Just Out of Spite...
It is truly sad how buyers and sellers can get themselves twisted over contract negotiations. Tempers will flare, one side feels the other is getting "too good a deal" and then decisions are made out of spite. The most jaw dropping of a spiteful mindset happened this past week. Let me set the scene.
I am representing buyer-clients that found their dream home through a friend they already know in the dream community. Before I was ever engaged to write an offer, the buyers set up their own showing with the seller directly. They were honest with each other (imagine that) about their motivations. The seller is the son of the deceased owner. The estate has not been handling the sale of this property quickly enough, so he is the newly appointed executor. My buyers told him the property was perfect for them and they wanted to make an offer ASAP. The seller threw out a number and and that of an agent that he had either intended to hire, or already hired, to help with the sale.
At this point, the buyers came back to me. We had already spoken about their wants and seen a couple of example properties to figure out what might work for them. We signed a buyer agency agreement and I called Maria, the listing agent of the home my buyers wanted. Enter the first annoying decision. The estate seller was only willing to pay about a third of what my buyer agency agreement laid out as my fee. Maria almost sounded hopeful that this was a deal breaker. Nope. My clients saw my value and were willing to make up the difference, so on we went to write up an offer at the even higher price than the seller had given to my buyers in person. And we asked for a late December settlement date, as the seller had expressed a need/want/desire to get this house off of his plate before the end of tax year.
The seller agreed to the terms HE had laid out and the only contingency for my clients, who were paying cash, was a home inspection. There would have been no need to ask for repairs had the inspector not discovered a slow leak from the bottom of the water heater. The inspector shut off the valve to stop water from entering the appliance, but stressed that the fifty gallons inside was eventually going to find its way out either slowly dripping out the bottom, or in what might become a "gushing" situation if the tank burst open. We telegraphed the need to have the water heater replaced ASAP to Maria and sent paperwork asking for the repair. It took one day for the seller to say, "No repairs."
Apparently, the seller was tweaked that he wasn't getting enough for the home and wanted to force my buyers out. I did mention he was getting more than he had originally asked my buyers in person, right? His agent was having a hard time laying out the hard core reality that hitting the MLS with a more palatable commission to the buyer's agent, getting ready for market (there was still a ton of estate items in the home and it smelled of a nursing home in one bedroom,) was going to be costly. Carpet, paint, junk removal...and now a water heater. Logic was nowhere to be found. He wasn't having any of it.
The next solution? We begged him to drain the water to prevent more damage before settlement. My buyers even offered to reimburse him the cost for it at settlement. The seller went silent. Was he swept away in the gush of water running out of the water heater?
Apparently, the realitythat the home was conveying as is, as of the date of the home inspection, at which time there was no water damage, was not sinking in to his head or possibly, Maria's. It seemed he really wanted to chance it, have the thing burst open and laugh as my buyers walked away. No thought was given to consequences of that spiteful decision until I laid out the cost of new flooring, kitchen cabinets, drywall and a mold remediation for him...not to mention the possible loss of priceless family items in the path of possible destruction.
As it turned out, when his game of chicken failed and my buyers decided to stay in the deal and chance the risk of water damage for a later fight at walk through, the seller signed that he would drain the water heater to be reimbursed later by the buyers. There was nothing but spite in that move and it could have cost that seller dearly.