Anyway, I didn't update on the ensuing events, I don't think. I got home, still seething from the jerky realtor telling me all my questions weren't important (apparently I don't need to know what type of wiring the house has, whether there's a false ceiling in the kitchen, or whether cracks in the plaster are indicative of structural damage - or, I can make an offer on the house and wait to find out all of those things until I get an inspection. 'Cause those things wouldn't affect my offer). So I decided to email him and ask them all again. This time, after each question, I added a whole paragraph explaining that I had understood his answer, but that the information I wanted was important ANYWAY and would he please ask the homeowner.
I should note that I started this out with the point that the homeowner knew a lot (and that I found it heartbreaking that they gave all those French doors away!); and I said repeatedly that I can't seriously consider this house with so little information. At whom were these lines directed? Mr. Realtor, of course. I cleverly predicted he would decide I was a headache and send them to his wife, the main realtor, who loves old houses and would probably give me better answers (maybe even appreciate that I was right to want to know).
I didn't predict what the wife did with the questions: email them verbatim to the homeowner. In the world of Murphy's Law of Emails, I admit this was obvious. But given my assumptions that she would actually read the questions (I still think she probably did), and the apparent fact that she would like to sell the house - in a slumped market - I figured she'd pull out some diplomacy and finesse the questions so as to make nice with her client (the seller). FTR, every other realtor of whom I've asked questions has done this - and those questions weren't phrased to refute an irritating sales pitch.
When I got the email from her saying she had forwarded everything to the seller (whose mother, the house's occupant of more than 30 years, has just died, BTW), I didn't even need to reread my questions to know how much they would offend him. So I was unsurprised when I didn't hear from her for a week or so. I sent another question (about the gallon jug in the bathroom) to see if I could goad her to respond. I got a quick response to that one - apparently all the plumbing works fine, the jug is there to catch the water before the shower heats up, because the homeowner's a conservationist. (I'm cool with that.)
Finally the other day I called Ms. Realtor and asked her about the original questions. She said she had already sent the answers (I can't tell whether this is true), and sent me another copy. The seller was obviously offended, but he did answer the questions, and the answers were reasonably reassuring about the solidity of the house.
Now I have a dilemma (that I knew was coming). If I were offering full asking price for this house, say, the seller would obviously take my money. He's not stupid. But I'm not going to do that, because I don't believe it's worth its asking price, in view of the repairs needed. (FTR, if all it needed was fresh paint in all the rooms and no repairs or major renovations, I might offer 5% less than they're asking. As it is, I think I'd have to offer 15% less - or more.) The caution with lowballing is always "insulting the seller" with your offer. If they're really ticked off, they won't counter your offer, and you basically have to walk away. Stupid sellers (in this market) are the only ones likely to ignore a remotely reasonable offer. But what about a seller who has already directly interacted with me personally - and is already offended? I would guess this guy would assume almost anything I offered was insulting because it came from me.
So I wrote him an email, which is probably crossing a line. I apologized for him getting my questions and explained that they were a response to things the realtor had said, that the realtor had explained his goal was to sell the town not the house, that based on my experience growing up it was super-important to me to get all available information on the house before making a decision, that I liked the house, that my statements were meant to convince the realtor that I really wanted the information and maybe I went overboard. (I didn't, but I read and re-read every line of the email under the assumption that he would immediately forward it to the realtors, and I made as sure as I could that I wasn't insulting the realtor, even fairly.)
It has been several days and he hasn't written back. I figured that he would see that if he wanted me to consider the house and was willing to ignore my email in favor of making a deal even with me, he'd immediately write back, "No hard feelings" (even if he thinks I'm a jerk) and put business first. I think my psychology there is pretty sound, so his silence tells me he's not willing to deal with me except (maybe) under duress. That's not going to work with this house.
So even if inspections showed it was a good prospect and we could make the numbers work, we're not going to buy this house. I'm not even going to consider making an offer. I said in my last email to Ms. Realtor that I was sorry that the seller had received my questions verbatim, he appeared to be offended, and I would be offended too (I wanted to see what she would say). She immediately responded that she didn't think he was offended (translation: she didn't do anything wrong). If you're going to be good at sales, I feel like you need at least some skill in reading people. And maybe to get the parties to get along so you make a sale every now and again - or, you know, not.
I know it's my fault for giving them an opportunity to screw this up. I know I should do business with the assumption that everyone around me is incompetent all the time (and speak to them as though they were all brilliant). I really know that I need to rein in my temper, and if my goal with my first email had been more persuasion and less making a point, then I might not be in this position. On the other hand, this is the realtor whom I called four times and emailed three times over a ten-day period before she ever responded, just to see the house in the first place. And I just cannot get my head around why a realtor would poison the well between a seller and a buyer - unless she has someone else in mind to buy the property, but I've looked, and it's still on the market. Taking both my DH's and my preferences into account, this house was the favorite. I've thought a lot about it and I would be willing to buy it.