Friday, March 18, 2011

my realtor is an idiot

Without pasting every email in this exchange, I don't think I could give you all the real flavor of this protracted drama. But it is tragicomic at this point, so I think I'm going to try to sum it up.

My realtor is a little on the older side. We picked him (well, actually, we picked his partner) because she was honest, and we thought that was more important than a young go-getter. (I always found the listings I wanted myself; I just needed someone to let us in the houses and maybe take care of some paperwork.)

When we compiled the offer for the yellow house (on February 27), he forgot some of the documents that had been provided by the seller (and initialed by the sellers). He didn't find them until after the sellers had accepted our offer. So, you know, I get that there's a lot of paper and it's easy to misplace, and we can just initial later, but the sellers assumed that those documents were part of our agreement and in fact we didn't know they existed. If you were a law student in first-semester contracts, you would recognize that as a "failure of meeting of the minds" - if the terms in question are material, it means you do not have a contract.

So our realtor "efaxed" (an incredibly stupid form of communication used by no other company in the first world) them over to us. There were seven, and we were supposed to initial them and return them. One of them was a "Schedule A" that described the property, just as I understood it to be...and then finished with a paragraph that said: "SAVING AND EXCEPTING, HOWEVER, that portion conveyed to the State of Maryland by deed found at liber __, folio __." (Emphasis in original, FYI.) There was also a surveyor-drawn plot plan, but had been reduced from legal paper and then repeatedly scanned by the world's crappiest fax machine (efax - this is going to be a recurring theme) and I literally could not read the written labels on the lines of the drawing. I don't mean I had to squint and guess some words - I mean they were not legible at all.

So I told the realtor that I would either (a) write on both "we agree to these terms as long as they convey no less land than represented in the property's sales listing" and then initial them or (b) I was going to need a legible copy of that map so I could see where the conveyance to the State of Maryland was and make sure it wasn't, you know, the house or something (which means we would pay list price for the house, but we would never own it. That's known as fraud, by the way). During the several days on which I basically wrote him this same email repeatedly, he would respond that he was working on getting a better copy, but could I please initial those documents and send them to him while he was looking?

Since most of you are not lawyers, maybe you can tell me whether that request sounds sane to a normal person. I thought he had to have been smoking something. I want a legible copy of the document so I know what it says, and you're telling me to sign it without knowing what it says? Seriously? You've sold property to people before? At some point I realized that his impatience was because the sellers were waiting on those documents before they even presented our offer to the bank. That's right, the part of a short sale that usually takes two months - hadn't even started yet. I wrote him four different emails (three on the same day) in which I stated that I needed to know, immediately, whether they had presented our offer to the bank. That was last week, and he has never addressed that question. I don't need to keep asking, of course, because I can figure out the answer from his silence. Nevertheless - irresponsible.

Anyway, he finally got us a legible copy of that map. Now we discovered a different plan: the conveyance to the State of Maryland isn't mentioned on the map. Maybe that means that it doesn't form any subtraction from the property we're dealing with, but how can we be sure? I initialed the map and sent it back, but I told him that I was going to need to see the conveyance to Maryland before I initialed the Schedule A. At this point he appeared to become nearly hysterical - he had to have those documents immediately. He told me I should feel completely comfortable because of the surveyor's letter (which I had initialed a week ago) and the map (initialed and sent in) which indicated that the property was with acceptable bounds.

Now, if those are the important documents, why isn't it enough that I initialed them already? Whatever. I wrote on the Schedule A, "we consent to these terms only insofar as they represent no subtraction from the 10,980 square feet indicated by the accompanying drawing." Then we initialed it and sent it in. He immediately emailed and said he would get in touch with the survey company. (They didn't write the Schedule A.) He apparently thought that I would talk to them, and then I would feel all warm and fuzzy inside about how nice the property was, and I would sign documents with secret terms. I am starting to wonder whether he may be suffering from dementia. I told him I didn't want to talk to the survey company as I had no problem with any of the documents they had prepared.

The next day I got an email from him, sounding like he had lost his mind. He told me the sellers thought we were trying to back out of the deal (which can only mean he gave them a misleading version of all events to date - what about my not signing illegible or ambiguous documents means I don't want the house?) and they were really concerned. And that I needed to sign the Schedule A, with no caveats, and turn it in immediately. He also said that he had called the survey company (accomplishing what, exactly?).

I had already sent him several emails in which I patiently explained that I do not sign documents with secret terms. At this point, I was in a blind rage. I sent him the email described yesterday - red text, all caps, bold, 48-point font - in which I described his three options (find me the conveyance to Maryland so I can review it and I will sign; I sign with caveats; tell the sellers to throw the Schedule A in the trash). I told him that at this point I had to assume the sellers were trying to hide important information and I wanted nothing more to do with this unless they would behave responsibly. Then I sent him the follow-up email in which I told him how badly he was representing us and how inappropriate it is to pressure your clients to sign documents against their best judgment.

