What Constitutes A “Legitimate” Complaint Upon Closing?

It’s a trick question, folks.  There’s no real answer here.

Ask one hundred people, and get one hundred different answers.

It call comes down to expectations, once again, since some naive buyers out there expect absolute perfection, and others understand the world is not a warm and fuzzy place.

Let me show you two recent emails from agents closing on transactions, and you tell me if you think their complaints are legit…

Complaints

I suppose I’m opening myself up for criticism here.

As I said, it all comes down to expectations, and if some of the readers find themselves in the same camp as those in the stories below, then I might get some backlash.

I’m a realist, by nature.

And when it comes to expectations, I’m not saying you need to “set them low so you’ll never be disappointed,” but I am saying that to expect perfection in everyone, and everything, at all times in life, is setting yourself up for failure.

There’s also something to be said for “not sweating the small stuff” as well.

You know lady at your office who always comes flying out of the bathroom yelling, “Who left the seat up?”  That’s what I’m talking about.  A seat being left up is not life or death, and in the grand scheme of things, or even in the context of your day, it’s not a big deal.

You know the guy that always comes flying out of the kitchen saying, “Who took the last cup of coffee – and didn’t put on another pot?”  He’s probably at home telling his 16-month old to stop going to the bathroom in his diaper.

Again, it’s about expectations, in life.

People are not perfect, and to expect them to be, is naive.

When it comes to closing real estate transactions, this is one of those areas where perhaps setting a low expectation will ensure you’re not disappointed.  And, might I add, ensure that any positive experience is amplified ten-fold.

I’ve told this story before many times, but I’ll tell it again.  When I moved into my current condo, there was a hand-written note from the listing agent, who in addition to explaining that he had the entire condo professionally cleaned, at his cost, asked that if there were any issues, to “get in touch.”  There was also a bottle of champagne in the fridge, with a ribbon.

That, unfortunately, is setting the bar VERY high in our industry.

I’ve had true “nightmare” closings before.  I can’t dig up the blog, but I recall one house that closed back in 2008, when the market dipped for three short months, where my buyers got an incredible deal, and where the sellers were clearly pissed off, so they basically painted liquid butter all through the kitchen.

Yeah.  Exaggerating, right?

Not so.  The entire kitchen was covered in ants, and it was sticky from the floors, to the cabinets, to the walls.  They had an exterminator in, who told them that there was “liquid food product” everywhere.  We figured it was probably a bottle of Pam sprayed throughout, but either way, it was not a mistake.

While many of my clients will go out of their way to have their property cleaned before closing, it’s not something that’s in any way mandated, or even “understood.”

When it comes to closing a house or condo, if it’s not in writing, you shouldn’t expect it.

And thus the idea of what constitutes a legitimate complaint is risen.

I would say that probably half of all of my closings have some sort of very, very minor issue in the days leading up to, or shortly after, the closing.  Both on the buy side, and sell side, and most issues are rectified.

But some issues, aren’t rectified, and shouldn’t be.

Some buyers, as I noted above, have absurd expectations, and I believe it should fall on the shoulders of their buyer-agent to speak up and say “you’re being ridiculous,” but we know most agents are merely yes-men.

Here’s an email that I received last December in relation to a condo listing I had:

Hi David,

Please forward to the Seller for the followings minor issues:

1). Balcony and its windows is quite dirty as attached pic shown, needs cleaning.

2). Master ensuit shower end cap is faulty not sealed, as pic attached.

3). Master ensuit vanity faucet’s top trim is broken , need to tighten, as video attached in separate email.

Thanks to coordinate.

The email contained two photos, and a video.

Here’s the “dirty windows” noted in the email:

Balcony

Here’s the “faulty” shower-head:

Wall

And incredibly, here’s a video that the agent shot and emailed to me of the “broken” faucet:

 

I know, you’re thinking, “Did I really just spend 14 seconds watching somebody jiggle a faucet?”

So here’s the part where you might say, “David, these really are legitimate complaints.”  Or you might say, “David, you’re in a service business, and you should strive to adhere to the standards of the buyer.”

I disagree.

