I recently had a past client reach out to me about selling their condo in Boston. I have worked for this particular client a couple times in the past while they converted three families into individual condos. It was an unexpected call since I thought they were done with development deals.
During the call, the client went on to tell me how they have not been able to work for awhile. One of the them, was hit with a degenerative eye disorder. They are slowly losing their eyesight. The loss of sight was affecting everything about their life including their ability to really hold down "normal job". Clearly, I remember the severity in the tone and how this was one of these "crucible moments". During the call I realized how alone the client really was. Their family, what little was left was on the west coast and they were really here alone sans a few good friends. They came to Boston for graduate studies, so their network was not like mine being from "BAHSTON". The client had confided in me about hopes, wishes and dreams during this call. They told me how everything was becoming unbolted due to loss of sight. What also came out was that the client was a little behind on their mortgage and condo fees.
I am not sure there are words that I can put to paper to describe how I felt on the call. You know those calls when a friend calls up and says "I have something to tell you" and you are blown away. For me, this was one of those calls. I wanted to get into the car and go help them right away.
As we were talking about the situation at hand, I realized that the client had the weight of the world on their back. They were facing "the crucible". All things in life were converging at the same time. Employment, housing and health were all being challenged at the same time. On the call, I remember something clearly that they said to me. It's important to share here so you can see how choice of response is half of the battle in life. The client said to me "Mike, it's like going down a class V whitewater river on a raft and the boat is being bounced off the rocks and filled with water as you go down the river. They continued, "but we have the paddles in our hands to direct where the boat goes". The point was that we don't always have control over the whole thing, but we do have the oars and we can direct the boat either away from danger. Keep your head up and stay focused instead of letting things rattle us.
We agreed to meet and discuss options for helping the client move forward. When I arrived at their home, we exchanged pleasantries, and then I was right down to business. Having been trained as a lieutenant and led an infantry platoon, I cut to the chase quick. In tactical military operations, you become really familiar with a ton of acronyms for gathering information. One such acronym was the "salute report". The "salute report" is a quick way to gather intelligence on a situation approached in the field.
Here is the breakdown of a "salute report":
(1) Size and/or strength of the enemy.
(2) Actions or activity of the enemy.
(3) Location of the enemy and direction of movement.
(4) Unit identification. The designation of the enemy unit may be derived from unit markings, uniforms worn, or thorough information provided by enemy prisoners.
(5) Time and date the enemy was observed.
(6) Equipment and weapons observed.
I was sitting with my client at the kitchen table, I was essentially using the "salute report" to gather all necessary details in order to formulate options for review. After I gathered information, I came to the conclusion that things were worse than they appeared. The bank already began the foreclosure process and notices were filed with the registry of deeds. The enemy in our situation was now time. There were a couple of approaches on how best to handle his current situation. Each comes with it's own risk and reward scenario.
I pulled up my laptop at the table. I wanted to do some research. I looked at the registry of deeds to see what had been filed as far a paperwork for a foreclosure. The next thing I did was open my subscription to Realtytrac. Realtytrac is an information service that tracks foreclosure activity. Realtytrac sells it's information to real estate investors and "investor wannabes" . I wanted to see if the property had made it the Realtytrac system. There it was. It appeared on Realtytrac a few days earlier. At that point, I turned to the client and asked if he has received any mail that seemed unusual in the last couple of days. He went onto tell me that he had.
When there is blood in the waters, it's no coincidence that the sharks show up
The client showed me a few letters from attorneys soliciting the client for bankruptcy protection. There were also letters from investors stating that they were aware of the situation and had done some research about their situation and they were "willing to take the problem off of their hands". I laughed. They asked what was so funny. I responded with the fact that I see this sort of thing all the time. Investors and the "wannabes" send solicitations to the client and describe how they will buy the property "as is" and even help the client move and possibly pay of a credit card to boot. Again, when the blood is in the water, the sharks show up. I told them how the people who penned the letters were the same people who drive around town at 2:00 am and hang those bandit signs up on telephone poles. Bandit signs are the ugly yellow signs that say something to the effect of "we buy homes in any condition in 10 days or less for cash". These are the same ruthless cats that send the letters. They log onto Realtytrac everyday hoping and praying a desperate person to respond to their letters.
