I recently sold a home in Hollyglen, a lovely little area of Hawthorne, California that is “Manhattan Beach adjacent,” to one of my favorite clients, Warren V. Warren is a very analytical kind of guy, very smart and very thorough. He also respects the value of expertise, both mine and other professionals, which of course is one of the reasons he is one of my favorite clients!
Warren made an offer on this really darling house and got a very good price on it in the beginning, mainly because the seller was ill and kept cancelling open houses and making it generally very difficult to see the home. Warren was persistent though — he really liked the location and the look of the home from the outside and was willing to be PATIENT — a key word that will be repeated here throughout this little tale — in order to finally get into see the home. After he and his lovely fiance’ Caryn both were able to see it and liked it, we made an offer that, after some back and forth, was accepted, but with only TEN DAYS to complete all inspections and remove those contingencies.
For those of you new at this game, the reason Sellers do this is to shorten their period of worrying and waiting — if you are going to find something you don’t like about the house, you will tell them in 10 rather than the standard 17 days and then they’ll be able to put the house back on the market a whole week sooner. It makes sense from a Sellers point of view and usually is no big deal because most homes can be inspected in 1 day. So we agreed that the 10 day clock could start ticking on Saturday, which meant Day 3 was Monday. I couldn’t get a home inspector scheduled on Sunday, so first thing Tuesday, Warren and I were there with Tom C, my favorite inspector. We also used this day of access to have a hardwood floor refinisher stop by to give an estimate, to have the appraisal done, and to have my husband the architect stop by to talk to Warren and Caryn about future kitchen remodel plans — there were guys everywhere at one point!
Now you have to understand that this home looked very well cared for. It still had original late 1950’s bath fixtures and kitchen cabinets, but they were in remarkably good shape and had obviously been cared for. The home had new windows, a reasonably new roof, was freshly painted, garden fairly well kept. We weren’t expecting anything major on this inspection. But Tom found cracks in the fireplace and chimney that might lead up into the flue (a special camera would be needed to tell), leaks coming from the heater/air conditioning condenser unit, a faulty switch and bad seals on the heater, a broken oven and dishwasher, and most worrisome… dum, dah, dum dah (the music from Jaws plays here) a LOT of water under the house from unknown causes. There weren’t puddles where he could actually tell exactly where it was coming from — it was just profoundly damp. WAY damp. A whole lot damper than it should have been given that we haven’t had a lot of rain.
Many Buyers might have panicked at this stage and backed out of the deal — the whole idea of the home having this many things wrong would have spooked them, and we would have had to start over. Some Realtors might have too, since they don’t have the expertise to get the right support team in to find out what’s what. But Warren, smart guy that he is, knew that he had been looking a while and his budget was tight. This street and location was perfect and the house’s floorplan was good. The structure of the house was sound and the square footage of the home was quite large due to a permitted addition that had been done quite nicely. So Warren decided to be PATIENT and as I call it, “pull the thread” to see where further investigations would lead us. It might tell us that the problems with the house were so severe that they couldn’t be repaired reasonably, or it might tell us that they actually weren’t as bad as they initially seemed.
By the next day, Wednesday, Day 5, we had a FIRE certified chimney/fireplace inspector, a certified and licensed Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) contractor, and a plumber scheduled.
The chimney guy had good news — his camera showed that the fireplace cracks were in the exterior brick only and had not gone through to the flue pipe. The repairs could be done and the home would not be in danger. Next came the HVAC guy — he too had good news and his repair costs would be minor. The plumber had to reschedule to Day 4, but he was able to find the source of the leaks and determine that they too were repairable.
Finally, the appliance repair company came on the morning of day 10 and gave us an estimate for the repair of the oven and dishwasher.
We were able to negotiate with the Seller’s to give Warren a credit for ALL the necessary repairs. He offered a credit option rather than insisting that the Seller repair everything before escrow closed because the Seller was ill and the repairs would have been a hardship for her. Another few weeks of her living there wasn’t going to make a big difference after the years and years that she had already had the leaks.
This was another key area where PATIENCE worked in Warren’s favor. If he had insisted that everything be fixed immediately, the hassle factor probably would have had the Seller saying “NO!” just because she couldn’t emotionally face the idea of that many strange workmen traipsing around her house while she wasn’t feeling well. Refusing to give Warren the full credit wasn’t going to really work, though, because if he went away, she would most likely have had to have the repairs done for any other Buyer in advance of the sale. So because he was patient and willing to wait a few more weeks to get the problems fixed, he was able to get a fairly large repair credit back from her and he will be able to have the repairs done by the workmen of his choosing rather than have the Seller try to hire somebody who perhaps would offer her a cut-rate price and possibly cut-rate level of service quality.
Thus, patience resulted in a win-win situation for everyone — Warren and Caryn get a house they really like, the Seller gets to stay in her home and rest for a few more weeks before her move, and the Realtors on both sides feel like the professionals evaluated the situation and therefore we can sleep at night!
Although this is one of my longer blog entries, I felt that the whole long story was necesssary to demonstrate the importance of patience in buying a home. This whole process only took about 2 weeks including the negotiations of the initial price and the negotiations for the credit back, even though at times I’m sure it felt to Warren and Caryn as though they were plowing through wet cement. It if had been rushed, we wouldn’t have had the right experts, and the only choice would have been to walk away from the cute house at the great price or take a huge risk that we were guessing the right amounts for the repairs. Pulling the thread is always the right decision, even though it seems hard to wait to see what is at the other end. Often, it’s your dream house!