Resale condominiums and houses are not sold in the same way as pre-construction condos.

With a pre-construction condo, the buyer does what’s called a “Pre-Delivery Inspection,” or PDI.  In that inspection, the buyer outlines any and all issues with the property which should, in theory (I won’t get started on how TARION plays middle-man between the developer and the buyer, and nothing ever gets fixed), be rectified before closing, as is that buyer’s right.

But with a resale condo, you don’t have that right.  You don’t have that same PDI.

The dirty balcony?  That’s a shame.  The box and the bag were removed, but the seller doesn’t have to clean common elements, especially if it’s not written into Schedule A of the Agreement of Purchase & Sale.

The shower-head?  It’s in the exact same condition that it was when the buyer saw the condo, and if they wanted it fixed, they could have written a clause to that effect.  They could have included a condition on inspection, but they didn’t.

The faucet?  It “jiggles” a bit, I know.

But keep in mind, this is a resale condo!  This condo will not be delivered in perfect shape!

A “legitimate” complaint on closing is not something petty, and it is, above all, not something that wasn’t in the Agreement of Purchase & Sale.

In the example above, forget about the fact that the “jiggly faucet” can be fixed by tightening one screw.  Think about the mindset of the buyer who thinks this is an “issue.”  Worse, is when the buyer brings this up to their lawyer, and their lawyer contacts the seller’s lawyer.

Another condo I closed late last year came with two “complaints” from the buyer-agent, and these were just off the hook.

The first one was this:

 

Trim2

What is it, you ask?

What could be the “complaint?”

That missing 2-inch piece of quarter-round, wedged between the shower and the cabinet.  I don’t know how somebody even noticed that, unless they tripped on the bath mat, and found themselves staring at the floor.

The second “complaint” is by far, the single-worst complaint I have ever received.

Folks, this one is just absurd.

A picture paints a thousand words, so let me demonstrate:

Hole2

Yes.  You’re seeing that correctly.

That, is a very small hole in the wall from a nail.

And that is a photo of the small nail-hole, taken by the buyer-agent, and sent to me (along with the photo of the missing 2-inch piece of quarter-round), with the subject line “Problems In Condo.”

But I’ve saved the best part for last.  This wasn’t the sale of a condo.  It was a LEASE!

Imagine the tenants who took issue with the nail-hole?

Folks, if there’s one thing I pride myself upon while working in this business, it’s never blowing up.

Tensions run high, as do emotions, and with varying levels of success and failure – often unpredictable, many agents in this business will do and say things that they shouldn’t.

I don’t blow up.  You might think I do, based on how I write on this blog, but everything I say on here is calculated.  Writing a blog is completely one-sided, don’t forget, so I can take my time and think things through, with nobody to rattle my cage.

When it comes to how I interact with other agents, I always ask myself, “After I click ‘send,’ or hang up the phone, will I regret what I’ve said?”  I slow things down in my mind, and evaluate the consequences.

So when I received the photo of the quarter-round and nail-hole, I sat down, and patiently sent the following email:

Hi (Name),

I’m honestly not sure what you expect the outcome would be from this.

Your clients are tenants; this is not a pre-delivery inspection for a pre-construction condominium buyer.

A 3mm nail-hole in the wall?

A 2-inch piece of missing quarter-round?

Please tell me they do not seriously expect these items to be “fixed”?

This is one of the cleanest, best looked-after rental properties you’ll ever find.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something so petty in my 14 years in this business as a tenant asking for a 3-mm nail hole in the wall to be fixed. I do believe this is a new low-point for me.

David.

Naturally, the agent replied and said it was her client’s fault, and she didn’t want to send the email.

Remember what I said about expectations?

If you are a true “professional” in this business, and your client says, “I don’t like that there’s a nail-hole in the wall.  I want you to take a photo, send it to the listing agent, and get the owner to fix it,” then you should have the knowledge, experience, confidence, and guts to say, “That’s ridiculous,” and explain why.

But many agents don’t.  And it’s why we get photos of nail holes before closing.

I have other stories, and other examples, but these ones were recent – and had photos!

