Seller’s unsolicited kindness astounds both buyer and agents

#312 in a series of true experiences in real estate
February 2000, Hills Newspapers

Once I read the nicest thing in the newspaper, so nice that I clipped it out and taped it to my computer so I’d be reminded of it:
We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the makeup of our character and our thoughts, as well as our success.”

It’s true, isn’t it? Every time someone offers you something warm, the chances increase that you’ll do the same. You become, almost necessarily, a kinder person.

Once when things were really bad in my life, a friend wrote me a letter. She said, “I don’t know what to do for you. I wish there were something. I could go out and kick some trees.”

This silly offer made me laugh, and did help.

Somehow it is easiest to remember a sad time like the one I was going through when someone made us feel better, but kind deeds and encouragement happen ever day.

Anet and I keep track of businesses where the employees are happy. We go to these places because they make us happy. For example, there are some people who put together hot dogs at Casper’s on Telegraph (the one at the corner of 55th Street) who seem really happy to be doing hot dogs. It’s a lift to do there. Try it. Order a hot dog and get a smile, too.

The people who work at Ellis Ace Hardware on Martin Luther King in Oakland (not far from Children’s Hospital) are marvelous. Every single time we go there it seems they’d been waiting all day for us to arrive. They’re friendly, smiling, and super helpful. The last time we were there (because our office was flooded with water from a burst pipe in the wall), we spent about $3 and got $100 worth of information free.

Another favorite place is Crescent Electric, close to the old Sears store in Oakland. Two men run this store. They repair and sell lamps and light fixtures and dispense happiness. It is pure heaven to find an excuse to go there. Every time we go, we come away better for it.

We deal with a lot of different people every day. Many of them offer us kindnesses. But once we had a stellar experience with an extraordinary seller. She wasn’t even our client.

It was such a positive experience from the start that Anet said it was like asking someone to dance, then finding out he’s Fred Astaire. Everything just kept getting better.

We were representing Kim, the smitten buyer. Kim had been looking for two years. This was the right house. She had to have it.
We loved the house when we first saw it, too – clean, with style and a wonderful feeling. We’d never met, but we knew that the person who owned it had to be a special person.

As Anet was leaving to take Kim’s offer to the seller, I had a sudden impulse and did something I’ve never done before. I went into my garden and picked a bouquet, then said to Anet, “Take these to the seller. Tell her how much we appreciate how beautifully she has kept her house.”

I suppose the gesture might have been misinterpreted, but Pat, the seller, turned out to be the perfect person to send flowers to.

There was very little that needed fixing at Pat’s house but, as in every sale, various responsibilities had to be doled out. Who was going to pay for replacing the sump pump, the dry rot in the dining room window, the hardwood floor where the furnace had once been?

These days buyers almost always take it all on as their own responsibility but the market at that time was different. We asked Pat to pay for some things; Kim would take on the rest. “No,” said Pat, “I’ll do it all.”

Pat had not yet met Kim in person; she knew our buyer only through what Anet had told her, but Pat said, “I remember what it is like to buy a first house: it’s expensive. I want Kim to have things right. I want her to get my house the way it should be.”

Anet couldn’t believe what she’d heard. This was a most unusual seller.

It got better. Before the escrow closed, Kim and Pat met. Pat showed Kim the idiosyncrasies of the house. They had a cup of tea. Pat mentioned that she had prepaid all the utilities for an extra month, “So you won’t have to.” Kim didn’t know what to say beyond saying “thank you.”

The house was hers. Kim, ecstatic, moved in. And found a broom, a letter and a check from Pat. The broom was Pat’s favorite. She wrote that it is an old Irish custom to leave a broom behind when you leave a house. The check was because “The Irish believe that for luck, you always give some of the money back to the buyer.”

Completely overcome, Kim could only talk in a whisper to us. “I think I just got a gift from Pat. I can’t believe it. I am so happy.

As springtime approaches, it’s a good time to make a kindness. Add to someone’s life. Pay attention to the people who are becoming a part of you.

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