A Whole Other Level Of Crazy!

I really need to stop saying things like, “In all my years in the business, I’ve never experienced anything like this,” or “This is the first time this has happened.”

Because as I’m slowly learning, no matter how crazy, abnormal, or new an experience is, there’s an even wackier one waiting just around the corner.

Negotiating the purchase or sale of a property always comes with obstacles, no matter how good, or how experienced you are.  But some obstacles are simply insurmountable, as I’ll detail in the following story…

Crazy

When I first started this blog, and readership began to ramp up, people would often refer to it as “controversial.”

I found that label to be somewhat misplaced, but at the time, I was the only person who was really telling the truth about what goes on in the real estate industry, and giving actual opinions on properties, neighbourhoods, et al.

Over the years, I’ve certainly written a few posts that caused controversy (ie. bringing to light the Printing Factory Lofts scandal…), but does a resulting controversy automatically mean that the post itself was “controversial?”

I’ll admit – I can be juvenile, and insensitive sometimes, but it’s often an act to get a point across.  I’m openly cynical and sarcastic.  But believe it or not, I do think before I write things.

And with that in mind, I wonder how today’s blog post is going to play out…

Religion, and culture.

Those are two things you don’t really want to discuss in an open forum, let alone poke fun at.

So give me a bit of leeway here as I tell this story.

A condo unit came onto the market a few weeks back, and my buyer-client was interested in taking a look.  But before we could get in to see the unit, the listing was abruptly terminated.

One day on the market, and terminated.  Very odd.

I called the listing agent to ask what was going on, and she told me, “Tenant not want to sell.”

Again – forgive me for writing in broken English, as I don’t know if this is being detail-oriented in story-telling, or being insensitive.  But the language barriers that exist in real estate often cause problems, and I’m not sure if I differentiate between, say, an agent who can’t add or subtract, and an agent not being able to speak English.

In this case, it made for an extremely trying experience, as the situation was just as confusing as the conversations.

I asked, “What do you mean the tenant doesn’t want to sell?  Do you mean the seller doesn’t want to sell?”

“No, tenant not want sale.  No good for tenant.”

I had no clue what was going on.

I asked her if we could get in to see the unit regardless, and we set up a viewing for the following day.

I met the agent in the lobby, and she was very nice, and courteous, but I still had no clue what she was saying, and what the situation was.

I asked her when the tenant was leaving, and she said, “One year.”

“Tenant do not accept vacant notice,” she said.

I was able to piece together that they served the tenant with the N11 form, and notice to vacate the unit with the requisite notice under the Residential Tenancies Act, but the tenant, according to her, “not agree.”

I explained to her that the tenant can’t simply say “I don’t agree.”  It’s like when somebody breaks up with somebody else – they say, “I’m breaking up with you,” and that’s that.  George Costanza explained this very well in an episode of Seinfeld…

I further explained that if they gave him legal notice, then he has no say in the matter.  This was back on the first of June, so I explained to her that the tenant needed to vacate as instructed by the end of July.

That’s when she said, “You are very smart man!  You buy condo, you deal with tenant.”

She said, “You buy unit, you take tenant.  Make easy for me!!!”

I explained to her that it didn’t quite work that way.  I’ve never had a buyer assume an existing tenant.  Ever.

We went up to see the unit, and she pointed to the ground next to the elevator and said, “Here, here.”  She walked down the hall, and we began to follow, but she turned and said, “Stay,” like we were dogs.

She approached the unit like a cat-burglar, and quietly knocked on the door.  Then she knocked again, and again, louder each time.  Then she opened it with her key, and quietly asked, “Hello?”  She went inside for a minute, and then came out and said, “Okay, safe now!”

We stepped inside the unit and I asked her, “Does the tenant know we’re coming?”  She said that he did not, and she did not have permission to go inside, so we had to be quick.

I explained to her that the landlord can legally access the unit with 24 hours’ written notice, but she said, “Tenant never allow us inside.  Four years!”

The condo was disgusting – filled with four years worth of cigarette smoke, and like most tenanted properties, it was a mess.  I don’t know why most tenants live in their own filth, and I never thought there was a direct correlation between being a tenant, and being dirty, but evidence would suggest otherwise.

My client gave me the old shrug of the eyelids to say he’d seen enough, and we went on our way.  The listing agent said, “No tell anybody that we go inside.  Not ever.”

