Once in a while, every real estate professional is challenged by a deal. And if you’ve been a broker-owner or manager long enough, you know that despite the hurdles, most of those arduous transactions result in lessons learned, a good laugh, or an understanding of what to avoid next time.
“I have been blessed to have smooth transactions, but there have been times where everything breaks loose,” says Jonie Sturek, SFR, managing broker at NP Dodge Real Estate in Omaha, Neb. Sturek and three other real estate leaders reveal their craziest real estate stories and how they worked through each situation.
Pet crazy. Sturek met up with clients to tour a few properties on a Saturday. Both buyers were well-dressed professionals. But when the woman got out of the car, Sturek saw that she was carrying a small dog with a rhinestone collar. Her client introduced the dog by two names, Stinker Bell and Fluffy Pants, and explained that he was an emotional support animal. “This posh pooch was going to have a pivotal role in picking their next home,” Sturek says. She wasn’t sure what the rules were on buyers bringing pets to a showing, so Sturek asked her clients to look at the backyard landscaping while she stepped aside to make a few phone calls. The listing agents for the four properties they planned to tour all agreed to allow the furry house hunter if the woman carried him at all times.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of the lady lifting Fluffy Pants up to see crown molding and skylights, or letting him sniff the air in each closet. Except for a short, heated debate between Fluffy Pants and the resident cat at the third showing, things went smoothly. “Although the lender did not require his paw print on the lending documents, the dog had to be present there, too, to ensure we closed,” Sturek jokingly explains.
A one-of-a-kind property. How do you sell a house that is completely made of burlap stretched over chicken wire and covered with a polyurethane spray foam? That became the task for Dayna Murray, owner of the Dayna Murray Home Team of Keller Williams Premier Realty in Wayzata, Minn.
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The house in Minnetrista, Minn.,—referred to locally as the mushroom house, space ship, and troll house—had been built in 1969 as a futuristic home. It featured curved walls, round windows, and an aesthetic that made it appear to be part of the natural landscape. “The craziest thing was that so many people wanted to buy it, and no lender would write a mortgage,” she says.
The house certainly brought out interested people—the phone rang off the hook, Murray says. A Florida man called her every day, and he even had her measure the master bedroom to make sure his bed would fit. He claimed he and his driver would be coming up to pay cash for the house. “Do you accept gold?” he asked her. The day before he was to leave to drive to Minnesota, he decided that he couldn’t live in a state where the temperature dipped below zero every year. Murray had to find another buyer with cash who wanted to bring this house back to its glory days. Murray marketed the home by first emailing all the local television stations. Twin Cities-based Fox 9 News sent out a crew. The listing went viral from there, with several other news outlets picking up the story as well. Murray lucked out when a couple saw it online and purchased the property sight unseen for $170,000. “Over the years, I’ve used this sale in my listing presentations,” says Murray, who now tells prospects, “If I can sell that house, I can sell yours.”
Foreign frenzy. Seth Phillips, owner of SP3 Realty in Los Angeles, worked with a buyer from Shanghai who wanted to buy apartment buildings. The man found two properties he liked, went into a 45-day escrow, and applied for financing in Los Angeles. Phillips had to deal with issues that came up in the physical inspections, as well as some additional issues with city clearances. He personally went to the Department of Building and Safety in L.A. to ensure correct occupancy of the building. There had been some reconfiguration of a couple units, and he had to make sure it was all legal. He also had a seller that was getting very anxious, so he and the listing agent worked together to keep everything on track with frequent communication.
Two weeks before the scheduled closing, the buyer had a family emergency that required him to return to Shanghai immediately. He discovered once he got back to his homeland that he would not be able to fly back to L.A. in time for the closing. The loan was ready, but the documents needed to be signed in front of a notary public. This seemed to be an impossible feat in Shanghai, Phillips says. Fortunately, the escrow company found out that the buyer could go to the U.S. Embassy in Shanghai, and an official there could witness the signing, which would satisfy the lender, Phillips says. The buyer was able to make an appointment at the Embassy and get the paperwork signed within three days. They sent the documents overnight back to L.A. just in time to complete the sale.
Rambunctious raccoon. One of Matt Schwind’s sellers vacated her large home, which needed extensive repairs before it could be sold. Schwind, managing broker of the Ruhl&Ruhl, REALTORS®, office in Bettendorf, Iowa, had to convince his client that the assessed value of more than $300,000 was out of line and did not reflect the market value of $200,000.
He began his efforts of getting the home ready to list by hiring a painter to remove all the wallpaper and repaint. Schwind then cleaned the inside of the house himself, including the mouse droppings in the kitchen. As the seller became more frustrated with the projects and their costs, Schwind started paying out of his own pocket for cleaning up the yard, trimming tree branches, cleaning out the gutters (twice), and professionally shampooing the carpet. He even paid a handyman to fix a door and repair shelving in the garage, and he purchased mouse traps to curb the rodent issue.
Little did Schwind know that he had yet to discover the biggest issue with the home. One day when he was at the property, he found a hole in the aluminum roof soffit where the metal had been torn back and a raccoon had been going in and out of the roof at night. He hired a professional animal exterminator to clean up the attic, but the raccoon was nowhere to be found. It was assumed to be a past infestation. The roof was repaired, and Schwind changed the disclosure to explain what had been done. Subsequently, his seller received an offer.
Everything was fine until a week after the offer was accepted. The raccoon came back to the same spot and tore an even bigger hole under the metal roof. “We went through the whole repair and removal process again,” he says. But this time, traps were laid out on the roof of the house. The buyer would only move forward if the animal control expert wrote a guarantee that the house was free of raccoons, including “that one” pesky critter. Finally, the raccoon was captured and relocated far from the property, and the expert agreed to sign the document.