Thoughts on Our First Year in Our New Home

Pour yourself a hot (or iced) cuppa and sip while you read. It’s the anniversary of our first year in our new home (and new home town). Time to reflect on the year gone by. I hope you will indulge me here – you might just relate to our experiences (or have a friend who will).

Moving is quite an experience. Having to sell a house at one end of the move and buy a house at the other end of the move are probably the most stressful parts. Will the house sell for a good price? Will the agent who has the listing take her/his job seriously and get you the best deal or twist your arm so you agree as the seller to pay buyers’ closing costs, leave expensive items like super nice refrigerators in the house, and pay for repairs that aren’t even there? Will the agent helping you find a new house know enough to guide you safely through the snakepit of homebuying? Or will he/she care more about going to a sports event at their college alma mater? Combine all this with trying to keep up with editing a tea blog for an online tea store, reviewing tea samples that seemed to be coming in faster and faster, and writing articles for a couple of other blogs. It was quite a juggling act. But some how or other I managed to keep my sanity.

First, on the selling side: Our listing agent was busy appearing on HGTV’s House Hunters, and everything we told her we needed to have an agent do for us went in one ear and out the other. She was one of those agents who schmoozed you to get the listing and then didn’t want to take your calls. She is the second such agent we dealt with in the Raleigh, NC, area (both work for ReMax), and her negligence cost us 3 times as much ($7,100) as the first agent did ($2,300). She threatened to walk away from the listing if we didn’t agree to pay $5,000 in buyers’ closing costs (why were these people even making an offer on our house if they couldn’t afford to pay closing costs?) and let the buyers steal a $2,100 refrigerator that she knew we had planned to sell. Guess what? We also ended up paying commission on the $5,000. Sweet deal – for her. And since she was such a prima donna, she couldn’t be bothered to show at the closing, nor did her assistant. We had been assured that one of them would be there to be sure all went well (when we brought it to her attention, she came back at us with “I have so many important deals closing the same day, so you couldn’t expect me to drop them to be at yours”). So much for professionalism. The closing attorney’s assistant had us vacate our home a day early (we had to pay for a night in a motel) so she could attend her brother’s wedding on what should have been our closing date. Why not just have someone else in the office handle things? Why put us through the inconvenience and expense? But we are seeing that such lackadaisical approaches to one’s job are typical these days.

Meanwhile, I was writing 2-3 articles a day, packing at least 3-4 boxes of stuff, and searching online for a place for us to live (hubby was mainly in charge of this, but I was helping as time allowed). Little Yellow Teapot and most of his Tea Gang had to get put away to keep them safe, and we told tea vendors that we would not be able to accept more samples for awhile. This move was important to us, relieving the financial burden of a house we could no longer afford and getting us to somewhere less costly to live. So not getting to try some of the latest teas available was a small thing for us to endure.

As for buying, once we found the town, we located an agent. Sadly, we ended up with one who was – surprise, surprise – less than professional. When a Realtor treats her job like a hobby or something to do between feeding/bathing/etc. her very cute young children, things aren’t always done properly, if at all.

Add to that her inexperience and almost total unawareness of some very basic things about her job (how to confirm square footage, number of bedrooms, and other items in the listing, for example). The results can be less than satisfactory for the house buyers/sellers dealing with her (or him). We certainly found some nasty and expensive surprises with our house due to our agent’s lack of professionalism and experience. In all fairness, we were on the East Coast U.S. and she was in the middle of the U.S. and was willing to work with us from that distance (we didn’t have the time or money for a house hunting trip).

We generally liked our realtor since she was a fairly nice person and was willing to work with us from halfway across the country. But the thing that drove us nuts was her treating the very serious job of helping us with the biggest expense most people have in their lives (buying a house) as more of a hobby. She also has two of the cutest little children you’d ever want to meet (we know because they showed up in almost every photo she took for us of houses we wanted to considered) and said she was doing real estate so she could spend most of her time with them (not a good thing to tell your client).

