I have a client who just closed on a home in Palm Harbor and her story is one of the most illustrative I’ve been through of why having a good agent representing you is vital.

She has been getting my newsletter for a few years and contacted me this Spring to let me know that she had a plan to move from Massachusetts to get away from the cold weather. This is something I hear quite often and I met her for the first time in February.

The plan was to sell her house after the end of the school year, get a nursing job here in Florida, buy a home in Florida and move her family here. I would help her with the purchase of her home and in March I referred her to the top mortgage broker in the area who I wanted her to work with to make sure she was well taken care of and they connected and began the process soon after that.

We kept in touch over the following months and she secured her Florida nursing license in the Spring and looked for possible nursing positions. On July 12th she listed her home with an agent who she knew that lived in her neighborhood and on August 10th a buyer made an acceptable offer which she accepted. Now in Massachusetts they do things differently than here in Florida – instead of having a contract (Purchase and Sale Agreement) they start with a 1 page Offer to Purchase and then the buyer has a specified amount of time to do inspections and then there is negotiating done relating to what came up on the inspections, price, etc. and THEN a contract is drawn up and signed.

Within a few days of getting the contract she had contacted one of the largest hospital networks here that had offered her a job and arranged to meet with them about working out a position and came here both to meet with them and to look at houses. All got taken care of with the job position which she would start on September 8th and we found a house within her budget that she liked and got it under contract. (The seller of the house here that my client put the offer in on got a cash offer that would close in 10 days after we had his verbal agreement but before signing our contract – fortunately, the mortgage broker here had not only preapproved my client but had done the work to be able to give a loan commitment letter which was even stronger, and the seller’s agent also helped by telling the seller that he should honor his word to my client. Because of all of this, the seller did sign the contract with my client.)

So with the job lined up and the house here under contract she went back home to get the inspections done by the buyers for her house in Massachusetts and get their contract finalized. They were selling their home and getting financing so everything had to go right for her to be able to close on her house here in Florida and have a place for her family to live when they arrived here. The dominoes were all lined up but that had to all fall in sequence for the result that was needed.

Then the Problems Began…

The inspections on the house in Massachusetts were scheduled for a Friday morning and my client was told she shouldn’t be there during that time. Unfortunately her agent did not attend the inspections on her behalf because she felt she needed a day off. My client’s mortgage broker here called this agent on that day to get a document she needed and that agent acted quite put off and was upset that she was being bothered with this because she was “just trying to take one day off!”.

During the inspection, the inspector did something stupid and caused the garage door to crash down which broke the small glass windows and cut himself on the glass. He tried to blame that on bad springs but I could tell from the report that he had caused the problem by pulling on the manual release while the garage door was up! Then he proceeded to note things on the inspection report which are items that were ridiculous, such as the lights in the closets having incandescent bulbs rather than the new energy saver bulbs and that the paper on the inside of the electric panel that lists what all the circuits were for was missing one or two descriptions which would require an electrician to handle, in addition to other items that wouldn’t normally be considered as needing to be ‘repaired’. If my client’s listing agent was there she could have seen for herself what the inspector was doing and could have prevented this from becoming a nightmare.

My client had to get the garage door windows replaced at her expense and the buyers’ list of repairs included everything the inspector wrote in his report including the light bulbs in the closet! Not only that, they wanted her to reduce the price based on things about the house that they were complaining about which they had already been aware of or that weren’t really issues. My client’s listing agent did nothing to get this negotiated properly. Since they had to get this agreed upon before getting an official contract, and since my client was in a position where she felt she had to get this contract done, she agreed to the buyer’s list of repairs and a partial price reduction and was able to get to the contract stage and then did the repairs. This all happened the last week of August.

The buyers then had to close on the sale of their house on September 19th and the closing on my client’s house in Massachusetts would then happen on September 30th. My client would have the closing there on the 30th, leave with her family and dogs to drive to Florida the morning of October 1st and then had to be here for the closing on the house in Palm Harbor by 3pm on October 3rd. In addition, she had to drive here by September 8th to start her new job, work until September 23rd so she had enough paychecks from her new job to be able to get her financing approved, then go back to Massachusetts on September 24th to help pack the truck and sign the paperwork for the closing on her sale up there. I’m sure you can almost imagine how stressful this might be and how everything had to happen as it was lined up since if anything didn’t occur when it was supposed to she wouldn’t have a home here. This is where the professionals you’ve chosen to help you are supposed to have your back – your real estate agents, mortgage brokers and (for Massachusetts) your attorney.

