Don’t Be A Doormat

go away doormat

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)

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4 Responses to Don’t Be A Doormat

  1. Alexandria says:

    I can relate to this on so many levels.

    1 – Our unintended buying MO is horrible selling realtor. We always seem to sniff them out. With our first home purchase they admitted they hired someone off the internet who only took a 1% commission. Their realtor didn’t do anything! We got a steal, and our realtor met with them to sign all the papers, etc., so the deal would go through. Our realtor didn’t have to say it – it was all pretty obvious. But she said, “I hope you see the difference – you get what you pay for.” The difference was stark because we had hired such a good realtor. (This was in an unreal market where homes sold in seconds in huge bidding wars. We got a gorgeous move-in ready home and had no competition. I have no idea what the sellers were thinking?!? It took them *6 months* to sell – was totally absurd. For reference, when we sold the home it took about 5 minutes to sell).

    2 – We bought a new construction home (Second home) and it was difficult and we had to be pushy, but we questioned absolutely everything. I think it is just how it goes. They tack on every ridiculous fee imagineable (We got out of a lot of them, just for questioning and complaining). They were always pretty open to random changes (I LOVE our semi-customized home!), BUT some of the details ended up different from the models due to changes. Apparently we had signed off that these changes could happen, but one was so significant that we no longer wanted the house. In the end, we ditched the fireplace because they moved it to the center of the room where we didn’t want it. They also told us we could no longer have a glass block window we had ordered – they decided to stop offering that size – we got to keep it! 😀 Apparently someone on the architect side said we couldn’t put a door between the master bath and bedroom (there were arches, and the door would be square). We said, “so put a round door!” Eventually we talked them into it. I think we added significant value to our home – it is the only one in the community with a door between the master bath and bedroom. LOL. It’s square, but who freaking cares!

    Finally, the title company did not close in time, and we were moving 100 miles away. They tried to blame the delay on the loan people, which was utter B.S. We refused to leave. It might have been different if they had just been honest – but I had been in such close contact with the loan people the whole way, and they were miffed when we asked them about the delay. Bottom line, the builder had our $300,000 and we weren’t leaving. IT was kind of a sticky situation, as I am sure there was insurance concerns of us taking posession. I believe they missed the night before closing and so we took posession of the house in the a.m. and it closed in the p.m. I always felt sorry for the builder’s sales lady – I am sure she hated us and we made her job very hard. But we just refuse to be doormats!

  2. Blessed says:

    Funny story about my dad. He ran a structural steel company. He got right in there daily helping, teaching the his employees, doing what needed to be done. He rarely sat in the office. He came home every day absolutely filthy!

    He stopped at the mall after work because he wanted to buy mom a anniversary present. The first jewelry store refused to help him. He went to their competitor and proceeded to spend $6k on that 30th anniversary present. The staff there was super helpful and glad to help him.

    He stopped back in the first jewelry store store and walked up to the nearest employee( who was trying hard to ignore him) and demanded he call out the manager. He then proceeded to show the manager his purchase from their competitor and give him a lecture about not judging a person by their clothes. He explained people who jumped into their business and got dirty for a living were just as likely to be able to write a check for $6 as a person in a suit. He asked the manager if he could write a check for $6K since he was in a suit.The manager mumbled a reply and looked at the floor.

  3. phantom says:

    My husband and I bought a custom home, and dealing with the builder was definitely a challenge. We didn’t have any trouble getting them to do extra customizations. They would gladly give us a quote on any customization we could come up with. If we asked for something they didn’t really want to do, they would just give us a really high quote.

    What we did have trouble with was being told different things at different times. Our biggest problem was with getting rid of some trees. We decided on a large lot with several old, ugly locust trees in the backyard, some of which leaned towards where the house would be. We asked the saleslady if we could get the trees removed before the house went in and she assured us that it would be an easy matter when they had large machines in there to move the dirt around anyway. We should have gotten that in writing right then and there, but we didn’t. We didn’t mention the trees again until after we had agreed to build and had our pre-construction meeting. At that time, the construction manager assured us getting the trees out wouldn’t be a problem. Again, we should have gotten that in writing, but it was agreed to so easily we didn’t think to do so. Then, as worked started on the house, we started asking when the trees were coming out, and kept getting assurances that they’d be gone before the wall went up. When the walls went up, we gave up on the construction manager and went to his boss about the matter. At that point, he called us liars and said he never agreed to taking the trees out. When his boss took his word over ours, we had to drag the owner of the company into it. Eventually, we got them to agree (in writing) to pay to remove three trees that looked the most like they could fall and hit the house. Then, once we were in the house, we paid someone else to come remove the rest.

    But, we learned our lesson well. On the final walkthrough right before we closed, we found several things that needed to fixed, and we made sure to get it in writing that they would all be fixed within 7 days. Most of the issues were taken care of quickly. But, there was a wall that they just couldn’t seem to get straight. When they kept reworking it and failing to get it straight, there was really no way they could have it done in 7 days. But, having that piece of paper to wave around sure made them scramble to find people who eventually did get it right.

  4. Gailete says:

    I once went to one of those Builders store (this one dow out of business) to buy some custom kitchen cabinets. I went up to the clerk for the customs cabinets and said I had some questions. She kept her butt in the chair and waved over to another part of the store and said ‘the stock cubpoards are over there’. I repeated by question and yet again she did the same thing. At that point I was mad. I know I didn’t ‘look’ like someone how would be buying custom cabinets, but I was. That entire store chaine went belly up about 6 months later but in the meantime I told everyone I knew about the poor treatment and would never step in the store again. We eventually ended up with a really nice kitchen with custom cabinets :) but I’m sure that lady lost a big commission since she was too lazy to stand up and even talk to me.

    The older I get, the less I am willing to be a doormat.

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