Monday, June 09, 2008

A Realtor's Story (part one)

The seller thinks she's being robbed. She hasn't actually come out and said it but I can tell. I can always tell. The Chicago real estate market has not responded well to her little corner of Uptown these last 365 days and the MLS listed 2 bedroom, 1 bath condominium she is trying to sell is now hovering close to the price she bought it for in 2004. She reminds me again that it's already priced below the last 'closed comparable' in the neighborhood. I gently remind her that I represent my buyers and that the 'market' ultimately determines what things sell for--not her or me.

She has also dropped the original list price $40,000 (in three spaced out increments) over the past several months. The Cook County tax records indicate that indeed, even at her present asking price, once commissions are paid, closing costs covered, present mortgages satisfied (there are two) and tax pro-rations escrowed---a flat-line, break-even, zero-margin net-sum-gain scenario is almost certainly in the woman's future. I advise my clients to make a move.

We come in low and hard. The seller tosses back a cookie the following day. Two days later we toss it back with two big bites taken out of it. The seller waits a day then reluctantly slips below the net-zero-sum line she's been stradding for the last 90 days and into the realm of capital losses and cookie crumbs as she goes directly to her absolute bottom number--a little below, actually.

My buyers, however, feel we can still get a better deal--after all, we are, in essence, the Chicago real estate market on this particular property in this particular point in time. In other words, we have the only bona fide offer on the table. Everybody involved is very nice but there's a pink elephant in the sunroom and at this stage of the process, no one cares to empathize with the other side or acknowledge the squatting beast in the corner. Money is involved--big, fat, pink, sunroom money. We all want the deal to happen but no one wants to say as much. Not just yet.

Final counter offers have been exchanged and presented. We stand $3,000 apart on a $250,000 property. We are now going entire days without talking, each side waiting for the elephant to make his move toward foyer, down the hallway, and out of the building forever. I imagine the pink pachyderm trouncing past the motorists on Montrose Avenue, across six lanes of traffic on Lake Shore Drive, and into the depths of Lake Michigan to swim away like Puff the Magic Elephant, freeing up all of our futures in this Northside real estate allegory.

It just so happens that the seller is also the realtor and is representing herself in the transaction. At this particular point in the pink elephant game, I am merely the messenger working on behalf of my buyers. It's not my job to spend my clients' money. My job is to guide this deal to the closing table with their best interest in mind. I ponder big Pinky in the sunroom...

A wise man once posed the question to me, "How do you eat an elephant, Geno?"

"Huh? I dunno." Big, dumb me.

"One bite at a time," said the wise man. "You eat an elephant one... bite... at...a...time." A wise man, indeed.

to be continued...

Geno Petro

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