It Ain’t Like HGTV Makes You Think!

Oy vey… I guess I need a moment to vent, so please indulge me.  Getting a real estate license does not equip you to handle the myriad of issues that might be hiding in any transaction.  Being a REALTOR does not mean looking at beautifully decorated homes all day and then having the buyer pick one… and then showing up at settlement to collect a huge check.  It doesn’t.  I am glad we make it seem so easy, but let me give you a little glimpse into the real world of real estate.

Before I tell you the types of issues that I deal with it’s critical that you put it into perspective… Hinging on every transaction are big dollars for both buyer and seller, after all, real estate transactions are usually the largest financial transactions in a lifetime. Plus, since most of my transactions are for primary residences, it’s even more than money… this is about someone’s LIFE.  Will they be able to move into another home that actually has enough bedrooms for their growing family, or find a house with a first floor bedroom so they can get mom out of the nursing home?  Will they be able to afford a home within an hour’s drive to their new job?  If they can’t sell this house, at this price, how will they pay for the bone marrow transplant for their daughter that the insurance won’t cover?  YES, these are real life situations that some of my current and past clients have been in.  So if that’s not enough stress, here ya go….

This morning I have been debating nuances of the Lead Based Paint Disclosure regulations with a colleague.  The question at hand is: Can a seller refuse to allow a buyer to do lead based paint testing?  Why does it matter… well, first of all, in a bzillion transactions no one has ever asked to do the testing, until now.  But can the seller say no?  I don’t know, and we don’t seem to know anyone who is an expert to confidently and competently answer this particular question.  I’ve read the regs and the federal register myself.  I am not sure.  I think the seller can’t refuse to allow it if he otherwise accepts the contract, but I think he can reject the contract in it’s entirety if he chooses to, because no seller ever has to take any offer.  So what exactly does that mean, and does it really matter?  What’s at risk here?  If the buyer does the testing, he may very well find lead based paint… and to remediate that is expensive, so when he asks the seller to fix it, then what?  Can the seller afford it?  Doubtfully.  So he’ll probably say no.  But then the seller must disclose the presence of the lead based paint to the next potential buyer, which is going to make the next buyer want it to be remediated, too.

[Can open. Worms everywhere.]

I have also been talking to attorneys this morning about another transaction… in this case, the question revolves around escrow release laws.  I am finding that the black and white laws are interpretted very differently… so the answer to my question is clear as mud, and hanging in the balance is a couple thousand dollars worth of reimbursement for my client…. my client who lives overseas and would find it incredibly arduous (and expensive) to have to go to court over this.  So I continue to search for alternatives.

Oh, then there is the seller that has dropped off the face of the earth and even though he didn’t want to sell his house (after he ratified a contract to do so), he won’t sign the release so the buyer can move forward with another contract.  REALLY?  Yes.  Really.  [Mr. Seller, Help me help you.]

That’s just today, and it’s only lunch time.  My days are filled with builders not putting in pendent lights (oh yeah, that was today, too) and being six months off schedule (It’s only 6 months and having a place to live isn’t really that important, so take your time Mr. Builder)…

I lose so much time every week debating potential structural issues, scheduling inspections and tests ~ pest, mold, EMF, radon, water quality, water damage restoration, septic and the list goes on (although I have never had to deal with the lead based paint testing before now).  I am constantly negotiating what repairs will be done, by whom and at whose expense.  Then comes time for the title work… and when there are complications, questions about what convenants impact a property, what loans have been paid or are still outstanding, and who really owns the house anyway… well, it seems to fall into my lap to be the translator between the title company and the seller because there is a serious language barrier there. You’d think these issues would be pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised.

And, oh yeah… Did I mention the stress my clients (and the people on the other side of the transaction) are under BEFORE we get under contract?  Yeah, I think I mentioned that… But I didn’t talk about how hard it is to find a home you want for a price you can pay, secure a loan, get the appraisal, insurance and all that jazz…. or what it’s like having to prep and stage your house, and run out the door every time some lookie-lou wonders what it looks like inside.

So as you can imagine, a huge part of my job is to keep my clients from jumping off a bridge while we’re going through this process.

You don’t see that on HGTV do you?    Yeah, me either.  That’s why I can’t watch those shows.

Having said all of this… I love my job.  It is a mix of technical, intellectual and strategic challenges which are different in every transaction, coupled with high emotions and high dollars.  It’s important.  I like doing an important job. I like helping people.  I like keeping them from jumping off the bridge.  And I like to see their “afterglow”… the look when they leave closing.  It makes it all worth it. And later, when I talk with them and they clearly have forgotten just how incredibly difficult the process was… it makes even the worst of days worth every grey hair and every wrinkle.  It’s nice to do a job that is worthwhile, and to do it for worthy people.  It makes for a pretty good life.

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