I warned the client about the "yellow letter". They asked about the "yellow letter". I laughed and began to explain to them about a letter I guarantee that they would shortly in the mailbox. I call it the "Yellow Letter". The letter is handwritten on yellow legal pad paper and it is mailed in a card envelope. It's also written with red pen to make it appear a little more homegrown. The yellow letter says how they have been searching high and low for a place in the neighborhood and that they were reaching out in hopes that the recipient may want to sell. It's so overused in the investor community as a "tactic" that cottage industries have sprung offering yellow letter services. Don't believe me? Do an Internet search for "yellow letter" or "yellow letter lady".
At the table we reviewed the options, the best option was to under price the property against current retail sales and let the property get bid up and control the terms of the closing. After our discussion, they said it was a lot to digest given the gravity of the situation and that he would need a few days to examine his options.
A couple of days went by and I received a call from the client. They were emotionally ready to market the property and move on with the next step to begin the venture. They said, "but I have one thing I want to take care of before I do". I asked what that was, and they said I know you told me about the "sharks in the water" but there was one "shark" that had a compelling story. They needed to see what the investor had to offer. We agreed to speak again in a few days.
A few days passed, and the client called me again. They opened with "Mike, you were right". I laughed and asked about what. They continued to tell me that the "shark" offered him $225,000 with a straight face and was willing to pay moving expenses and give him all the time he needs to free them of their "burden". Free them of their burden. Was this guy for real. Last week at our meeting, I knew I could sell the property as is with a list price of $349,000. This guy could have sold the paper and not lifted a finger and made $125,000 just for being a "nice guy" and helping my client. The client told me they believed everything I said about investors, but that they just needed to see it "with their own eyes".
Now it's time to get into gear. These types of marketing arrangements are not for the faint hearted nor inexperienced real estate agents out there. I quickly tracked down the attorney retained by the bank and tracked down all of their coordinates. Then I called a great real estate attorney friend of mine, Alex Seifart. I asked if Alex would be interested in the case and to get an idea about the feasibility of the outcome. Alex said we could get it done, but speed would be critical. I connected the client with Alex and they spoke and reviewed everything. The client retained Alex. It was go time.
Alex was able to get in touch with the bank attorney and "buy" us some time to get the property marketed and under agreement. I ended getting the property on the market and holding all showings off until the weekend. I cramped the schedule into a very small window of time so that all of the prospects assumed the property was "hotter than Georgia asphalt". We ended up taking quite a few offers on the property. Ultimately, the property ended getting bid up to over $370,000 with no home inspection and a quick closing. I was able to help the client find housing and negotiate all rental payments to happen on the day of closing with proceeds from the other property. In addition to that, I was able to get the client moving services secured on credit payable due the day of the closing. It was a great day all around for the client and for me. I believe I was put on earth to serve and when I get to see results like this, it's extremely rewarding.
I must give special thanks to all the people around me who are part of my network to include Alex Seifart, Attorney at Law and Greg Tuohy of Junk Hunk. Without my network it would have never come to fruition.
I was able to use the gifts god gave me to deliver an outcome and make a difference in someone's life. I often tell young Realtors that I am blessed because god puts people in my path for a reason and view that relationship as "holy". When you are personally willing to give it out in slices it often comes back in loaves. You just have to keep the faith. I learned more about faith from this client than any can ever dream of. I want to thank them for the gift of awareness. Awareness of how easy I have it everyday with the ability to see.
The client ended up walking out the door with a a good amount money in their pocket. This is going to allow them to get their life back on track and "point the raft" in a new direction that works given the current of life as it is now.
When the client believed in me enough to confide their story in me, I was willing to go hell and back to make it happen for them. If you want someone who cares and will treat you like family, give me a call at 617-980-9025 or email me at email@example.com