It turns out I missed a very busy day at work on Monday, and the summer grind of dealing with unpleasant, unreasonable customers has already started. Most of the people we deal with range from nice to slightly sullen. Then there are those at either end of the spectrum. Of course we all love the great customers, but it takes just one ingrate to destroy everyone’s day.
Like Monday’s customer. I was in interstate hell, so I missed him, but he called to see when his order would be ready, and he was told 5 p.m. He said “fine” and hung up. Later he called back to see if they could be done sooner, and Ben said he would try for 4. Then the customer blew up and guessed he would have to find something to do for an hour while we were greatly inconveniencing him by trying to do his order sooner. But not soon enough. For people like this, nothing we can do is ever good enough, and the harder we try, the less appreciative they are. And these types abound in the summer.
And maybe not just in the world o’ t-shirts. We had one house showing on Friday and one on Monday. The people on Friday didn’t like the floor plan; the Monday viewers simply reported “Not a good fit.” So I wasn’t expecting to open my e-mail and find a house offer, but that’s what happened. Sort of.
I mean, we did get an offer, but it’s a 20-percent-off-the-asking-price offer. It came from a young couple Lynn and I know, and it came with a “justification letter” explaining their extremely low offer. I went into the letter with what turned out to be the wrong expectation: I thought they were going to tell us our house would be a good fit for them and their children and they just don’t have the resources to make a full-price offer, but they would love and take care of our house if we could see our way to meeting their price.
Maybe that was a stupid expectation. I don’t know. But I wasn’t really prepared for an attack letter detailing every imagined flaw and comparing us unfavorably to a modular available on another street for $40,000 more than their offer to us. Why not buy that if it offers so much more appeal?
Since then, I have been in an absolute tizzy over an appropriate response.
Audrie, our broker, agreed with us that the letter was the wrong approach, and she noted that comparing our house to a modular is wrong on several levels. She estimated an appraisal would put our house well above their offer. She said our house has been showing at a good pace and suggested countering at a figure we’re comfortable with — a figure that will likely be beyond this couple’s means.
That should be easy enough to do, along with having Audrie let their broker know that their letter backfired completely. But I’m very torn. We can’t countenance their initial offer, but I have to assume they’re coming in low in the hope of reaching a compromise they can still afford. I’ve spent way too much time in the last 24 hours trying to delve into the psychology of their offer, particularly their notion that a winning tactic is telling us our house is crap but they would be willing to do us the favor of taking it off our hands at a greatly reduced rate.
The first thing I told Audrie when we started this process was that we would love to sell our house to a family. Our neighbors have been rather vocal as they have begged — literally begged — us not to sell to someone who would rent to college students.
And we know this couple: we met her when she was a student at Western and taking the same ballroom dance class; he was a teller at my bank before he took a job with the school district. They’re a very nice young couple with beautiful little children, and I think they would do well in this house and neighborhood, which is very close to schools, a park and a trail system.
My sister Tia advised that I not take this too personally, but when someone insinuates that the clutter in your house is there to hide structural deficiencies, it’s hard not to be offended.
They don’t like the fence (Audrie apparently has it listed as chain link, and it’s not). They got a paint quote from the company that charges three times what other painters charge, and claimed hardship that they would have to pay this amount to repaint, and then conflated the condition of the siding (which is excellent) with the faded paint. They complained about the solar furnace and the lack of a garage door. (It’s been classified as a storage shed by the assessor’s office, which means a tax reduction.) They were sure they would have to have the carpets professionally cleaned because they would be filthy after we moved out.
They went through and listed everything they could think of as a flaw, no matter how imagined. (They claimed offense that Audrie listed two full baths when one doesn’t have a bathtub, just a shower.) It smacks of desperation, and I empathize with their situation: there just is nothing to buy that they likely can afford. But they went about it so clumsily that I can’t decide how much I want to try to accommodate them.
I’m not enjoying the house-selling process, and here is a chance to be done with it (assuming their loans come through and all that). But Audrie noted the contract demands an additional $10,000 if we aren’t out by closing. It’s an aggressive approach that’s doesn’t suggest any attempt to be either collegial or conciliatory.
And so, as I try to decide whether to see if there’s any way to help them with their dream of owning their first home, I can’t help but think of the Monday customer and all the others like him.
Sometimes, no matter how nice you are, and how much you try to accommodate some people, all they can find within themselves is another complaint. Maybe that’s the case here: we set out to try to help a young couple who have already shown a preference for an aggressive approach, and all we get for our effort is more complaints. It certainly wouldn’t be worth a sale on those terms.
Maybe we tell this couple better luck with their next attempt to lowball some other homeowner, and we look for a different young family who might be more appreciative of our house. I guess, after hours of mulling this over, this is where I have landed.