"I'm sorry I lost my temper," I said to the Buyer's lender. "but this has been frustrating beyond belief. If you don't tell me what's going on, I can't possibly inform the Seller, or keep the train on its tracks."
It's not uncommon to close a few days late, but several weeks?!?
Gratefully, in nearly 20 years of selling real estate, I've rarely run into such a lengthy delay, (and I've also rarely let anger get the best of me). To the Seller's credit, she's hanging in there with the expectation that this transaction IS going to close in the not-too-distant future. All's well that ends well? Let's hope so but that's not necessarily the most reassuring strategy when it comes to selling one's home . . . .
If we had a backup Buyer in place, we would have shown this particular Buyer the door weeks ago. Unfortunately, that didn't come to pass, so here we are, with little more than continued requests for "patience" from the Buyer's Agents. Understood, but even patience has its limits (and I've run out of mine). If I could maintain a sense of humor around this pending sale, I'd say this was a "comedy of errors," but there's nothing funny about being in limbo when the clock is ticking and people are counting on a result.
"I don't want to bring the house back to the market," the anxious Seller said, "that feels too risky."
She's right. With interest rates on the rise and a stock market that's experiencing some heavy losses, the market is anything but encouraging at this moment. In the last two weeks, Sarah and I have had several Buyers step back and hit the "pause" button as they've watched their net worth erode. (I feel your pain; my 401K is dropping like a ROCK!)
While we haven't seen a dramatic drop in home prices (yet), a correction may certainly be on the horizon as the housing market historically tends to follow the stock market by about six months. (Stay tuned.) Moreover, houses that fall out of escrow tend to be "tainted" properties in the public's eyes. Even when a collapsed escrow is not the Seller's fault (and it's usually not), the perception is that there MUST be something wrong with the house or why would the Buyers walk away?
There are many reasons, and some are certainly justifiable, but that's not the case here. In this case, the Buyer is getting both a first and a second loan, and it's the second that's proven to be problematic. However, it's taken an untold number of phone calls, emails, and texts just to eke out that pivotal bit of information. Given that the Buyer hasn't performed as contractually obligated, he needs to close soon or risk losing his earnest money deposit in full. Even so, we'd prefer this transaction make it across the finish line, which would be the best outcome for ALL parties involved.
Am I hounding the Buyer's Agent and his Mortgage Lender for daily progress reports? You betcha.
Am I getting answers? I'm rarely getting a response (thus, the frustration).
Here's the thing, selling residential real estate should NEVER be an adversarial process as the goal for both Buyer and Seller is to sell the property and close escrow. If we all end on a high note, so much the better. Consequently, if we start with the assumption that both sides are aligned, there's no good reason to upset well-intentioned players ("well-intentioned" being the operative words). But teamwork requires ongoing communication, creative problem solving, and VERACITY - not avoidance, obfuscation, denial, and misinformation. Nothing is ever resolved by playing dumb, or refusing to return a call.
Given the speed and the prices that many home sellers have enjoyed these past several years (especially during COVID), selling a house may seem like a walk in the park, but it's getting the deal through escrow that present the biggest hurdles and challenges - especially in a fast-paced market, and most critically, if the other side has been less than forthright. In the final analysis, mindfully navigating the escrow process is what you are REALLY paying your Agent for (which is why you might want to rethink a "discount brokerage)."
Pretty settings, emotional hooks, strong marketing, advising you through the disclosure package, and skillful negotiations are crucial to the process, but if we can't get the transaction closed, those other things are all for naught. In the end, CLOSING THE SALE(!) is the single most important step to successfully transacting a deal, and satisfying the Sellers. And while nine times out of ten the escrow process is an entirely smooth journey - with nary a detour along the track - it's the tenth time that tests one's mettle.
This is why experience matters. Your Agent's ability to keep things moving forward IS, perhaps, the most critical skill required to bring the train in on time. (All Aboard!)
Excuse me, I need to make a phone call.
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.