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11th Hour Closings from Hell

Control Freaks Need Not Apply

As a licensed professional real estate agent, one of the first things you learn is that there are things outside of your realm of control. You can be the most hard-working, diligent, thorough, service-oriented agent on the planet, but there are still aspects to a real estate transaction that you have absolutely NO control over. These 11th Hour Closings from Hell serve to define our character, and our ability to respond to adversity. It is also during these seemingly “out-of-control” situations that help can come from the most unexpected places.

Case in point:

Just ‘Waitin’ on Loan Docs….yeah, right!

I recently represented a really nice family that had, unfortunately, amassed some sizable debt and were in danger of losing their home to foreclosure. We put their home on the market and priced it aggressively. Within a short period of time, we were under contract with some very qualified buyers who clearly loved the house. Everything went fairly smooth. There were a number of minor repairs that needed to be performed as a result of the inspection, but both parties agreed, and soon, we were onto “Pending” status. A week or so later, the appraisal came back at value (Whew!). All we’re waiting on now is loan docs. Or so we thought….

Trainwreck Ahead!

It’s Thursday. We’re supposed to close the following Monday. We HAVE to close on Monday. The foreclosure vultures are circling. I get a call from the Buyer’s Agent late Thursday afternoon. Evidently, there were some funding conditions that had been called out, but the good folks at the Underwriter neglected to share them with any of us. The hearth in front of the wood burning stove needs to be extended and framed, and the long stairway going up to the loft in the converted garage has to have some handrails.

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Where’s Bob Villa when you need him?

Now fortunately, I have some familiarity with a hammer and circular saw, but the staircase to the loft has a number of challenging bends and twists, putting it a little out of my league and comfort zone. I make a few calls and all the contractors I trust are busy. Even the ones I don’t trust are busy! My life is passing before my eyes. I see my Sellers going to bankruptcy court, their kids sleeping in a cardboard box on the streets! You get the picture….

An Unexpected Ally

Just then, the phone rings. It is the Buyer’s Agent again. He asks if I am available to meet him and his broker at the home on Saturday. I am getting nervous. “What do you have in mind?” I ask. “Just show up around 9AM, and bring your cordless drill,” He replies.

I show up at the house on Saturday morning, and there is the Buyer’s Agent and his broker setting up saw horses and unloading lumber. I inquire, “So, what’s up?” The Broker looks me in the eye and says, “We’re removing conditions!”

For the next several hours, the three of us worked to extend the hearth, and install a very sturdy ‘code approved’ set of handrails. Bob Villa would be so proud!

Throw a Tantrum, or Swing a Hammer

Too many times, when transactions go sideways or blow up, we simply cast blame. On occasion, we even lose our calm and temper, yelling and screaming for justice. Fortunately, situations like this remind us about the true value of cooperation, and of all that can be accomplished when we work together.

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On this day, we weren’t competitors.  On this day, we were like-minded professionals, working together, doing whatever was necessary in order to help both our clients achieve their goals.

We closed on Monday. Life is good!

Written By

Writer for national real estate opinion column, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.



  1. Susie Blackmon

    September 16, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Oh Rich, you are just amazing. Handsome, smart and you can swing a hammer. Be still my heart. Great outcome too.. a closing! Whatever it takes, as they say.

  2. Bridget Magnus

    September 16, 2008 at 9:15 am

    The fact of the matter is sometimes we have to work a little harder for our commissions. At least once my broker has told me “you shouldn’t have to do that!” But the way I see it, a little bit of extra effort can not only save the deal, it can make you memorable as “the Realtor who fixes problems.” Those clients will remember who made things happen, who showed up on a Saturday with power tools. Who do you think they are going to call when their friends need to buy or sell?

    Of course, you still have to do your follow-up notes!

  3. Bob

    September 16, 2008 at 10:41 am

    doing whatever was necessary in order to help both our clients achieve their goals

    Rich, little did we know that we are kindred spirits at the core.

    9 years ago I represented an investor on the sale of 13 of his properties. On one of the properties, the buyer was a retired woman. The terms of the contract included that the property be painted prior to close. The investor called his painting crew (they were cheaper than the guys I use) and we were good to go to close on Tuesday morning.

    On Friday before she went to sign loan docs, we met at the property for the walk through. The paint crew had failed to show and the buyer was furious. I made a few calls, then convinced the buyer’s agent that she needed to get her client to escrow and sign docs and that my paint crew would take care of it. Guaranteed.

    As soon as escrow confirmed docs were signed, I called every painter I had ever sent business to, but no one was available. I headed off to Home Depot, then stopped at home for a few things before heading back to the property Friday afternoon. I got home at 4 am Monday morning, grabbed a quick nap, then met the client at 10 am. The property closed on Tuesday.

  4. Missy Caulk

    September 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Whew……….you had be going. Rich, it makes all the difference in the world when you have great agents on the other side.

  5. Steve Simon

    September 16, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I love reading about how the problem was solved instead of who created it! I have been involved with seller’s agents two times in the last month. One nightmare and the other a pleasure.
    Neither deal closed due to the lender (short sales on both offers), but what a difference a cooperative person on the other side of problem can be! Why be anything else?
    Enjoyed the post.

  6. Mack

    September 16, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    “We’re Removing Conditions” What a great line and cooperative effort between like minded professionals. Congratulations!

  7. The Harriman Team

    September 24, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Now that’s what I call teamwork! Too many times we’ve seen transactions fall apart because one side was unwilling to “do whatever was necessary” to close the deal. The best example of teamwork I’ve seen from some of my colleagues is, “I told the seller I’d lower my commission by .5% to make this deal work, will you lower yours too?” That’s not teamwork, that’s highway robbery. It’s so refreshing to hear about two sides coming together, voluntarily, to remove obstacles to a successful deal. We’ve painted, mopped, swept, landscaped, mowed, washed, trimmed, trapped (don’t ask), and repaired things in order to get a deal through, most times w/o the help of the other side, and we would do it all again to see the smile on the client’s face because they knew they were closing on time. A gallon of paint, $20…new smoke detector, $10…a happy client (& their referrals!), priceless.

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