even more challenging, there was a dispute with the person who held power of attorney for her husband, and they weren't talking to each other.

As if there weren't enough challenges facing me, I had a family reunion scheduled for the week prior to Settlement.  I enlisted the aid of Betty Fennelly, an experienced agent in my office to help get the deal to settlement.  She had quite a few challenges to surmount, as well, the least of which was getting the person with the POA to sign off on the sale. After the required U&O repairs, the seller needed to bring close to $24,000 to the table.  To help lessen that burden, we agreed to lower my marketing fee to 6%, and the Buyer's Agent (the father of the buyer) actually waived his entire commission.

Once more, I got thrown another whopper of a challenge:  During my family reunion (a ski-trip to New Hampshire) I tore two ligaments in my knee, was immobilized for the better part of a week, and was not even able to attend the closing. (I have since re-habbed the MCL, but will undergo the ACL reconstruction surgery in March)  To make a long story short:

Settlement happened, and one more happy couple now owns their own home. 

They are busy repainting (and removing the bright red paint off the cherry cabinets in the kitchen), cleaning up the yard, and putting in new windows.

Please join me in congratulating them on their new home!  Here is the video I put together for them to welcome them to their new home.

 

EDIT:  (If the embed code didn't work, go to http://animoto.com/play/532edff05dfb2160bd0e7e62fbeb4d57 to see the video.)

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Ambassador
261,096
Fran Gatti
RE/MAX Integrity - Medford, OR
Managing Principal Broker - RE/MAX Integrity

Rich,

Good for you that it closed!  That sounds like an achievement comparable to climbing Mt. Everest or swimming across the Atlantic.  It's nice to read your post.  I guess you've been busy!

Feb 14, 2008 01:15 PM #1
Rainer
34,986
Elaine A. Cook
Connect Realty.com - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham Real Estate

Wow, it is stories like that, that made my write my blog on "Why we drink!" Congrats to you!

Feb 14, 2008 01:45 PM #2
Rainmaker
722,003
Teri Eckholm
Boardman Realty - White Bear Lake, MN
REALTOR Serving Mpls/St Paul North & East Metro
Rich--Oh my goodness you are a gold star Realtor on this one. Just think what you can do on one leg! At first I was shocked that you were cleaning and staging a home but then when the story unfolded, I understand why. What a story full of challenges...You rose to the occassion. And there are those who think real estate is easy money...HA!
Feb 15, 2008 12:20 AM #3
Rainer
116,825
Rich Schiffer
Swarthmore, PA
Referral Agent, e-PRO
What I left out of the post was the post-script - the seller's husband passed away 2 days after settlement.
Feb 15, 2008 01:01 AM #4
Anonymous
ramar
so you coerced a dying man and his distraught wife to go for this. what a realtor
Feb 16, 2008 08:02 AM #5
Rainer
116,825
Rich Schiffer
Swarthmore, PA
Referral Agent, e-PRO
Ramar - "coercion" is hardly how I would describe my interaction with my clients. When they refinanced (right before listing) they realized a gain of nearly $80k. Each month the property sat vacant, they were losing nearly $2k. By accepting the offer, their net gain was about $54k over the 5 years they owned the property. Given the softening of the market recently, and the fact that they had done no significant improvement to the property, they actually made a wise move. Additionally, by selling prior to his passing, she avoided additional losses that may have been incurred during what can be a lengthy probate process. Without understanding their situation, your criticism is entirely unwarranted. Out of curiosity, I would like to know -- How would you have advised them, had they been your clients?
Feb 16, 2008 01:17 PM #6
Rainer
41,374
Tara Colquitt
Tara Colquitt, The Credit Woman, LLC - Philadelphia, PA
Credit Counselor

Hi Rich. Since I met you before reading your blogs, I can only say, I know you worked in the best interests of your clients. My first couple days here I got an e-mail that said 'go away loser'. I guess they didn't like the e-mail I sent that was not in keeping with AR guidelines. Of course, there were two very helpful Rainers that informed me of how I should correctly proceed. 

People are people. Ya gotta love them. Okay, most of them. 8-) 

Feb 20, 2008 11:24 PM #7
Anonymous
Ramar
Well, I don't know how it is in Pennsylvania, but for one thing, we have to observe confidential actions of our sellers. Looks like you telegraphed their entire story to the world on your web-site here.
Feb 28, 2008 12:40 PM #8
Rainer
116,825
Rich Schiffer
Swarthmore, PA
Referral Agent, e-PRO
Tara -- Thanks for the supportive comment. Ramar -- once again, you have chosen a word that seems to not fit the situation. Nothing was "telegraphed" in this post. Any details discussed were ones that the buyers were already aware of, having gone through the settlement and the negotiation process already. Any the details of the settlement are a matter of public record. I appreciate the sentiment of your comment, however, (though perhaps not how it was phrased.) My clients know that I take my fiduciary responsibility to them quite seriously. They know they will always have the benefit of my best advise, confidentiality and professionalism, and that I will be working for them in their corner, looking out for their interests above all others. You may get a feel for that by reading: http://activerain.com/blogsview/Why-I-Don-t-Practice-Dual-Agency?12648
Feb 28, 2008 01:33 PM #9
Anonymous
RRamar
Ok. You choose to hide in semantics. I still say Pennsylvania must have some kind of public records that I can read all that details about battling people and sickness in the courthouse public records. I don't think so. I say you should not tell the world these details. Maybe Pennsylvanis different but here we are adhered to fiduciary rules and do not tell . And you are upset about "telegraph" From Dictionary.com Telegraph: 6. Informal. to divulge or indicate unwittingly (one's intention, next offensive move, etc.), as to an opponent or to an audience; broadcast: The fighter telegraphed his punch and his opponent was able to parry it. If you act nervous too early in the scene, you'll telegraph the character's guilt.
Feb 29, 2008 01:02 PM #10
Rainer
116,825
Rich Schiffer
Swarthmore, PA
Referral Agent, e-PRO
RRamar -- please don't get me wrong. I am not "upset" by the word "telegraphed." I simply think the word doesn't fit the scenario. Even the definition you cite talks about "unwittingly divulging ones intention or next moves." There was nothing said unwittingly here. Everything said was intentional. Everything said was about prior events, not "intentions or next moves." I do appreciate your ethical stance, but we differ on how to discuss an issue after the fact. My intention in presenting this case study is to help other agents in potentially similar situations. Case studies are a bona fides training method, used by Realtor Associations all across the country, to help improve the professionalism, preparedness and practices of their members. The intended lessons in this case study are: 1. Be prepared for challenging situations, no matter what the source of the busines. 2. Recently refinanced homes present particular challenges in negotiating the sale price, especially in a changing market. 3. Having a team of experienced agents to work with can help surmount even the most difficult challenges.
Feb 29, 2008 09:20 PM #11
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Rainer
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Rich Schiffer

Referral Agent, e-PRO
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