So what does constitute a legitimate complaint before closing?  Anything contrary to the terms of the Agreement of Purchase & Sale.

Many sellers, as I mentioned, will hire a cleaner to come in before closing, out of pocket.  But there’s no guarantee.  If you want a guarantee, then put a clause in your offer.

If you want the giant hole in the wall from the removal of the television wall-mount to be repaired, then put a clause in your offer.  While many people think the hole “should” be patched, there’s only one way to make certain it will be!

If you have a “chattels and fixtures in good working order” clause in your Agreement, and you find that the fridge doesn’t work upon closing, then you have a legitimate complaint.

If there is a set of old winter tires sitting in the living room, and they weren’t included in the “Chattels” section of the Agreement, then you have a legitimate complaint.

If the condo maintenance fees in the offer specified they were $561.80 per month, and you find out they were actually $661.80 per month, oh boy – do you have a legitimate complaint.  I’d ask why this wasn’t caught by your lawyer, but that’s besides the point.

The biggest source of, and reason for, petty pre-closing complaints – like nail-holes, dirty windows, and jiggly faucets, is that the buyers’ expectations are too high.  It just shows a lack of common sense, and perhaps that can’t be taught.

Or maybe I’m wrong, and we should all expect perfection.

If society in 2018 is any indication, it seems that perfection is indeed, everybody’s expectation…

33 Comments

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  1. DeAris Azoth says:

    I dont know if Jeff Bezos is going to pick Toronto for its headquarters however I do know that the real estate market will boom if it does happen. Our real estate company is positioning ourselves to buy property soon and fast. Where ever Amazon goes the economy gets a boost. We invested in jacksonville fl before Amazon moved a warehouse there and it was great. We bought a list for a few thousand that gave us over 50 houses at dirt cheap prices. Were considering buying a list from http://bit.ly/2BeBEsU for Canada just incase. One of our real estate associates have been successful in Toronto buying the foreclosure properties and flipping them. What do you all think?

    1. Condodweller says:

      I think instead of clicking your link I am going to get a head start for my proctologist appointment in the morning.

      1. Chris says:

        I think this is spam and/or a virus. Probably wise not to click the link.

    1. Chris says:

      Nice little recognition for the city. Current betting odds (Paddy Power) are 16/1 for TO being chosen, in a four way tie for 9th place.

      A few other cities’ odds:

      Atlanta 3/1
      Austin 3/1
      Boston 3/1
      NYC 14/1
      Washington 14/1
      Denver 20/1
      LA 33/1

      1. Condodweller says:

        It will never happen with Trump as president. I am sure BNN will talk about it all day long to weigh the benefits. Unless the various levels of government offers extremely sweet sweeteners, which I hope they don’t, I would be shocked if TO’s picked.

        1. Chris says:

          Personally, my money would be on Atlanta. Different time zone from current HQ, huge hub airport, strong tech talent, competitive office rents, and lower local incomes.

          I think avoiding The Donald’s wroth and taking advantage of his new tax plan will probably further compel Jeff to stay in the good ol’ US of A.

          Either way, nice that Toronto is competitive in the top 20.

          1. jeff316 says:

            Atlanta, agreed

          2. Kyle says:

            Jeff Bezos gives zero f’s about Trump. He owns the Washington Post which routinely portrays Trump for the imbecile that he is:

            http://time.com/money/4904871/donald-trump-amazon-taxes-twitter-jeff-bezos/

          3. Chris says:

            Lets not pretend we can read Jeff Bezos’ mind. While he owns the Washington Post, which is critical of Trump, he is, by all accounts, far removed from the paper with regards to oversight and editorial guidance.

            http://fortune.com/2017/10/27/amazon-jeff-bezos-washington-post/

            A business case can also certainly be made for avoiding stirring the pot, with both Trump and the American public, by keeping these jobs and investments within the United States. Plus the benefits of the new tax code.

            Don’t get me wrong, Toronto should be proud of being selected in the top 20, but there’s a reason why it isn’t the odds-on favourite to win the bid.

    2. Joel says:

      I read somewhere that they have already been shopping for commercial property in Boston, so many thought it was the front runner.

