Real Estate and Life in Colorado and Beyond

The Dirty Work: What You Don’t See on HGTV

So this 87-year-old geezer is working in his accounting office.  A client comes in to see him.

The old guy says, “Did you notice that beautiful, buxom 22-year-old blonde working at the reception desk?”

“Yes, I noticed her,” says the client.  “What about her?”

“I’m shtupping her,” he says.

“Well, that’s wonderful,” says the client.  “Good for you.  But why are you telling me?”

“I’m telling everyone.”

It’s an old joke.  But with that same sort of pride, I’m telling everyone that my twenty-something clients, first-time home buyers, are under contract to purchase a two-bedroom ranch style home in Englewood.

It has not been easy getting there.  For the last several weekends, starting Thursday or Friday, we’ve been out showing homes.  We toured more than 20 of them, mostly in frigid February weather.

Along the way we encountered many other agents and their buyers, sometimes running into the same group two or three times, out on the same circuit of scarce entry-level homes.  In the $400K to $500K price range, as a whole, the properties were unimpressive.

Some were remodeled but most were depressingly dated, reminiscent of college living, with worn out carpet and nicked up paint; and plumbing and electric remarkable only in that they seemed to still work.  Many reeked of pets or pot smoke.

We crawled through filthy crawl spaces, wearing headlamps, examining foundation walls and checking for mold and occasionally breathing carbon monoxide, I suspect, from heavily laboring floor-mounted furnaces.  In one place we saw a cat skeleton grinning back at us.

Yet some of the other buyers’ agents were straight out of HGTV.  I returned to my 13-year-old Honda as a stunning woman in a designer suit emerged from her shiny BMW.  She may have thought I was the maintenance man. I doubt that she entered the crawl space.

A willingness to do some dirty work, I figure, gives us an edge over other buyers.  If a place has a cracked up foundation, it will not attract a top offer from us.

Over three weeks, we put in six offers, each exceeding the list price by $30,000 or more.  All included offer-strengthening provisions such as an appraisal gap guarantee.  That’s where the buyer promises to bring in an extra $20,000, or some such specified amount, if the appraisal falls short of the contract price.  I’d love to say our offers were unique in that way.  But these days everyone is doing it.

One house listed at $470,000 attracted 22 offers, including ours.  Our offers struck out every time.  But along the way, after failing, we made backup offers.  A seller can accept one backup that says, if the primary offer should fall out, the lucky backup buyer will automatically go under contract.

That’s obviously a good thing for the backup buyer–although it prevents him from ethically making offers elsewhere.  For that matter, any buyer floating multiple offers at once is on shaky ground.  Because, suppose the sellers have been weighing all the options and they choose you.  In effect they say no to 21 other people. Then you tell him sorry dude, we made other plans.

It’s dirty pool, but between you and me, it happens all the time.

Backup offers are good for sellers too.  It gives them leverage.  Suppose the primary-position buyer gets cocky with their repair requests. They ask for a new roof and a better furnace and various repairs and a fresh coat of paint in that avocado green kitchen.  With a good backup offer in hand, the seller can more easily refuse.

Unreasonable buyer demands were, in fact, the reason that the first contract disintegrated at our Englewood house.  We don’t know exactly what that buyer requested.  Reportedly it was a “more and more” situation.  That, after first agreeing to purchase the property “as is.”  Eventually the seller said “no mas,” and the buyer chose to walk away.

When our backup offer kicked last week, my clients were ecstatic.  The house now under contract needs electrical and plumbing and probably a new furnace, and tons of cosmetic work. The seller will replace the roof before closing with help from an insurance claim.

This week we’ll exercise some due diligence.  Monday, three contractors will meet us at the house.  Essentially, it’s an opportunity for us to gather repair bids.  We may need to be there for seven hours.

We have no plan to request any repairs.  Our contract does reserve the right to terminate based on inspection.  But we will present no Inspection Objection (a list of complaints).  Our seller-friendly inspection terms were another offer-strengthening tactic, also quite common in today’s market.

Many years ago, my then future wife was shopping for a home.  Her realtor gave her some advice.  She said, don’t fall in love with any house.  It’s likely to break your heart.  Think of house hunting like dating, she said.  If one prospect slips away today, a better one will come along tomorrow.

If house hunting is like dating, my clients have fallen in love with a 72-year-old, 900 square foot geezer.  The wedding is set for late March.

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