Monday, June 15, 2009

The Low Offer

For the past couple weeks I've been working with a couple to buy a home. I won't go into specifics for reasons that will become obvious later, but although we didn't get the home they wanted, the process was a pleasure all around.

There are several homes on the market in the area west of Syracuse that have been available for a while. Every town has them. For whatever reason, they have not sold and have become "stale" on the market. Some started too high - "We might get lucky" or "They can always make an offer" - and then the real estate market fell apart in that price range. Others had problems in the cosmetic line, should we say. The cost of painting, updating appliances, removing that green and orange shag rug that roamed throughout the entire house, taking down the huge tree that blocked the view of the lake became overwhelming in an economy that did not guarantee jobs. The structure of the home might have prevented it's sale - in a sea of colonials, the ranch just did not make it.

Whatever, the house didn't sell. So houses like these sit.

We never would have looked at a home in this price range if it hadn't been for an agent calling and asking if the people who had looked at it originally were interested. They weren't, but the agent and I went on to conversationally discuss the realities of the market and this house in particular. My brain was prodded...what if? I had the right people for the house, but the price was not what they could manage.

"Make an offer," I was told.

I told my people and they were interested, as anyone would be if the right opportunity presented itself to get a home of seemingly more value than what they would buy it for. They were very realtistic. "If it works, then we are there! If it doesn't, at least we tried."

They went ahead and scraped up a bit more money and sold their house at the same time. They put together a pre-approval from a local lender and wrote the offer, knowing that it was a very long, long shot but one worth taking in their opinion. They even wrote a letter and included pictures of their family, detailing the reasons why they wanted this particular home and what it would mean to them.

Generally, if I bring in a low offer it is usually from an investor who smells a deal. I have been yelled at most of the time, shown the door at other times, and been generally abused by both the seller and the agent. I work for my buyer and as a buyer's agent, I am required to bring in the numbers he/she requests. Some agents refuse to do it - the yelling gets to them, I imagine - but I do it. For all I know the sellers could be on the brink of foreclosure and our offer may have kept them from bankruptcy. I could be an angel. Mostly I am not.

In this case the agent made time for me and accepted the offer without any acrimony. We were both saddened, I think, that it couldn't be more but it was an offer and it was recognized as such.

We had no answer from the seller for days, but throughout the waiting I heard regularly from the agent. No yelling, no upset. In fact, I was assured that there was no game-playing going on, that the offer was being taken as legitimate, which it was.

In the end, the seller countered quite realistically. He/she would take a loss, but after a few years on the market with another year or so to go possibly before another offer came in, this was the best that could be done.

My people accepted the premise that this was a final offer from the seller and as they had promised they could go no higher. The deal was not made and everyone went their separate ways.

But after 10 days of waiting and talking and thinking about all this I feel fine. We all - buyers, sellers, agents, mortgage people - took it as far as it could go. None of us reached our goal, but it was accomplished with so much dignity that we all have parted knowing we all did our best.

I wish every deal - or non-deal - would take the same course. Life is too short for anger and recriminations, non-communication and gamesmanship. My faith in humanity has been restored, if it ever really was gone!