Well the buyers for her house in Massachusetts did have the sale of their house go through on September 19th and she did start her new job and worked the 3 weeks in September which meant that the paycheck from her new job that was needed would be there (although it wasn’t coming out until the day before closing, but that is a whole other story on the miracle pulled off by her mortgage broker here!).

So it looked like everything was going to happen as it should even though she had very little contact from either her listing agent in Massachusetts or her attorney up there (you are required to have an attorney in Massachusetts for real estate transactions). That is of course until the day of closing on her house in Massachusetts…

Almost a Disaster

She was at her Massachusetts house until 10:30pm on the 29th packing and cleaning and spent the night at her parent’s house. I called her the morning of the 30th to make sure she set up her utilities accounts for her house here and she called back at about 11:20 am. During our call she had a call come in from her attorney that was handling the sale of her house (the closing was scheduled for 11:00am). She put me on hold to take that call. When she came back to me about 10 minutes later she was quite upset, telling me that the buyers did their final walkthrough just before the closing and came up with a whole new list of things they wanted her to fix before they would close (even though none were items that weren’t already known before). They did know her situation and were taking advantage of it by presenting unreasonable requests such as saying they wanted the light fixtures in the closets replaced (remember they had previously asked for the bulbs to be replaced), different springs for the garage door (my client had already replaced those after what happened at the inspection), landscaping for the area where her dogs roamed in her back yard, and the removal of the basketball pole/hoop/backboard that was in the cement next to her driveway (which was there from the first time they saw the house and was never mentioned in the list of repairs requested).

My client had been in tears when talking with her attorney because she couldn’t have any delays or would lose the house she was buying here and would then have to move here without her family and pay for the moving company to bring her belongings back to her Massachusetts house until she could find another buyer for her home there and then go through all of this all over again. Her attorney proposed a solution which was to hold $1000 of her proceeds from the sale in escrow for the buyers to do the ‘repairs’ they were requesting and my client told him to do whatever was needed to get the closing done that day because she felt she had no choice. She heard back from him within about an hour that the buyers agreed to this solution and that it ‘was a go’. This was sometime before 1pm. During all this she never heard from her listing agent.

No Contact for 6 Hours

I called her about 3pm and found out about what she had last heard from her attorney and then called back a little after 6pm since I hadn’t heard from her that the closing was done. At that time I found out that she had heard nothing yet from either her attorney or her agent and she had left a message on her attorney’s office voicemail about an hour before and hadn’t gotten a reply. She did tell me that her son had dropped a friend off at a house right by their old house and said he saw an older couple in the driveway and the garage door was open – so she figured the closing had to have occurred. I told her to call her agent and have the agent contact the buyer’s agent to verify the closing had occurred. She called her agent and had to leave a voicemail but did hear back a while later that the closing did occur. Keep in mind that from about 1pm to nearly 7pm she was never contacted by anyone to let her know what happened despite the fact that she was the most important person in this transaction and was supposed to be leaving early the next morning to drive down here.

A Happy Ending Despite…

Even with the delay on the closing up in Massachusetts, her mortgage broker here was able to get the loan approved for her home in Palm Harbor despite not getting the closing statement for the sale of her Massachusetts home until a day later than she really needed to have it. She did arrive on here time and the closing did happen on October 3rd and she is now settling in at her new home in Florida – so the ending is a happy one despite it being so difficult getting to that point.

One funny thing that happened just before the closing here – we were sitting in the reception area waiting for the closer to come out and my client got an email asking if she would like to recommend her Massachusetts listing agent on Trulia and she showed it to me. I’m sure you can imagine what her response was to that after what happened.

So make sure that whether you are buying or selling that you get an agent that will provide a level of service and caring that is at the very least acceptable and, preferably, a 10 out of 10. Buying or selling a home is a major step in anyone’s life and you should never have to go through what my client did – you should be helped by your agent in a manner that shows they honestly care for you as a person.