A couple more weeks went by before I checked in with real estate professional Mel and Annie Price.* Annie had recently lost out on a home she wanted, but had moved on quickly. She and Mel had toured three more houses by the time I contacted them again.
We met in a local coffee shop, and I was anxious to hear about Annie’s progress in the house hunt. She and Mel looked at each other, and both rolled their eyes. I pulled out my notepad.
“You would not believe it,” Annie said. “The kind of craziness we are dealing with is just mind boggling.”
“Not everyone who has a real estate license is a consummate professional,” she said. “Some are great,” she added. “They know their jobs, their clientele and they know the market. But there are some agents who just do not deal in good faith. And that’s a shame.”
By now, Annie had made offers on three other houses—four in total. She’d already filled me in on how she’d lost out on the first one due to an investor who bid several thousand over asking price. But what about the other three?
“Well,” Annie began,”I made an offer on house number two. The agent never responded to my offer. Mel has contacted the seller’s agent numerous times, but they never bothered to say a word. Is a one sentence email saying they’ve accepted another offer too much to ask?,” Annie asked rhetorically.
What about house three? I asked.
“OK, well, in the case of house three, there was a ton of stuff left inside the house, and a lot of very simple things that were left unfinished. Things like missing light socket and vent covers, a missing door frame, and every room was badly in need of a paint job. Not to mention that the grass looked like it hadn’t been cut in months,” Annie said.
“The first time I went to the address, I drove right past the house,” Annie said. “The grass was so high, I couldn’t see the house from the road.”
Mel chimed in.
“A house being sold ‘as is’ is one thing. That’s obviously common with fixers. But when a house is being advertised as move-in-ready, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the seller remove the junk from the house,” she said.
They told me of one home they toured where a can of bug spray was left on the kitchen counter, and some roach motels were left in the hall closet. Not only that, Mel added, but in the pictures used to advertise the home, the can of bug spray is still clearly seen on the kitchen counter. That was not one of the homes they made an offer on.
“Anyway, by the time we made the offer on house two,” Annie said, “the seller had cut the grass in the front, but you still needed a machete and a pair of boots to even walk through the backyard.” After a mosquito attack on her first visit, Annie steered clear of the backyard, preferring to peer out the kitchen window.
Mel and the seller’s agent went back and forth on Annie’s offer, but Mel was finally told that they had accepted another offer.
“To be honest, I’m kind of glad I didn’t get it,” Annie admitted. “The interior was really nice, minus all the junk they left in the house, but the landscaping would have been too much. I had more than one nightmare about hiking though that jungle out back and seeing a couple of creatures I do not want to deal with.”
At this point, Annie decided it was time to expand her search area into a more suburban area. She has the luxury of not working a 9-5 job during rush hour, so going a little further outside the city than where she currently lives to get more for her money seemed like a good plan.
In less than a week, she saw two homes on the same street that appealed to her. The first place, she described as ‘too little house and too much yard.’ But the second one, she said, felt like home the minute she walked inside.
“The house was the same style as my dad’s house,” Annie said. “The minute I walked in, I felt like I was home.”
The house was move-in ready, Mel said, except for one small thing. The garage was filled to overflowing with junk. Still, the house spoke to Annie more than any of the others she had seen so far.
“I wrote up the offer the same day,” Mel said. “We offered full asking price and asked that the home be cleaned and that the debris from the garage be removed.”
And here’s where things got interesting. Again.
“The seller’s agent got back to me, after several hours,” Mel said. She said that the seller had countered another offer with ‘fewer stipulations.’ She never mentioned that the home had other offers and as for stipulations, I’d hardly call asking the seller to get their junk out of the house a ‘stipulation’,” Mel said, clearly frustrated.
Another issue was the carpeting in the bedrooms, Mel explained. The listing clearly states that the seller will replace the carpet upon closing, but the agent said the seller had ‘changed his mind’ and now would not be replacing the carpet after all, but would clean it.
I looked up the home myself. The listing still states that the seller will replace the carpet. False advertising? I asked. Annie just shook her head, growing weary of the games, but still holding out hope.
“We’re not totally out of the game on that house, but I’m not optimistic,” Annie said. “I guess I’m just stunned that people show what they call ‘move-in ready’ houses without even cleaning them out first, and lie in their listing about what they will and won’t do. I know it’s a seller’s market,” Annie said, “but is delivering a home free of debris really too much to ask?”
*Annie Price is a pseudonym.