The Day I Fired a Client & How Your REALTOR is Like Your Lawyer

I was a Matlock fan back in the day.  Whether you like those law-drama shows or not, they are prevalent.  You probably remember a scene or two where some poor soul is in a jail room with their lawyer who is pressing them: “If you’re not honest with me, I can’t protect you.”  This is the same for your Boise, ID real estate agent.  If I don’t know how you’ve messed up, I don’t know how to fix it!  I’ll use a couple examples from my personal experience to highlight why you don’t want to try to sneak anything past the person who is in your corner.

A couple years ago an older lady called me to purchase a new home.  Her husband had just died and left her some cash, so there would be no financing contingency.  Ruth claimed to be sensitive to air-quality; needless to say any house with moisture issues or smoke of any kind was not an option, but she also could not be exposed to the off-gassing of construction materials (e.g., newer carpets, cabinets, paints), so our search was limited to homes at least ten years old with no updates.  After looking at a few properties in her specified price range, Ruth reluctantly raised her budget and then found a condo with great views.  She insisted on making a low-ball offer that – surprisingly – the sellers accepted.  That is when I started to see some red flags.

Ruth did not seem excited about her new home; she had the “it’s good enough” attitude (and still thought she was overpaying for it).  She started telling me concerning stories about other properties she was in contract with that had fallen through for one odd reason or another (for example, she managed to terminate a contract because she didn’t like that the seller had the right to choose who would pump the septic tank).  At the inspection she picked apart bogus aspects about the property, like how the fully-grown trees nearly a mile from the home would grow even taller and block her views.  Still she chose to proceed with the transaction and submit an inspection response to the sellers.

Our request for repairs was reasonable, but the sellers were frustrated with having to do repairs in conjunction with the low sales price.  They agreed to all repairs but one.  When I told Ruth the good news, I was a bit taken aback when she said she’d think about it and talk it over with friends.  The next day I had a short and sweet email in my inbox saying she did not want the property.  When I asked why, I received a lengthy response listing every imaginable reason OTHER than the inspection findings, including the “feel” of the condo development and clauses she had found in the CCRs two weeks prior.  She obviously had a number of concerns, but because she did not share them with me, I had let her continue with the transaction and satisfy every contingency.

Ruth was lucky that the sellers refused to do that one repair because it put her back in the driver’s seat.  I had her sign the termination papers quickly before the sellers changed their mind, because if they had, she would have been forced to buy the property or lose her earnest money.  In fact, when Ruth bailed, the sellers came back and said they would make every repair she wanted, but again, apparently the condition of the home was not what bothered Ruth; they were things she should have seen and communicated with me when we first viewed the home and certainly before she spent money and time on the inspection.

At that time Ruth stated she wanted to continue looking for a house and was no longer open to condos, but I knew it would be a lost cause.  I got the feeling she could increase her budget to find something that suited her specific needs, but there weren’t any detached homes under $170,000 on the market, and even if there were, they would not have been in good condition and surely would have issues that interfered with her health (particularly moisture/mold, as the location she wanted was very humid).  Plus I was pretty disturbed that she had not been honest with me; I have never lost a client’s earnest money, and this was a close call.  I wished her luck with a different agent.  I recently looked her up in the tax records, and she never did buy a home.

I would like to say that I am not necessarily against clients’ changing their minds.  This happens occasionally, and so far I’ve always been able to get my clients out of a contract without too much drama.  However, Ruth was the rare case where a client chose to deceive me.  In some cases, a buyer or seller will default on the contract accidentally.  If this happens, a good Boise, ID agent will grovel, offer concessions, or problem solve some other way to keep her buyer’s earnest money safe.  Such was the case with Pete and Darby…

Pete and Darby desperately needed a new home as they could not afford the upfront costs of renting.  I don’t know their entire backstory, but they (along with their 6-year old) were living in a leaky trailer in a friend’s backyard when they came to me to buy a house.  They were qualified for a USDA loan at a price that wasn’t great, but they had options and weren’t picky.  They also seemed very realistic about their situation; the house they chose to make an offer on needed quite a bit of repairs to pass a USDA appraisal, so knowing the sellers would already be out paying their closing costs (USDA loans are 0% down), they made a great, full-price offer, and we were on our way.

The first red flag: they barely had enough cash to put down $500 in earnest money.  In reminding them that the inspection would be another $400, I respected Darby’s optimistic response of, “We’ll find a way and make it happen,” but was taken aback when Pete said, “We’ll start a GoFundMe page.”  Knowing they had jobs, no housing expenses, and were fully qualified, I was hopeful I could get them into a new home.

The inspection came and went.  Sellers agreed to all repairs (as I had flushed out with their agent before we even made the offer), in addition to a $2,000 credit for some plumbing issues.  I notified the lender to order the appraisal, which Pete and Darby were required to pay upfront.  I wasn’t sure how they were going to make that happen; the lender responded positively, but I got crickets from Pete and Darby.  In getting mixed signals, I decided this was ultimately an issue between my buyers and their lender, so I simply told Pete and Darby, “Any delay in ordering the appraisal will delay the closing,” and let it be.  I knew they were desperate enough to not want to delay closing!

Little did I know how desperate they were!  A couple weeks later I checked in with the lender, and found out the appraisal still had not been ordered.  Pete and Darby had communicated with the loan officer that they could not pay it until such-and-such day, and really, the lender should have made sure I was aware of this if not my buyers.  At this point I sternly reminded Pete and Darby that there are “Time Is of the Essence” clauses in our contract, and stated they should have let me know so I could have brainstormed solutions.  If the seller’s agent had asked the right questions and I didn’t have an educated and prepared answer, it could have been ruled that we were in breach of contract.  Pete and Darby would have lost the house, their earnest money, and the money they spent on the inspection.  A few hundred dollars might not sound like a lot to some people, but it was all they had!

I also discovered Darby had lost her job.  This was something I learned from the lender a couple weeks after the fact, who in an attempt to take Pete and Darby through underwriting had forwarded me an email with Darby asking, “Doesn’t my unemployment money count as income?”  I was done sitting idly by at this point.  I got Darby on the phone and told her to run down to the unemployment office and ask what employer would be desperate enough to hire her immediately.  To her credit, she had a letter of employment faxed to the lender that very day and started work later that week.  We had already managed to extend closing twice; meanwhile, their “friend” had kicked them out of his backyard trailer, forcing Pete, Darby, and their little boy to live in a cheap hotel.

It was even more tense from then on out.  I was micromanaging Darby and Pete was trying to micromanage the loan officer, who was losing patience.  Eventually underwriting came back stating they needed a full month’s worth of paystubs from Darby’s new job.  We extended closing a 3rd time, and in those negotiations, Pete and Darby lost the $2,000 credit for the plumbing, so they would now have a house without hot water.  We ended up closing five weeks after we were originally scheduled to.  Pete, Darby, and myself were all so tired of each other, this is the ONLY transaction where I have not heard from my clients and they have not heard from me after the sale!  But I am so proud that they made it work and are now homeowners.

The moral of these stories is to always keep your Boise, Idaho REALTOR® in the loop; this is how we protect you.  Like a lawyer, your real estate agent must know everything or she loses negotiation power which could cost you in a number of ways.  If something happens in your personal or financial life, or if you change your mind, try not to be embarrassed about it; remember your agent is your employee, and you’re the boss.  Your agent is there to act in your best interest, and in some cases, save your hiney!

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