(Dedicated) buyer's agents do A LOT more than just open a few doors. In this series, I'll highlight a few tales from the Real Estate trenches to emphasize just that.
The value of a buyer's agent: the forgotten storage unit.
Last year, I worked with wonderful clients who first sold their family home and then purchased a condo in a 55 and better community in Howard County, MD. The sale of their home took a lot of preparation - on the house itself and emotionally - but had an incredibly happy ending selling 63K above list price and with a free rent-back period. Purchasing the retirement condo was a different story, however. In a highly competitive market, it took numerous home tours, a few offers (despite being cash buyers with no financing nor appraisal contingencies and offering a quick close), and moving into a temporary rental before we found the one and ratified a contract.
When we did, things moved along quickly and smoothly until we received the title commitment. I reviewed the title search and a mysterious delinquency of $227 caught my eye that the closing attorney had not brought up as a potential issue. Since we offered a quick settlement within two weeks, the title search came back just a couple of days prior to closing. The preliminary closing statement that I received for review did not show a collection from the seller in the amount of $227.
Time is of the essence. To avoid a closing delay, I had to figure out quickly what the story was behind those $227.
I went back and forth with the title company who didn't know. I pointed it out to the listing side but the seller also had no idea.
So, I pulled county records, tax bills (that weren't very clear and mislabeled the storage unit as a parking spot which added to the confusion), and the recorded subdivision plat, and read through the condo docs for a clue.
It was a puzzle but little by little I put the pieces together to reveal that the storage unit on the ground floor of the condo building was separately deeded and did not just convey with the condo per the seller's condo disclosure addendum. The seller had no idea that it came with its very own tax bill and had never paid the property taxes due. The $227 was a few years of tax payments plus late fees.
I shared my research with the title company who then confirmed my findings and added the $227 as a seller charge to be collected at closing and disbursed to the county.
I also asked the listing agent to revise the condo disclosure addendum to reflect that the storage unit was separately deeded and taxed and both parties signed off on it.
$227 may not seem such a big deal, but the fact that it was listed as delinquent on the title search made it one. Just ignoring it and not figuring out what it was all about, was simply not an option.
Without buyer representation, the issue may have never come to light. The listing agent didn't get a copy of the title search and would have been unaware of this little item. The seller had no knowledge and was under the impression that the storage unit was a limited common element that was just conveyed with the condo. The title company overlooked it.
I did my due diligence for my buyer clients, but it spared both parties, buyers and seller, a (massive) future headache.
What could happen if property taxes remain unpaid? Back taxes and late fees will continue to accumulate. The county could put a lien on the property and sell it through a tax sale process. The new owners could have been on the hook for the unpaid amount to keep the property they believed conveyed with the sale. They could have contacted their title insurance, or title attorney to sort things out at that point, or possibly take action against the seller. But who would want to have to deal with all that?
After closing, my clients' daughter sent me this note. Of course, I am not a lawyer, or loan officer, she was simply referring to the many nuances of this business and the problems I solved during their two transactions. Happy clients, happy agent!!