Writings about residential real estate and all things home, by Cynthia Cummins of Kindred SF Homes.
Reading time: 2 minutes
“The secret to humor is surprise.” ~ Aristotle
Conversely, the secret to navigating a surprise is humor – especially when it comes to something unexpected in a real estate transaction.
One scrap of wisdom I share at the outset with new clients is this: There will be at least one moment during this process when something is unexpected and upsetting. It isn’t a matter of IF it will happen. It’s a matter of WHAT and WHEN.
As a Realtor, I am Navigator of the deal. I unroll a map of the Transaction and highlight a route to Closing. I know most of the twists and turns by heart. And I deftly steer around new bumps and barricades. Yet there is always a pothole I don’t see before driving over or into it.
These holes along the highway take many forms (or so I have seen).
The mortgage one-more-thing: On the day before signing lender requires that Buyer’s car lease be paid off in full.
The insurance Catch 22: Buyer can’t obtain loan and close escrow without insurance in place. But insurance company says circuit breakers must be installed before house can be insured. So Seller must have the circuit breakers installed prior to closing. Yet property is a probate and Seller is deceased. And Buyer doesn’t have a contingency for insurability because the insurance companies just dreamed this new policy up a month ago.
The unimaginable: Buyer has a brain aneurism on the day before closing.
The Act of God: Loma Prieta comes knockin’ and the house goes rockin’ off its foundation just after Buyer waives inspection contingency.
The catastrophic: It’s early on Tuesday tour day, September 11, 2001, and I’m just boiling water for my morning cup of tea. In a few hours, at 9 am, I’m holding open an exciting new listing. It’s a 1900 sq. ft. luxury condominium with bay views that the seller has been developing for two years. It’s not yet 7 am when my brother calls from Virginia. I know – as I answer – that this can’t be good…
The governmental: The IRS decides to begin scrutinizing a formerly-ignored form called a TRDBV required by mortgage lenders. TRDBV stands for Tax Return Database. (I’m not sure what the “V” connotes and I don’t really care and I hope you never have to find out yourself.) Buyers drop everything (including their jobs) to go stand in line at the local IRS office for hours. And HOURS.
The feral: During a final walk-through, Buyer steps onto the roof and into a pile of raccoon poop.
The emotional: Soon-to-be-divorced yet cheery Seller goes silent in the week before closing. Refuses to sign closing papers. Will not return agent’s or attorney’s phone calls. Will not answer doorbell. Emails escrow officer that she’s changed her mind.
The watery: Closing is December 30th. Huge storm – the first of the season – crushes Bay Area on December 31st. Buyers call shortly before midnight, but not to wish me a Happy New Year. They are crying loudly. I realize, however, that their tears are not the cause of the dripping sound in the background.
The pandemic: It’s March 16, 2020 and my favorite videographer and photographer are right in the middle of shooting a new listing due to debut in 4 days. My mobile phone rings and it’s my assistant letting me know the Mayor of San Francisco has just announced a city-wide lockdown effective at 6 pm today.
The contagious: The big news of the day is that Silicon Valley Bank has failed. Thirty minutes later it dawns on me that there could be a domino effect. One buyer is in the middle of obtaining financing from First Republic Bank. Another is preapproved there and we’re writing an offer on a house tonight.
The musical: Several days prior to closing, piano-owning Buyers realize they missed the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions ban on pianos in the condo building. As we search for a possible music-friendly solution, I remind the impatient Sellers, “There’s always a piano.”Yes indeed. In every transaction, "there’s always a piano.”
Photo Credit: Nick de Partee
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