Share Their Real Estate Stories
By Judy Wade
Buying or selling a home can range from a stressful, hectic experience to a situation that flows smoothly with minimal tension and few problems. When things go very badly, consumers say it can be a nightmare. The common thread among buyers and sellers seems to be that the agent is the expert, with the duty to conduct things inherent in the profession honestly, efficiently and pleasantly. All individuals interviewed here agree that the success of any real estate transaction depends on the agent.
"Being an absentee landlord had not been easy, and I didn't figure that being an absentee seller would be any walk in the park either. But when I decided to put my Van Nuys condo on the market, I was pleasantly surprised. My REALTOR¨, someone I'd known before I left California, sent me comps, then overnight expressed the preliminary papers for me to sign. She ironed out logistical problems with the security system so that the place could be shown easily, and worked with my tenants so that they weren't bothered needlessly. Although I ended up taking the place off the market, I will absolutely list with this REALTOR¨ another time. She kept me informed of everything that happened, helped me understand the current market situation in California as it affected my property, gave me tips on how to entice buyers in a depressed market, and in general kept in touch without driving me nuts with phone calls and faxes. She was gracious, helpful and at all times professional," Judy from Phoenix raves.
"In her eagerness to close a deal, our agent told us that the house we were interested in had two other offers pending, so we'd better offer full price, and do it now. We thought that was strange because we knew the house had been on the market awhile. So we checked with a friend, also a REALTOR¨. He said there were no pending offers, and the last offer, two months before, had been well below asking price. When we confronted our agent, she offhandedly said she'd made a mistake. Needless to say, we changed agents immediately," relays Tyrone and Lydia from Oakland.
"Over the past 20 years that I've worked with my REALTOR¨, she's helped me buy and sell almost two dozen properties that I use as rentals. She has an ability to function within my time frame so that I never once have had to take time from my job [non-real estate-related] or take calls at my office regarding a transaction. I've never even filled out paperwork myself. She's always done it for me. She also takes charge of finding the best loans. She's very good at what she does and never makes me feel pressured. I always know she's working on my behalf. Somehow we always end up winning, and she never has to get pushy to do it. We work well together, because I don't like to be a ball-buster. I prefer to negotiate so that everybody wins and she's willing to work that way," says Sherri from Manhattan Beach.
"We drove by a great house with a for-sale sign on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, called the real estate office and talked to a woman who said no one was working that weekend, and she'd get back to us on Tuesday. We thought that was odd, so [we] called back and got a fellow who said he'd be there in ten minutes. He immediately picked up that we [weren't] big on dithering. We made our decision to get the house, now let's get on with it. That's what he did. Every step of the way he helped, putting us in touch with financial people, a home inspection company (he even was there with a flashlight to help us look at the attic) and an appraiser. He always returned calls immediately, he was prompt and he took care of all the boring paperwork. At final signing he picked us up, took us to the escrow office and stayed with us to make things as easy as possible. Having him shepherd us through the process kept us from having to worry about our lack of knowledge about real estate transactions," Jeremy and Belinda from La Jolla confide.
"We were working with an agent and had a bid verbally accepted on a home we liked. But the listing agent was in the same office as our agent, and between the two of them they cooked up a price war between us and another buyer. It went on and on until things really got ugly. Finally we said enough is enough, and the other party got the house. We explained the situation in writing to the manager of the real estate office, who compensated us for our aggravation with a $1,000 check. A week later, working with another agent, we found a house that we liked better and was a better investment, so we look at it as an all's-well-that-ends-well situation," Justine and Jerald from Kentfield share.
"If it hadn't been for my first real estate agent, I'd never be in the good financial shape I'm in today. My mother died and left me a small inheritance that I wanted to use to buy a house. I also was about to marry a woman with a small child. My agent was able to explain my options, pointing out things that as a single person I would never consider, but that I'd have to take into account as a new father. For example, I never would have checked on school districts if my agent hadn't done it for me. Also, I knew nothing about applying for a loan. He explained points and PMI and all the lingo about which I didn't have a clue. That was ten years, and two houses ago. He continues to give me good, sound information that has helped us move up to bigger and better homes," says Michael from Orinda.
"What can you say about an agent who helps you find someone to watch your kids while she shows you houses, locates a kennel for your dog and cat, picks up your dry cleaning, takes you to lunch and brings you flowers and champagne when you move in? It was really difficult for us with a 3 and a 5-year-old to schedule time to house hunt, and then during the hubbub of packing, our pets just went crazy. Our agent offered her daughter as a babysitter and picked up our pets and had them kenneled at a nearby vet's during the move. No matter what our problem, she was there to solve it. If we'd had an earthquake, she'd probably have been there picking up the pieces. When we're ready to buy another house, she's the only one we'd consider using," beam Martin and Nancy from Sacramento.
"My agent never should have taken my listing. I admit my condo in San Diego was not exactly a hot property with the market in such a slump, but she did absolutely nothing to help the situation. She was not motivated at all. She had one REALTOR¨ caravan, never did an open house, never advertised. To get it in the paper, I had to take photos of the condo, bring them to her and pay for the ad myself. When an offer finally was presented, it was so low it was ludicrous. It was the buyer's broker who had to explain to me that the offer was in line with what other condos in my building had recently sold for. My agent had never even pulled comps. She clearly just wanted to list it and grab the commission when it sold," reports Cliff from Olympia, Washington.
"I appreciate it when an agent admits what she doesn't know. Recently I purchased a piece of unimproved land that was owned by a conservator ship, which meant that there were many legalities involved in the sale, including approval by trustees and by the court. As soon as my agent realized the intricacies of the transaction, she suggested I employ a real estate attorney, offering to find one for me if I didn't know one already. The agent continued to be helpful and attentive, freely admitting when she didn't have an answer, then [consulting] with the attorney. The deal, although tricky, went as smoothly as possible," relays Roger from Pacific Palisades.
Clients' perspectives of REALTORS¨ apparently are shaped in many ways. As one buyer put it, "I have to feel that my agent understands what I want and is looking out for my best interests. If I'm sure of that, as a team we can get through almost anything." The names used in this article have been changed. Judy Wade is a freelance writer.