It was strange, to say the least.

In the elevator on the way down, I asked why the tenant didn’t want to leave, even though he had been given legal notice to do so, and she said, “He want to buy condo.  Need one year.”

This was just silly.

It would seem that the tenant, who had been living in the unit for four years, and who never allowed inspections, was given an N11 on June 1st to vacate by July 31st, but said “no,” and for some reason, the landlord acquiesced.

It seemed to me that neither the seller/landlord, nor the agent, had any clue what they were doing.  This would prove accurate shortly thereafter.

A couple of weeks later, my client decided to make an offer on the condo.  It needed to be cleaned and painted, but it was the right model, and we figured the price had to be negotiable.  Listed at $435,000, we offered $420,000, and asked for an August 30th closing.

The agent took two days to respond to my offer, despite repeated attempts to get in touch with her, and finally told me that the earliest they could close was November!

I asked why, and she said, “This is what tenant say.”

I was losing my mind.

“Do what you need to do, in order to get the tenant out,” I told her.  “Buy him out.  Offer him money.  I’ve done four deals this year where the tenant was bought out for an early closing.  But you don’t even need to do that – you gave him notice to vacate at the end of July!”

But that didn’t get us anywhere.

And even if they did agree, I’d worry that three days before closing, we’d hear that the tenant plans to stay another year.

The price was an obstacle as well.  I told her, “You’re not getting $435 for this condo.  You won’t get $430 either.  $425?  Maybe, who knows.  $420?  It’s in the ballpark.  So tell me – what is a reasonable, logical price?”

Her response?  “How about………four-thirty-five?”

It was like talking to a child.

I just couldn’t get through to this agent, and I couldn’t understand why.

She went on and on about the building in an awful attempt to sell me: “Great building – very new!  Very nice!  Very clean!  Very good!”  I hate being sold, and this wasn’t getting us anywhere.

So I got blunt with her.

I said, “You are not getting $435,000 for this condo, and you are not getting a November closing.  It’s not happening.  It’s just not going to happen.”

Suddenly, she got a bit agitated, and started to say, “Don’t say that!  Don’t say!  No, no, no, no, don’t say!”

And she added, “He will hear you!”

He will hear me?  Who will hear me?

“Who?” I asked her, completely confused.  “The tenant?”

“No,” she said.  “God.”

Oh.  My.  God.

No pun intended there, but how else do I exclaim?

“God listen to all,” she told me.  “I pray every day, every day to God.  I am Christian.  I pray and pray again, very good, very much.”

I was at a loss for words.

“I pray to God, and he listens, he respond.  He tell me I get $435 and November closing.  He tell me this!”

I asked her, very slowly, just to make sure, “God….told you this?”

“YES!” she yelled into the phone.  “This is why I no need you!”

Now listen, folks, I’m not trying to poke fun at this, but rather, understand it, and I apologize if this comes off as misplaced.

I respect other people’s beliefs, to some extent.  I mean, while I’m not a religious person myself, I understand organized religion and how it brings about a sense of family, and community, and responsibility.

But do I respect the idea that one man (presumably with a white beard and a cane, and standing on a cloud…) is sitting around, thinking, “Well, I should probably get that condo sold for $435,000 with the closing date the seller has been praying for”?

No, I don’t.

I’m sorry, I just can’t accept that.

And I have to wonder if the agent is being negligent here, as she casts aside my offer because God is going to sell the condo for her.  Was this on the instruction of her client?  Does her client even know what’s going on here?  Together, the two of them couldn’t properly deal with a tenant who has basically re-written the Residential Tenancies Act, so was she competent enough to deal with the sale of an asset this substantial?

What was I supposed to do?

I can’t compete with God!

Who can?

It’s one thing to lose a bid in a multiple offer situation against ten other agents, but it’s another thing entirely to lose to God!

So I asked her one more time, just to make absolutely certain:

“So let me get this straight.  You pray, and you speak to God, and you are not going to sign-back our offer, because you believe that God is going to answer your prayers for a full-price offer, and a 4-month closing?”

She replied with the only iota of confidence I’d seen her display through the entire process, saying, “I know he will.”

And that was that.

The end of the “negotiation,” if you want to label it as such, and as tough as that phone call was to swallow, I then had to call my buyer and explain to him that we didn’t have a deal, nor were we getting a sign-back, because the seller believed that God was overseeing the listing.

