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Even hardworking Realtors don’t always get repeat business #745

#745 in a series of true experiences in real estate

It’s a disappointment not to be hired to list a house, to know that another agent was chosen instead of us. But it feels even worse when it’s a house we sold to the owners. We considered ourselves their real estate agents. We liked them; they liked us; we did a good job; they thought so too.

In fact, this particular couple was very particular. They looked at – by their own count – exactly 152 houses before they chose the one to buy. We’d never heard of anyone looking at that many houses before. They kept a list of every house they saw and rated each on a scale of 1 to 10.

By the time they and we were exhausted by the process only 8 of the houses (less than 20%) had rated an 8. No house rated a 9 or 10. Most of the eights were sold by then but the buyers had decided that the time had come to be done with looking; they said they were ready to choose between two houses.

Together we visited the finalists and they told us which was their first choice. We wrote their contract, presented it, negotiated with spirit, and won. After that we did inspections. The general inspector voiced a number of worries including a bad roof and poor drainage, also a total lack of earthquake bracing.

Further inspections were suggested. We called a roofer and an engineer. The engineer arrived, shook hands and disappeared under the house. When he emerged he did his best to scare us all. It was a bad situation; the house was going to need big, expensive help. The male buyer was there with us that day and he was looking more than a little shaken. He asked if the engineer would talk to his female partner on the phone and say again what the problem was and how to fix it. The engineer agreed.

On a road trip with her mother, driving along a highway in Southern California, our buyer answered the phone and heard the news. I’ll never forget what the engineer chose to tell her. We were standing right there. If there were an earthquake, he said (and he added the phrase, as all engineers seem to), “When the Big One comes,” that house was going to slide down the hill. If they were inside the house, “You will die”. He actually said that; he said that they would die.

This last rattled us. We’d never heard an engineer make such a dire pronouncement and we naturally asked both buyers if they really wanted to buy this house. They did. They promised that they’d do the “life saving” work, and it would all be fine.

Anet negotiated the price like mad. She got cash back from the seller to cover part of the required work. The sale closed; the buyers moved in.

They did the foundation, but nothing else. We know this because one time when we were invited over for a cup of coffee (I think they’d been living there for a couple of years by then), the living room floor was shrouded in plastic and so was the roof deck above the living room ceiling. Even so, the rain came in. Again, we gave them roofer contact info and encouragement.

Years went by, Christmas and anniversary cards were sent, we ran into them in the grocery store and inquired about their health and also the house. “All fine,” they said. Then one recent morning there was their house as a new listing on MLS. Judging from the posted photos, quite a lot of work had been done before putting the house on the market. The owners were no longer living there.

The house looked good. Hopefully, it was also in good structural shape. But why, we wonder, did they not call us at least to interview for the job? We don’t even know where they’ve moved to, and given our history together, this is surprising, even bewildering.

They listed with an agent we know, the same agent who represented the seller when they bought the house. As it happens, she lives next door, and maybe that is the explanation. She was close by, she’s a good person and agent, and it seemed logical and convenient to place the listing with her?

Either that or they gave little thought to the selection. We don’t know and probably never will but we do feel bad. Plus we are very curious about where they went. What changed in their lives – jobs, marriage, a move across the globe?

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