What became apparent later, though, was that she missed some important issues in the house since she was busy keeping watch over those cute kids (they were very lively and active, getting into various drawers and cupboards – hey, we understand, it can be pretty boring following mom around while she looks over a house for her clients half a continent away). The other annoyance was her taking off without a word to us to go to Tulsa or Oklahoma City for a college football game. We didn’t mind her going – we just minded not being told that she would be out of reach during that time. Our emails and phone calls asking about this or that on the property listings she sent us went unanswered until she got back. Meanwhile, our clock was ticking away, with our house under contract and the closing date for the sale quickly approaching. Tough to deal with when you’re half a continent away (she had assured us she could deal with us not being there). But if that had been the worst of it, we wouldn’t be all that disappointed in her.

The items she messed up:

  • She never confirmed the square footage as requested (we doubt that she even knows how to do this). She thought that the enclosed back porch was supposed to be a part of the house square footage (which is how the listing agent had it) even though it was not connected to the heating system in the rest of the house.
  • She couldn’t even tell that a room had been added onto the back of the house between it and the enclosed porch.
  • She didn’t know the difference between the original house foundation and the area under the enclosed porch and back room addition.
  • She did not seem to know the legal definition of bedrooms and bathrooms in Oklahoma and was not able to confirm if the number in the listing was correct (the house appears to have only one bedroom, not three as the listing stated).
  • She stated that she never noticed that the doorway to the only bedroom in the house was one-third blocked by the walls around the 30-year-old furnace (see photo above). Oddly, she managed to miss photographing this for us. How do you manage to miss this except on purpose?
  • She missed a rust spot in the bottom of the cast iron bathtub that had been poorly disguised with white paint. No one who had been paying attention to her job would have missed it.
  • She missed that a double window in one room was half blocked off by the enclosed porch on the back of the house. Again, her inexperience and unprofessionalism was evident.
  • There is some dispute between her and the inspector on whether she stayed around during the entire inspection as she said she would (she had her children with her and probably left to take care of something they needed – she won’t admit to not being there, but the inspector said she left halfway through and came back just as he was finishing about 3 hours later). Gee, it’s just a house inspection to tell us the condition of the basic components of the house. Nothing important – sigh!
  • She did not notice nor alert us to the numerous mouse bait bowls sitting around and the substantial amount of droppings throughout the house.
  • The inside of the metal cabinet base for the sink unit in the kitchen was all rusted out. She hadn’t even bothered to look in there.
  • She presented to us information that she said was about two different title companies in town so we could exercise our legal right to choose. However, they were actually the same company (they had merged a few months earlier and everyone in her office knew about it, including her). Legally, we were denied our right to make a choice here and ended up dealing with the stuck up title agent who wouldn’t take time to deal with us on the phone instead of the nice person who worked with us on the preliminaries.

The agency was quick to get us to sign something saying that we could not hold the realtor liable for any such oversights, but all it takes is the right lawyer willing to pursue something like this.

The real problem, though, is the state realtor licensing. It gives a false sense that the realtor is competent. Sadly, she is in a profession where approaching her job like a hobby can seriously harm others (financially). She knew how important it was to us to get the right house. We ended up spending twice as much on fixing things as expected, a main one being the furnace (it cost as much as the other items all put together). We couldn’t just replace the one that was there. It had to be removed and a new unit put under the house (this almost doubled our cost), so that the bedroom doorway could be fully open. (The bedroom doorway had only about 20 inches open. We needed more for safe exit in case of a fire.) We also spent 50% more on electrical upgrades since there was far more knob-and-tube wiring than we had been told about (that’s an issue with the house inspector at Gold Star Inspections). And the plumbing upgrade costs just kept climbing. We’re not done and have already spent twice the budget. Knowing these things up front might not have deterred us from buying the house, but they sure would have given us leverage in renegotiating the price – the realtor’s incompetence denied us this leverage.

Bottom line: Avoid agent’s who treat their jobs like a hobby or who are too busy being a star on a house hunting show or who just plain don’t give a damn like the plague and go with someone who treats the real estate profession as just that – a profession, not a hobby or something to do in-between takes!

By the way, a year later, we have made things quite cozy and find that we like the house in spite of all this. We just want to save you and others from going through the same hassles.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text


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