Then I calmed down (very slightly) and sent a very polite email to the sellers' realtor, copying my realtor and my husband, stating that I do not ever sign documents with ambiguous terms, and we would love to continue working with them, and I could think of three options (find me the secret conveyance document, I sign conditional on the secret conveyance document not being a subtraction from what I'm buying, or throw out the offending Schedule A), and please let me know what they would prefer. My realtor immediately wrote back to me and my husband, copying the sellers' realtor, and stated that it sounded like we had no option but to get out of this deal and for us to get our earnest money back.

At this point, having lost all respect for my realtor, I called the sellers' realtor directly. She said she was in no way obliged to give us the Schedule A and was just trying to be helpful, but if we didn't like it, we could just throw it out. She also said that "initialing" to her just means acknowledgment that we've received a document. I proposed putting the word "received" on it and initialing by that, but she was not OK with it. I tried to explain that if we went into the main contract documents and changed, say, the purchase price, we would initial that (not sign), and it would mean that we'd agreed to it, not just received it, but that message did not get through. (Lawyers and realtors have a historically tense working relationship, I hear. I know I'm right legally, but whatever.) We agreed that we would pretend the Schedule A never existed, and I would ask the title company to look into conveyances to Maryland specifically during that part of the sales process. Oh, also, she was horrified that our realtor hadn't given us those documents before we signed our offer.

I didn't email my realtor last night to tell him all this, because I was still mad. My husband said that he would talk to him when he had some free time, but I don't really care. I want the deal to go through, and I want our realtor to stop emailing me inane things forever.

This morning, I got an email from him (he doesn't cc my husband because as we were looking for houses, I did all the communicating), saying that he was attaching the card of an attorney (he didn't say whose), and would I please call the attorney (he didn't say why). I forwarded the email to my husband - he can deal with this loony bin.





  1. oh my GOSH!!! How ANNOYING! You'll have to keep us posted on what the attorney thing is about. WHAT?!
    I hope this is all over (with a great outcome :-D) very soon

  2. I am interrupting my reading now just to say in regards to paragraph #6: ah, no, that request does not sound sane to this non-lawyer. Crazy.

  3. Wow. In these days, in this real estate market, how realtors who AREN'T 100% on the top of their game can still be in business astounds me.

  4. Gheez!!! I'm a paralegal and used to do closings and I must say this is ridiculous!!! Sounds like a "good ol' boy" mentality...just trust me it will all work out. BS!!

    Good for you for standing up to him. I'm sure he is used to bulldozing people.

    He does sound like an idiot. Hopefully the attorney is halfway sane!!

  5. WTF is right. And some other choice words for your realtor.

    Maybe you should knock him right out of the deal and work directly with the seller's agent? That's what we did (well, we never had a buyer's agent to knock out of the equation... and now I'm kinda glad we didn't) and everything went over without a hitch. I think you're definately smart enough to get by without that added hassle of an idiot realtor.

  6. Ok, finished This is truly bizarro. I don't even know what to say. Hopefully this guy wakes up to how incompetent he is being.

  7. what?! i am speechless- i sure hope he isnt going to say you were harassing him or something!!! keep us posted!!!

  8. Yep, many realtors, may appraisers, many attorneys are incompetent. That's a big reason why the economy had a melt down.

    It's not popular to say.

  9. It is absolutely unreasonable to ask you to sign or initial anything which doesn’t clearly spell out the terms you are agreeing to. To not have the conveyance for you and to ask you to still sign it? Unethical and irresponsible.

    I know there are wonderful realtors out there, but my respect for the industry as a whole plummeted after my latest buying/selling experience. (I find it inherently impossible for someone to adequately “represent” you when they only get paid if you go one way. Their interest and your interest then become opposing.) We had a couple of hiccups along the way which resulted in my agency reducing their commission greatly on both ends of the transactions (selling the old/buying the new) and “reworking” our relationship to where everything the agent did, said, wrote, or faxed on behalf of us had to be confirmed with me in writing. I know you didn’t need to read a “I hear ya, Sister!” comment, but this just brings back so many frustrating memories. I’m frustrated for you!

  10. I hate the closing of houses. You want to buy the house and they want to sell the house...but sheesh. Then you go sit in a lawyer's office and sign away your life. And you, as a lawyer, probably understand most of it, but the average person just doesn't get all of it. Yikes. I'm glad you understand all of it.

  11. WTF indeed. Argh. This dude sounds completely incompetent!

  12. Yikes!! What a mess, I would be furious!! I hope it is resolved soon, and to a favorable end.

  13. This is way too much for my brain to handle. I don't know how you stayed afloat so long. Good idea to pass it along to the DH! It's really pathetic that this realtor was able to get away with this.