  2. Kyle says:

    I have nightmares of being a landlord to a tenant like that. I can only imagine the never ending string of frivolous complaints that will come up over the life of that lease.

  3. R says:

    Really?

    http://torontorealtyblog.com/archives/2947

    Your blog is regularly 4000 words complaining about small issues with all requisite photos/videos, etc. as proof…

    R

    1. Geoff says:

      Not sure what your point is. David’s post here today is about resale homes; that post you linked to was for a new build.

      1. Condodweller says:

        I think R’s point may be that David always goes on about how he always recommends investing in a property to present it in the best light, in some cases spending tens of thousands of dollars to get top dollar on the sale. It seems odd that rather than sending over his handyman to fix these minor issues, he complains about the buyer complaining about them. Perhaps it’s just the case of do as I say not as I do.

      2. R says:

        “It call comes down to expectations, once again, since some naive buyers out there expect absolute perfection, and others understand the world is not a warm and fuzzy place.”

        Resale, new build buy or lease? Any difference in naivety or just a difference if it happens to someone else?

        1. Geoff says:

          New builds are (allegedly) warranted, that’s the difference.

          1. R says:

            TARION works against deficiencies and major issues, maybe.

            But “my soft loft is too “hard” with exposed ducts and wiring” or “unfinished poured concrete is too rough”, not so much…. that’s naive expectations and no different than expecting a resale condo to be as clean as one that’s brand new…

            Also, there’s more in case you don’t recall.

            http://torontorealtyblog.com/archives/2964
            http://torontorealtyblog.com/archives/2966
            http://torontorealtyblog.com/archives/2971

            Pot- meet kettle.

    2. Mike says:

      Several people have already told you that you’re missing the point, and yet you’re still missing the point.

      There are PDI’s in precon. There aren’t in resale.

  4. paul says:

    LOL NAIL HOLE got me good. if i was the seller id make things interesting and tell my agent to tell them they will reimburse $2 for the trouble

  5. Condodweller says:

    “But I’ve saved the best part for last. This wasn’t the sale of a condo. It was a LEASE!”

    “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something so petty in my 14 years in this business as a tenant asking for a 3-mm nail hole in the wall to be fixed. I do believe this is a new low-point for me.”

    Let’s see now, after having spent the last few months searching for a place to rent probably involving leaving work in order to see new listings that just came on the market, finally “winning” the bidding war by offering $50-$100 over the asking rent and passing the landlord’s tests of being a worthy tenant who will likely pay his rent on time on a regular basis probably having provided a credit report and various references along the way, I have recently handed over a cheque of over $4000 for first and last month’s rent to find a nail hole in the wall two minutes after walking through the door for the first time with the excitement of moving in and starting a new chapter in my life. Ignoring the fact that I would expect the place to be move-in ready with no nail holes in the first place, when I ask for it to be fixed I am told that I am a lowly petty tenant and I should adjust my expectations and fix it myself. Way to start off a tenant-landlord relationship.

    Let me say that the three places I rented were all freshly painted and sans nail holes when I moved in. All of them were apartments in old rental buildings never mind high priced luxury condos.

    1. David(Not the David who runs this website) says:

      If I was the new tenant of that condo with the nail hole in the wall, I’d be more concerned that I would be blamed for it. I would take photos of it and bring it to the attention of the landlord and say that it was there before I moved in. In fact, I would take photos of the entire place and save them as a record of condition of the place on the move in date.

      A nail hole is nothing compared to a brand new, never lived in condo that I rented many years ago. The washing machine water hook-ups were a mixed up, a closet door was cracked, there were scuff marks on the kitchen floor, and the living room windows didn’t open very easily. The landlord didn’t seem to care so I swapped the water hoses on the washing machine, glued the closet door to fix it, scrubbed the scuff marks off the kitchen floor and had the super fix the windows. I left the place in better shape than when I moved in.

      There’s no way that I would bother with a bidding war over a rental, there are so many places for rent out there, just keep looking. I’ve seen lots of over prices dumps out there that have a lot more wrong with them than a measly nail hole. Also don’t limit yourself to condos, there are lots of rental buildings out there. Most of them are old but there are some decent ones, but you have look.

