"We've decided it's too difficult to take the trees out," came the anxious phone call from the Tree Company I had hired. "We think it'd be better just to trim the crowns and take some weight off. Would that be okay?" Uh no, not exactly. I'd noticed a few weeks earlier that a VERY TALL Monterey Cypress was leaning rather precariously towards my neighbors' house, and unfortunately, it had been haunting me ever since. Now that I'd noted the potential danger, I couldn't very well just let it go. If the tree tumbled, the garage was gone, as was the second unit, and more concerning, the tenant inside.
Moreover, it was only one of three Cypresses that were in rather poor health and showing signs of trouble. If Cliff and I were biting off the expense, it made more sense to remove ALL three tress at once, rather than having to redo the job at a later date. (Sigh - my kitchen remodel seems to be getting further away.)
I stood my ground.
"We agreed that you'd remove the trees and I expect you to do so," I firmly responded. " Trimming them won't resolve the problem, I really need them gone."
I get it; it wasn't an easy job by any means and it had gotten off to a rather shaky start. Not only were the trees extremely large, but their location on the property made them difficult to get to. Unexpectedly, halfway down our driveway, the company's crane had began to slip and took out a retaining wall in the process before sliding to an unsettling stop. Now it wasn't just the trees that needed addressing, but a cement wall and a broken rain grill as well. Not to mention the fact that there was a MASSIVE CRANE stuck in my turn-around, with no apparent way to TURN AROUND! (I'm guessing this is about when the foreman rethought his strategy and had the company phone to see if they could simplify the process? No you can't.)
I've had a few of those regrets myself. You're halfway into the project when you discover that it's much more complicated than you originally believed. Typically, this has to do with disclosures that weren't available at the beginning, such as termite or engineering reports that had unexpected and unwelcome news. OR because of missing components that proved to be extremely relevant to the sale, such as multiple heirs that are difficult to track down, or worse yet, are deceased. Or because there are unresolved title/easement issues that are nearly impossible to resolve. OR because there are time- sensitive steps the Sellers/ Buyers (or their lenders) failed to execute in time - like a pending divorce decree or a delayed appraisal report. OR finally, because either or both parties have unattainable expectations that simply don't match market realities. Despite the redundancies, the disclosures,the investigations, and the never-ending questions, make space for the unexpected - it almost always happens! (No one ever said Real Estate was easy.)
What started out as a welcome opportunity, quickly becomes a very spooky tale . . . It's why hiring a professional is so important and why I take great umbrage with the "do-it-yourselfer" who calls me to "pick my brain," but believes they are better served by representing themselves. (Huh? I vehemently disagree.) As licensed Realtors, we are trained for the unexpected and we are here when things get exceedingly difficult. (Just because I know how to use an ax, doesn't mean I have any business cutting down my trees!) Still, in spite of our diligence, experience, and expertise, no matter how well-prepared, we often don't know things have run afoul until dates are missed and we are presented with requests to extend the loan or inspection contingencies. This isn't uncommon, mind you, but when it happens, it helps to present a clear understanding of why a contingency is being extended, when the Seller might reasonably expect the Buyer to perform, and what the underlying problem is (that's only fair). While any Buyer or Seller can run into it an unexpected glitch, the problem requires clarification and resolution. Never mind excuses (who cares who's fault it is?) you want to know what the solution is and how quickly can we get the problem resolved?
Happily, that's exactly what Graham Tree Company did. After removing the troublesome conifers, they towed that IMMENSE crane backwards, up and out the steep driveway and on to the next job. It took them hours and hours, but they did it. Then they sent a concrete team to replace the broken wall, replaced the metal grill, and cleaned up the driveway the very next day - good as new! You'd never know they had been there, save for the open, sunny clearing out by the pool. Now that's service!
It's not about the problem, it's about the solution (which describe just about every real estate transaction I've ever encountered.)
How can The GRUBB Co. help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.