My client was disappointed, but saw some humour in it.

But I was frustrated, and still am, as I write this.

I was frustrated not only because the seller believed that God was going to oversee the sale of the condo, but also because she was completely unqualified to begin with.  Sneaking into a property without permission was odd, but it was borne of the complete lack of understanding of how to deal with a tenant.  I know some of you will say, “You can’t just evict a tenant for no reason,” but if a tenant is on a month-to-month lease, and you’re selling your property, you can give them notice to vacate.  It’s done every day.

What an absolutely bizarre scenario, and right when I thought, “I’ve seen everything in this business.”

Where do I go from here though?

What’s next?

A litter of kittens are the legal owners of a house on which I want to offer?

Have a great weekend, everybody!

27 Comments

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  1. condodweller says:

    At the end of the day what difference does it make why a person decides not to sign back? The God argument sounds like a pretty solid indication that the asking price is firm, and if your client want’s the unit bad enough, he has to pay the asking price. Your opinion that she will not get the asking price is again irrelevant. I don’t see a reason for you tot get upset over this. The only reason I can think of is that you have to work longer to find a property for your buyer, however, as you stated before condo units are similar and should be no problem to find another one like it.

  2. Kyle says:

    Agents with broken English aren’t really surprising to me. In a city where a lot of the population buying and selling houses doesn’t speak a lick of English, it makes sense for there to be Agents that can serve them in their mother tongue. As for the religion part, you should have asked her whether God put that down on paper and signed it

  3. Patty says:

    It was a great story David and well told. If you had ‘washed’ the English, much would have been lost. The fact is the agent spoke in broken English. There will always be people who want to twist facts because they have an agenda. Keep it real.

  4. Paully says:

    Yep, I would have to agree that it would be pretty hard to compete with God in a negotiation! Imagine the impressive flyer that you could mail out to prospects if you won!

  5. moonbeam! says:

    Ok – I have to agree with David — I too wonder why many tenants live in messy units, inside & out… garbage piled up, holes in the walls, yanked-off cupboard doors, crappy window coverings, dirty windows & bathrooms…??

  6. R says:

    Sorry, but I have to think this an issue YOU have, not with “culture”, but race, or others not like you. Using broken English in the story doesn’t add any context or meaning. Try typing out the exact story but in correct English. Your point about the unreasonable seller or bad agent still comes across.

    It’s not the first story in which you’ve done so. Not unlike the many stories about “agents from Markham” who I’d wager is code for Asian… And how they obviously don’t know anything about Leaside, though it’s (as previously mentioned) as far from Leaside as Leaside is from High Park.

    I get it. You grew up in a sheltered, mono cultured area. You read the Sun…

    I would just hope that you could either correct your biases living in such a diverse city, or at least be smart enough not to spread such ignorance on a site that you’d hope would get you business.

    R

    Ps. Fwiw, I’m a downtown, young, white guy.

    1. Whateves says:

      Of course you are. You’re likely a social justice warrior who gets all his ‘knowledge’ from Huffington Post as well. Listen son, white people are allowed to notice race and culture and have tribal instincts just like every other ethnic group out there. I found this particular post of Fleming’s kind of boring but, only the perpetuallly offended who go looking for rayciiissm behind every door would make this an issue. And I’m a young brown guy. Or maybe I’m an older black lady. Who knows this is the interweb and you need to grow a backbone.

      1. ScottyP says:

        Oh yes, absolutely, you indeed are a downtown white guy, R. No doubt about that.

        1. Johnny says:

          Sure the woman agent is clueless, but Flemings posts all have a holier than thou attitude.

          In a diverse city like Toronto, doesn’t do himself any favours with posts such as these.

          1. jeff316 says:

            Yeah, to be honest I’m huge fan of David’s but this post came across as unprofessional. But it’s hard to post this often, about this many topics, and not have a few that show your worst side.

      2. Jimbo says:

        Well said

      3. R says:

        I don’t even know what this comment means. You think I’m pretending to be a downtown white guy? Really? Why? How?

        And no, I’m a social justice anything, nor have I ever read huffington post. Only thing I know of huffington post is click bait garbage I see people posting to FB. In fact I rarely comment on the Internet.

        Obviously you totally missed my point, so, fine. Continue to encourage socially unacceptable stereotypes and race baiting.

        R

        1. jeff316 says:

          My favourite was the very obviously purposeful use of the word “son”.

