Wise with their money but naïve in life, I represented them on five transactions before they turned thirty-five. We were close like family. They consulted with me on more than real estate and I treated them like they were my kids.
Jeni's parents, well-to-do New Yorkers, wanted to visit this budding family whenever they had an opportunity. With two young children and a baby, the parents didn't want to disrupt the lives of this blossoming household when they came to visit, so they tasked me with finding a home within walking distance of their daughter and her offspring.
After setting them up with a Search on the local MLS, I went to see each house that came on the market that met their criteria. Four weeks after the search began, I received a panicked call from Adam, Jeni's husband, in a desperate state of agitation. Almost in tears, he started the conversation with, "Mimi, please forgive us. We are frantic and don't know where to turn. Can you help us?"
I like to believe that most Realtors are decent and represent their Clients and their peers in an honest and upright manner. But there are rotten apples with brilliant smiles that hide the decay in their souls, and Jeni and Adam found one.
Soon after we started our search, a sign went up in the yard directly across the street from them. It, of course, was not listed on the MLS. Excited because the location would be absolutely ideal for the parents, Adam contacted the Agent on the sign. The first thing he said to the Agent was, "Mimi Foster is our Realtor, but I saw the sign and want to know how much you're selling the house for."
Mr. Slick Talker told him the price, which was well within their price range. Excited and innocent, Adam told him they had cash (ugh), and would there be any kind of discount on this 1950s, much-in-need-of-repair property if they could close within a few weeks? Smelling blood in the water, Slick said, "Well, you know, I could give you a substantial discount if you don't use your Realtor."
Adam (bless his heart) said, "But we always use Mimi. She's been our Agent for years." Seeing the weakness in this trusting young soul, Slick said, "I could take $20,000 off the price if you don't use your Agent." Jeni and Adam talked about it, and the draw was just too great. They made the offer with the less-than-reputable listing agent.
When they received the contract for signature, the price was $10,000 more than asking. Upset, they called to find out why it was $30,000 more than they had agreed. Slick told them it was a popular house with lots of offers, and they either needed to pay that price, or it would sell to someone else. (Mind you, it was a slow market with houses languishing for months, especially ones that needed a lot of work.) They thought about calling me but were afraid the price would go up, so they signed the contract.
The Morning of Closing
The frantic call from Adam came in around 9:30. Desperate and not knowing what to do, he swallowed his pride and called to tell me the entire story. Blood boiling at the duplicity of the Agent, I hadn't even heard "the good part" yet.
They did their walk-through that morning. Getting to the lower level of the house that had been vacant for months, there was ankle-deep water that had been coming in for weeks from a broken sprinkler line. Not only was the asbestos-backed linoleum in standing water, but the walls had wicked up at least five feet, and the bases of the furnace and water heater were immersed.
"No problem!" Slick said. "I can have a guy over before closing this afternoon with a wet vac and have this sucked up in no time." Shortly thereafter was when I got the call. "Is there anyway out?" was their plea. "We put $10,000 down in Earnest Money because Slick told us if we put more down, we'd have a better chance of getting the deal." (Because the over-asking-price cash offer wasn't enough? Realtor was a gem, right? But I digress.)
Asking Adam to send me a copy of their contract, there is a section that essentially reads that if there is damage to a home that can't be repaired before closing, the Buyer can back out and get their Earnest Money back. I told Jeni and Adam they would have to hire me as their Buyer Agent and I would deal with Slick. They really were loyal clients and had definitely learned a lesson.
I called Slick, told him the Buyers had hired me to represent them, and we were terminating based on Section 18 of the contract. To say he went ballistic would be an understatement. He told me I wouldn't get a penny out of the deal. I told him there wasn't going to be a deal.
He shrieked at me, "DO YOU KNOW WHO MY BEST FRIEND IS??" Wondering what that could have to do with anything, I said, "I neither know nor care."
"John Carrell and I have been best friends for years and you will not get away with this!" John owned the largest real estate franchise in town and he and I were friendly acquaintances. I told Slick to have their Earnest Money ready the following morning at 9:00 am and I would be there to pick it up. Somewhere in his screaming I understood, "Over my dead body!"
After filling out the necessary paperwork and a call to John to explain the situation, the Earnest Money was waiting at the front desk the following morning. I wanted to report Slick to the Real Estate Commission for his unethical behavior. When I found out how much would be involved for Jeni and Adam, I let it pass, but there is rancor in my heart when I hear Slick's name.
Jeni and Adam are closing on their eighth house with me this month. Slick and his son are still a prominent real estate team in town. I suppose I have my own brand of naivete in finding it hard to believe that some Realtors can be that devious and unethical.
Actually, Jerry Newman, he is still a very prominent Realtor in town. I just believe he has no moral or ethical standards.