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…
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:
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:
Here’s the “faulty” shower-head:
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.”
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:
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:
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:
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.
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…