The High Road: Say ‘hello’ to the seller from hell

(Flickr photo by Komodoro)

While most sellers can be delightful clients, it is not unheard of for some of them to be cantankerous, querulous or downright nasty.

A broker friend recently told me about a seller of hers who beats them all.

After she managed to get an unthinkably high price, between $1 million and $2 million, for the couple’s Manhattan co-op, they contracted to close in July.  The buyers wanted to settle the transaction in time for their two kids to adjust for school in the fall and so sold their own place in relation to the closing.

It is not irrelevant that “Manny” told my friend “Lily” not to deal with his wife, who happens to be the sole owner of the apartment, not even to call her.  Yet it was the wife with whom Lily had a warm relationship.  Imagine that circumstance.

A paragon of arrogance, Manny asked Lily to help them find a new place.  Unfortunately, he set geographic and apartment requirements that bore no relation to reality, so Lily came up dry.  And he had the nerve inveigh against her.

Then, although Manny asked her to find a rental unit, also with nearly impossible parameters, she managed to find some and spent days checking them out.  Only then did Manny tell Lily that he didn’t have enough cash to satisfy a landlord.

All of that was disheartening enough to Lily, but only after an appraiser asked her for entry to the unit so he could inspect the property on a lender’s behalf did Manny drop his bombshell: He didn’t want to close until the fall so as to preserve his wife’s summer at the beach. 

Forget the appraiser and his contractual obligation, said he.

Unfortunately for the buyers, it is next to impossible to force an owner to comply with the contractual obligation to sell the real estate in question.  Even if that were not the case, how would a lawsuit unwind in time for them to move before September?

The morally corrupt and legally compromised Manny finally said he would return the buyers’ deposit before he switched gears yet again and agreed to the transaction.

Had he not ultimately closed, the seller from hell undoubtedly was unaware that not all of his liability had vanished: Had he failed to close, he would have owed Lily and her brokerage a sizeable commission in the many tens of thousands of dollars anyway.

Moreover, he never would have received such a price for the unit again, not in our dynamic market.


Tomorrow: Brokers who pound themselves on the back

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
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