Have a heart?

Yesterday I received a snippy phone message yesterday from an agent, miffed that I had dissed his former listing for an abandoned spec house, now owned by a bank. Would it bother me to know, he asked, that the builder is ill with cancer and cannot finish the house because of that? There was more, but basically, the message was that I should take into consideration the personal situation of a seller before writing mean things about his house. I disagree.

As a human being, of course I’m sorry to hear of someone’s misfortune, but that has nothig to do with my job as a buyer’s agent. Of the three traditional “3 D’s of real estate”, death, divorce and diapers, two are occasions of sorrow, yet we all go on with the business of disposig of the house. I’ve yet to meet a buyer who wanted to pay more to help a widow or a struggling divorcee. To the contrary, I’m usually asked if we can use that tragic situation to negotiate a better deal. Now a fourth D has been added, “default”. I have met personally with many of the builders who are losing their dreams to the bank and they are, by and large, decent men who take great pride in their work and feel that they should be compensated for value they have put into their creation. And that’s a shame because in better times they would have reaped that reward. But these aren’t better times, for spec builders, and their woes, while unfortunate, aren’t my concern or my clients’. Sorry.


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17 responses to “Have a heart?

  1. anonymous

    Agree; any good advisor identifies the financial and personal strengths and weaknesses of any seller to judge negotiating strategy

    If anything, sellers with possible credit or financial issues raise risks and costs of diligence for any buyer; lots of false “values” with nominally low prices out there

    It’s much like many employers are wary of hiring anyone w/a sketchy credit history or criminal history; risk profiling is mandatory for any fiduciary

  2. avaya

    this post nicely summarizes why every realtor in greenwich is upset with you — of course it’s a sad situation, blah, blah, blah, but that’s not the point. If you were only talking with with those prospective buyers who wandered into your office, well that’s not too bad, since it’s only a fraction of the people out there in the market. But, to steal a phrase from your former profession, you’re blog taints the whole jury pool with information. That’s the power of the interweb for sure, but realtors obviously don’t want that out there. The question is, how will they adopt?

    • christopherfountain

      The interesting thing about this Avaya, is that the same information has been circulated for years among realtors themselves. The gossip about whose hedge-fund husband has lost his money and turned to crack, who caught whose husband in bed with another man, etc. I leave those details out of my blog, but if I describe a listing as overpriced, I’m just letting the buying public in on what the agents already know, and, in many cases, aren’t telling their own clients. I say share the wealth.

  3. Front Row Phil

    Would the builder with cancer accept less if a potential buyer also had a serious illness? What if a buyer had arthritis and wanted a house with a downstairs master bedroom? Ask the agent who called you if she’d press her client to accept less because a buyer is ill. Chris, if you find any builder or seller who will accept less for that reason, please let me know. I can get very sick very quickly.

    • christopherfountain

      Well, Front Row, I’ve heard of agents begging for a listing “because they really need the money” (this was back when listings sold, of course) so your approach might work. I’ll dig round and find a few soft touches – keep your make up handy.

  4. Cos Cobber

    Once again, another agent demonstrates that they really don’t belong in the financial market place. Apparently this listing was to be protected by the GAR cabal as a empathetic sale whereby all you gwich agents were suppose to find an out of towner buyer to pay the listing price in order to bail out a nice guy.

    I feel terrible for the builder’s illness and truly wish him the very best for his health. But how is it fair that someone else, in this case a home buyer, should be less aggressive with their negotiation.

    If the listing agent believes in the cause, how about they start by agreeing to take no commission.

  5. Anon E. Moose


    How many 2005 land sellers did your ‘correspondent’ contact? Maybe the builder should go to them with this pitch:

    “You really made out like a bandit selling what was essentially a teardown for $2.85 Mil. The builder has cancer and can’t finish the project and may lose the land to the bank, who will sell it new house and all for half what you were paid. You really should chip in a million to help this guy out…”


    Than again, CC is right, maybe the current agent, or better yet (if different) agent that sold the land should broker the resale for no fee (GASP! BASPHEME!)?

  6. fred

    where is the house?

  7. Front Row Phil, when buying property in upstate New York some years ago, there was a potential problem whether or not a standard septic system could be installed. I asked the seller, via his agent, if he would lower the price if the property failed a perc test. His response (also through his agent): “If it percs, will he pay more?”

    I dropped the matter then and there.

  8. New Buyer

    The posting about the house would have been distasteful if you had written that the seller/builder is ill and therefor buyers should negotiate all the harder with him. That’s simply cruel. And it has little to do with the true value of the house or the state of the market. To simply offer an opinion that the house is overpriced or state the fact that the seller is facing a default is fair play — especially in a business transaction.

  9. W.

    The volume of negative responses you get from agents simply for commenting on local real estate more than anything reveals how these people depend on the control of info by their cartel to make a living. In a fair and transparent market (which is really what you promote), most of these agents are utterly worthless.

  10. Stanwich

    W., Exactly right!

  11. Stanwich

    CF, can we get an update on the Braverman and BJ’s strong arm tactics with you? I need a little humor to carry me through the day.

    • christopherfountain

      All quiet in New Canaan, unless BJ’s busy drafting up a complaint. Braverman has enough financial matters to worry about that I doubt he has time for me, but maybe I’m a needed diversion.

  12. greenmtnpunter

    Up here in Green Mtn Utopia brokers always thought the 3 D’s of real estate listings, a/k/a the broker’s best friends, were death, d-i-v-o-r-c-e, and debt. Our birth rate up here is too low- minus ZPG- to think about diapers, too many kids results in accelerated global warming.

  13. fred

    licata ter?