  6. Appraiser says:

    Ben Myers in Toronto Star article Jan. 9:

    ” 2018 will be the year of data misinterpretation. Because prices shot up so quickly in early 2017, any comparisons to that bubbly time will make 2018 look very bad. Headlines won’t provide context and the word crash will be thrown around liberally.

    The new housing market set another mind-boggling sales record, a return to an average year will make year-over-year comparisons look like the market has fallen off a cliff, when it hasn’t. The continued focus on average prices when there is such a discrepancy in activity among product types and price ranges will just add another layer of confusion to the marketplace which is already bombarded with data and analysis. Unfortunately, much of that analysis is coming from unqualified sources.”

    1. Professional Shanker says:

      I will forecast that the mix “excuse” will be overused to explain price normalization/drop (whatever you will) in early 2018. What is interesting is that the inverse from 2016 to 2017 would apply no? So prices and data were misrepresented in early 2017 too? I don’t believe that, the market was hot and the high end of the market was selling. Currently, the high end of the market is having a tougher time selling.

      TREB publishes enough data by type of property and region that someone who wants to understand the market direction is able to but like anything else (equities, politics, etc.) if you listen to media expect a bias and storylines which have a small piece of true.

  7. Joel says:

    In the first example I thin those are legitimate complaints. You are selling someone a home for hundreds of thousands of dollars and it is a very emotional purchase for both. The listing agent and seller should make a reasonable attempt to give the buyer a home that is clean and that doesn’t have sloppy mistakes.
    Leaving the shower like that is lazy and sets a bad tone for moving in. As an agent it would be worth your time and money to make the small fixes that would give the buyer and his agent reason to enjoy working with you and recommend your services.

    The dirt on the balcony is something that they added on because they were disappointed in how the shower was left and it made them nit pick for other problems. On a transaction where you made $10,000 I think it is reasonable for you or the client to spend the $100 to have that fixed.

    1. Jason says:

      I disagree. I’m a landlord and whenever I sell a property I make sure it is in pristine condition to avoid any back and forth and make sure that the buyer doesn’t regret their decision. However, most agreements stipulate that the condo will be delivered to the buyer in the condition that it was viewed in on such and such a date. I wouldn’t sell something in with an issue like that, but it is a very minor issue and I can fix most of those things are my own. Some people aren’t handy or can’t be bothered. I have no issue with the buyer bringing it up and I have no issue with the seller refusing to fix it. I’m sure most buyers will ask for a repair as a shot in the dark, but few probably expect such minor issues to be fixed.

  8. Marina says:

    The nail hole is the most ridiculous by a mile. But from what I understand in general unless something is specified in the contract, you are SOL. A friend closed on her new house and found footprints of the movers of the previous owner throughout the place. She hired a cleaning service, which she was going to do anyway.
    What’s next? Oh, I closed in fall and there are all these pesky leaves on my driveway – please have the seller remove them!
    The kitchen counter has crumbs on it! Come take care of it right away!
    OMG there is a crack in the tiles of the walkway! Quick fix it before you break my mother’s back!

    1. ed says:

      The way I see it is that it isn’t so much the nail hole which would take 30 seconds to repair, the issue then is getting the paint to match so you don’t have to repaint the whole wall.

      1. Jason says:

        Hang a picture over it. Problem solved!

  9. DR says:

    So… how would you go about fixing that shower head? What would you even call that? I’ve been meaning to get mine fixed.

    1. ed says:

      duct tape and a coat hanger

    2. Jason says:

      Clean off the back of the chrome plate and put a bead of transparent silicone. Adhere it to the wall with painter’s tape for 3 hours. Once its secure, you can silicone around the chrome plate with white or almond silicone to match the shower tiles. Its about 5 minutes of work. Do it after your morning shower, just make sure the area is dry and it’ll be ready by lunch.

  10. RPG says:

    Somewhat of a depressing final thought, albeit not exactly incorrect based on what’s going on out there.

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