Dave (my husband and business partner) and I had the opportunity to go on a listing presentation last week to the home of an older gentleman. He welcomed us in, and although it was evening, he did not turn on any lights. It was quite dark and I was immediately concerned that something was not entirely right with him, although he seemed quite intelligent and friendly. We eventually moved into the kitchen where he turned on some lights and told us with pride all the work he had done on his home, a single man his entire life. When we got to the room that he had most recently renovated, the basement bar, he became the most animated in discussing the finer points of its evolution into a place where friends would gather. The saddest thing, he said, was that a single friend had never entered that room. It was never christened with a toast, or served as a backdrop for any celebration. All the hours of planning, working, applying the finishing touches had been for nothing. Dave and I could not look at each other. It was loneliness on a level I'd never seen. I don't know what is worse: that he had a "If I build it, they will come" mentality, and they just didn't, or that he trusted us enough to share this pain a few minutes into our relationship.
After the tour, we went back to his kitchen to discuss what he expected out of the sale. We had done our research prior to the appointment, and now having toured it we had both come up with the same amount that it was worth. Unfortunately, the amount that we had discussed privately while the man was out of the room was tens of thousands under his absolute lowest price, an amount he passionately emphasized several times. I asked him why that number seemed to mean so much to him. He said he knew he would probably never even spend a dime of the ample profit it would generate, but that amount is fair, and "I want what is fair". He said that he'd rather die unhappy in the house and let his one remaining relative sell it for whatever she wants after his death than sell it for a dime under his ideal amount during his life. Let that sink in for a moment for the profoundly sad statement that it is. Let it percolate.
Earlier, his face had lit up when he talked of having recently leased a car for the first time in his life. He said he was done owning cars, and dealing with their inherent maintenance. Remembering this, I asked him what he wanted to do when his home was sold. He said he wanted to rent a small place and have everything taken care of. I was sensing a theme. He wanted to get his ducks in a row to have an easy, headache-free final chapter. Understanding his motivation, his goals, and a bit of his psyche, we tried to explain how we could help him reach these goals, and still net several hundreds of thousands of dollars, none of which he intended to spend. It was for naught.
As we were leaving, we told him that we could not help him get the amount he wanted, and did not want to waste his time. We were aware, we said, that every time there was a showing, he'd be inconvenienced by cleaning and leaving his dear home. Dave said that time was precious and we would not waste his. Nor would we have him making plans for a future that was unrealistic with his pricing plan. He was sad that we declined and said that his last realtor said she could get him that amount, but that a "low-ball offer had come in and he told the interested party to 'hit the bricks'". We said we understood that that realtor made a promise, but pointed out that she did not deliver, and we could not make such promises. We had really made a connection with him, and he asked us to re-evaluate the neighborhood statistics and to get back to him in the morning with the news that we would sell his home.
Although we knew it was fruitless, we did reassess, and looked at his last listing, as well. It was well under his desired amount. It also meant that the offer that was presented to him was not a "low-ball", but in fact a respectful initial offer, and was in line with our calculations. I asked Dave how he thought he was going to get $400k when he was only asking $370k. Dave said, "I know what happened. I'll bet his last realtor saw this lonely man without a support system and lowered the price without his consent, knowing full well he was not on, nor had access to, the internet. She probably thought that he was just blowing hot air about his finite number, and that he would come to his senses once an offer came in. She did not anticipate him telling them to 'hit the bricks'".
I had the task of calling him the next day to discuss our findings, and reiterate our belief about the market value of his home. Unfortunately, Dave was right. The man was shocked and had not given consent for her to lower the price from the initial $420k to $370k. You could tell he was hurt, and rightfully so. He said he needed to think about things, and would get back to us. I sent him a card thanking him for taking the time to show us around his lovely home, and Dave called again to check in on him. He said that he will have us sell it "maybe next year when it's worth more". Until then, I hate to think of him spending another winter in darkness, waiting for "what's fair".
When we were leaving after that initial visit, he said that if we sell it and get him his $400k asking price, he would take us out to the best steak dinner we've ever had. I told him that we will pass on the dinner. When his house sells, we will be doing one thing and one thing only: raising a glass at his bar.
Do you know someone who could benefit from an honest assessment of their property? Please think of Dave and I for your friends and family!
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Photo Credit: Riccardo Villani