I kind of don’t like talking about moolah and this kind of thing on here but I was so annoyed by the whole process I thought, “why not?” Well, actually, it’s not so much about money, more the whole recent selling process of our Queensland house and how constantly dealing with unethical, unprofessional and down right lazy behaviour became such a huge stress factor.
I went against my gut by hiring a real estate agency that I’d not heard of or seen in the area. Sounds weird, no? Well they had just sold my neighbours property in around five weeks so I figured they were okay. They came out and were nice and basically told me what I wanted to hear – that we would make a huge profit on our home. I was very honest in that I was at the start of a high risk pregnancy, my husband had already started his new job in another State and thus wanted the home to sell quickly – not to be overpriced and hanging around on the market for months. I was very clear in my instructions and to be honest, I wasn’t hugely bothered about a massive bucket of cash at the end, I just wanted what it was realistically worth.
Cue open homes and reducing the asking price significantly within the first two weeks. This is when alarm bells started ringing, after all, it was something I had been very specific about not wanting to happen. I made the naive mistake of trusting the real estate agency duo (a husband and wife team) and believed them when they said they knew what they were doing.
We received two offers, one below what we paid for it five years ago, and one slightly over what we had paid for it before we had made all the improvements.
It became clear to us that the real estate agents were not only working for themselves (I mean, hello commission) but also seemed to be working more for the buyers.
We accepted the slightly higher offer because we needed to sell quickly. Something we’re sure the estate agents informed the buyers about based on their language in subsequent conversations.
I had a mini showdown with the husband of the real estate team when the contract signing took place and he brought me an ineligible copy that had been signed and scanned by the buyers. When I said to him “I can’t read these back pages”, he promptly informed me that “it was a legal contract”. I immediately replied that I knew that and that’s the very reason I’d like to be able to read them. An awkward pause followed as we looked at each other across the table, all with Little Man sitting between us with his Mr Potato glasses on because you’know, we were all doing important business.
He then tried to tell me that the pages aren’t really that important because it’s just the terms and conditions. Hmmmm, interesting opinion you have there. I said that on the contrary (I find I get my posh – if that’s what you could call it – English accent on at times like these) the terms and conditions were extremely important because they outline the meaning of the whole contract and you’know, there might be an extra clause in there. Cue another awkward silence where he just smiled at me nervously not saying anything. He was so desperate for me to sign an unreadable contract and I find that such unethical and potentially illegal behaviour.
Anyway, as you know we moved out to Nan and Pa’s, the packers, movers and shakers (although I hope not this last part!) went pretty flawlessly yet we continued to be contacted nearly every other day with requests from the buyers. Repeated requests to move the settlement date forward when our bank had been very clear that this wasn’t possible. Then the real estate agent asked me if I could measure the fridge space so that the buyers could go shopping. I said no – not to be mean – but because I wasn’t even living there at the time, my house had been packed away and I was starting to show a belly which means stretching is pretty uncomfortable. I honestly must have forgotten that I had packed my measuring tape safely away in my suitcase for a future trip to IKEA. Anyway, when I politely declined he seemed positively annoyed that he would have to do something.
Which leads me to our property paralegal. Now, we had used this particular solicitors office a few times previously and worked with an utterly faultless paralegal called Dana. We were told she had moved on so, again, naively used her replacement who continually and quite spectacularly kept dropping the ball on numerous occasions. However, in her defence she did have her moments of being kinda’ good too.
Now, I’m not one to go quietly into that good night and so I made my feelings perfectly clear to both sets of parties. Firstly with the real estate agents where we were provided with a refund of their costly marketing fees. Win. Secondly with the paralegal where we provided with, well, nothing but excuses and some fear in her voice.
After getting to NSW and two business days before the settlement was supposed to take place I received an email from the paralegal (who had been in contact with me the entire time by this method) asking if I had received the really really important transfer documents and sent them back. I was like, erm, no. I asked where she had sent them to (I mean, who really uses post anymore?) and she had sent them to Queensland. Odd considering she had our new address. There was then a mad rush to get new copies – via email no less – signed by an official and express posted back to her. What more could go wrong?
Well since you ask and have taken the time to read this far, the buyers asked if they could move in before settlement – an extremely risky thing for us so we declined the request. On the same day our incompetent and unprofessional real estate sneakily found my in-laws telephone number and called them to say he was on his way to pick up the keys (which we had left with them) when the settlement wasn’t even taking place. Hubby and I were so embarrassed that they’d been put in that position and when they told us what had happened I immediately called him. I left a voice message telling him I was absolutely furious, that he had taken advantage of us being interstate and that he better hope he hasn’t handed the keys over to the buyers early since we had declined all of their requests to enter the property before settlement. He didn’t even have the guts to call me back and sent me a text message saying he would wait until after settlement before giving the buyers the keys. He has ignored our calls ever since.
I asked our paralegal to confirm that she had declined the request to enter the property early to which she assured me she had and forwarded me an email she had previously sent to their solicitors. You’d think it’d all be done now, right?
I get a call late afternoon on the eve of settlement day from the paralegal who, quite humorously, told me not to shoot the messenger before launching into what the real estate had called her to say. “The buyers have a pregnancy scan booked for the same time as settlement (3pm) and the electricity provider needs access to the property otherwise they won’t have electricity over the weekend. Is it okay for the real estate agent to leave the key in the letterbox before 8am?”
I actually laughed out loud. Really? Such a coincidence to have a scan booked and the real estate agent to be void of any responsibility once the keys have been left in the letterbox. The paralegal told me she had asked the estate agent why she couldn’t wait in for the electricity guy and this had seemed to catch her off guard. Needless to say we declined the request again. My spidey senses were going off the charts and if they’d not been so eager to constantly get in, including asking to move in before settlement than I probably would have took pity and said yes but it all seemed too emotive leading with the pregnancy scan. This is another reason I feel the real estate agent was acting highly unethical.
Now, you’d think we could rest up after settlement wouldn’t you? I mean even after being assured the matter was all closed? HA! I laugh in the face of your naive confidence!
Earlier this week I was cc’d into an email from the real estate (wife) asking our paralegal for our bank details in order to transfer the amount owed to us from the buyers deposit. Something I had sent to her last week when the original invoice came through which she then should have forwarded. Yep, still going on with the incompetence I see.
So anyway, the reason I write this lengthy blog post is to say the stress it has caused was enormous and down-right unfair. Hubby said he felt guilty that I had mostly had to organise it all by myself because he wasn’t physically there to help. In turn I said I felt guilty for picking such donkeys and going against my gut feeling to use real estate agents I knew of already.
We were both pretty bummed out that we put so much hard work into the house and, even though we came out with a lump sum, we feel we have made a loss due to the huge amounts of commission and various other legal and bank fees that are quite frankly, undeserved. However, we reasoned it was something we just had to get on with so that we could be together as a family and our priority was the health of my pregnancy and I’m not too sure we’d do anything differently should we ever find ourselves in a similar position. Well, maybe get Little Man some properly fitting business glasses but that’s about it.
Anyway, I needed to say these things to get it off my chest and mostly offer advice – for the love of all that is good and pure, do your research before dealing with someone regarding the sale of your house. But also, don’t sweat it when the matter is done. Talk the frustrations out, hug each other for the great job you did under the circumstances, smile at how comically incompetent some people are and be thankful for each day you get to share with your loved ones.
Until next time,