        2. jeff316 says:

          I think his point was that, as a downtown white guy, of course you were bound to be offended.

          But closet crazies always have a retort ready. It wouldn’t have mattered how you identified yourself.

          If you had been a white guy from the burbs, you would have been a softie, baby-bjorn toting helicopter parent.

          If you had been a white guy from the country, you would have been a tree-hugging eco-warrior.

          If you had been a white guy from from rust belt, you would have been some lazy-ass trade union socialist.

          If you had been a white guy from northern Ontario, he probably would have said that was impossible because only Indians live up there.

          And if you had identified yourself as anything other than white, he would have told you to count your blessings for everything white people had done for you and get over yourself.

          Guys like that feel restricted in their ability to vent and much like volcanoes, when they sense a crack they blow.

        3. Gordy says:

          That is your problem R. ‘Socially unacceptable stereotypes’ According to whom!? What does that even mean? The answer? NOTHING. Socially accept this:

          I will say whatever the f I want whenever I feel so inclined. I will also deal with the consequences.

          Look up Penn Gilette’s response to “being offended” on youtube. It’s brilliant and you might learn something.

          1. R says:

            Your totally correct. Socially acceptable behaviour is just a construct. Damn all those immigrants. Hope you never venture to little Italy, little Portugal, the Danforth, Chinatown, etc and have to behold the unwashed masses… Sure David sounds gay. Tell Chroscklh to learn English or fuck a bear. Best of luck to you.

            I’m not offended. Just sad this is where real estate discussion ends up.

            R

    2. Chroscklh says:

      why this guy post dating profile to David? “p.s. I downtown, young, white guy, enjoy organic coffee and like to laugh”

    3. Gordy says:

      Hey R, bend over backwards FURTHER to try to be offended!!

      It’s this mindset that is ruining society.

      The broken English actually adds a ton of context to the story. You come to this country, learn the GODDAM language.

      1. Scott says:

        I believe it’s spelled “goddamn”, you know, in English (one of the two languages of this country).

  7. Mike says:

    Here are the take away:

    You met an agent who probably should have never been licensed.

    You knowingly violated someone’s privacy.

    You knowingly broke into someones home.

    After committing an illegal act you posted your exploits on your blog.

    You can justify your actions by saying something like, “I was serving the interest of my clients” but the fact is you knowingly violated the Landlord Tenant Residency Act as well as the Criminal Code. Who’s to say what other laws or regulations you’re willing to break in order to close a sale?

    1. ScottyP says:

      Go ahead an arrest him then, Mike… you white knight in shining armour, you.

  8. Libertarian says:

    It’ll be interesting to see whether the selling agent gets what she wants. Perhaps she’ll meet a buying agent who also has been talking to God and tells that agent to buy the unit for $435 with a November closing.

    Is this why prices in the city keep going up? Not supply and demand, but God telling people to spend more and more money?

  9. RPG says:

    That was pretty tame, David. After that lead-in, I was expecting like a full Bill Maher or David Cross routine on religion.

    I think you’re actually getting milder in your old age!

  10. Chroscklh says:

    Mr. David – if this wild crazy story, man I love this country. Back home my country, I sell house for uncle who very old -buyer try claim rocket launcher hung on wall is fixture. He win but I take rocket – is no attach haha. But I dont disagree language/culture make transact hard. I come here, no know rule – make many mistake when buy first house. I try bribe and threaten realtor get client accept low price – I so embarrass is not how to do deal here in Canada! Lul!

  11. Joe Q. says:

    “I don’t know why most tenants live in their own filth”

    That’s a pretty broad brush, no? And perhaps strongly affected by unconscious biases (because the horrifying ones stick out in your mind, or because properties with bad tenants are more likely to be put up for sale)?

    1. Squidward says:

      Tenant here, and one who resolutely doesn’t live in my own filth, although I will admit the previous tenant of my unit did leave us some hidden treats in the lint traps and drains. As Joe Q. very kindly pointed out, we’re not all disgusting swine. Just like the homeowners in my neighbourhood who store furniture on their front porches, neglect their yards, and think a new roof is s once in a lifetime repair aren’t representative of all homeowners.

  12. Boris says:

    Crazy story. But not surprising given too many immigrants to Toronto, too many brokers, too few barriers to entry and too many stupid owners entrusting a sale process to a person like this.

    Makes for some entertaining stories though!

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