I recently wrote a piece about not being embarrassed to walk away from a bad deal. It’s better to deal with the embarrassment than to get stuck with something you hate. Deal making is a tricky business. You don’t want to get stuck in a bad deal and you don’t want to let other people treat you like a doormat during the deal making process. You want to achieve a balance between being a rude, domineering buyer and just letting the salespeople walk all over you. It’s a challenge, but one you can navigate if you’re prepared.
When we bought our house, we were young (just twenty-four). We met with a very nice realtor who showed us a few developments. We chose to build in a new development that was being marketed by another realtor who was working for the developer. (She was basically the developer’s mouthpiece, negotiating in his place.) As we went through the process, there were some changes we wanted to make to the basic house plan. Nothing major, just adding some cabinets to a place where there were none, putting an attic over the garage, and adding a concrete apron to the driveway. We were willing to pay for all of it, so it wasn’t like we were asking for anything free.
The builder’s realtor fought us every step of the way. We managed to get the apron and the attic, thanks mostly to the dogged efforts of our realtor, but the other realtor outright refused our cabinets. We probably should have walked away at that point, but we decided we could live without the cabinets and put them in ourselves later.
When we asked why she was refusing this change, our agent looked really upset and said, “[The other agent] doesn’t think you’re really going to go through with this, so she doesn’t want to customize the house so much that she can’t sell it when you back out.”
“Why does she think we’re not going through with it?” I asked.
“Because she doesn’t think you really have the money. She thinks you’re too young and you’re just playing a game.”
When it came time to pick out appliances, the other agent urged us to, “Go with the basics. Don’t get too fancy.”
When we asked our agent about that comment, she again said, “She doesn’t think you’re going through with it so she wants to keep things basic so other buyers will want the house.”
Okay, at that point we really should have walked away and told the other agent to stuff it, but we were so close to the end and we really wanted this house and this neighborhood. We opted to just suck it up and deal with the other agent’s comments. We’d have the last laugh when we paid at closing and she discovered that we really did have money.
Fast forward to closing day and we came armed with all the paperwork and the cashier’s check for the down payment. (The key thing to note here is that it was a cashier’s check. A cashier’s check is like cash because the money is taken from your account when the check is created. It’s not like a regular check that has to “clear” the bank. If the money isn’t there, the bank won’t issue the check.) Closing was a nightmare. The other agent argued about everything and tried to change some terms. Our agent held firm and we closed. When we asked for the keys so we could start moving in (the truck was basically waiting outside because we’d been told we could move in right after closing), the other agent said we’d have to wait while the check cleared the bank.
That was the last straw. This woman had treated us like crap for six months, determined to make this process as difficult as possible for us. All, apparently, because she thought we would never go through with it. She wouldn’t even accept that we had a cashier’s check in hand, thus proving the money was there. Thank goodness the lawyer stepped in and said that she had to give us the keys since all the aspects of closing had been met and the money had changed hands.
What was even more disgusting was that about three months later, we were looking at a house under construction in the neighborhood. It was the same floor plan as ours and, you guessed it, she’d “allowed” the cabinets in that house. When the people moved in, we discovered that they were a middle-aged couple. Obviously they looked like they had money.
We’ve long since fixed the cabinet problem, but every time I look at them, I remember that awful woman who walked all over us, just because she didn’t think we had the money to really buy this house. She treated us badly because we were young and inexperienced and we let her. The moral of this story is to never let someone walk all over you like we did. We should have stood our ground and cut her petty attacks off. We should have walked away and let her stew on it. At the very least, we should have reported her to her supervisor. Instead we were young and we let it chafe.
If you’re the paying customer (and you really have the money for something and your demands aren’t unreasonable) don’t let a salesperson or real estate agent treat you badly because they think you’re too young, too old, not well-dressed enough, or whatever other petty reason they have for snubbing you or trying to talk into a “lesser” product. You have the money, thus you have the power. While you never want to abuse people who are helping you, you don’t want to just lie down and take whatever they dish out at you, either. You can take your money elsewhere and find someone who will treat you with respect.
(Photo courtesy of Lisa Padilla)