Part 1: Lose the Shackles
Kim and Brian have traveled the world. We’ll admit it—we’re jealous.
They work in cancer research and software engineering, respectively, but back when they first started traveling, Kim and Brian were fresh UW grads on a ten-week backpacking trip. They fell further in love with each other during that trip, and they also fell in love with traveling. Their next trip was their honeymoon. A year later, a third trip sent them to Europe to tour with Brian’s band.
A few years and a few trips have passed since then. Trips like a six-week train journey to China and Tibet, three weeks exploring India, and a daunting expedition called the Mongol Rally. For the Mongol Rally, Kim and Brian joined a six-person team. They bought a used car in London and drove all the way to Mongolia, crossing deserts and ancient roads and dealing with all the problems that inevitably cropped up: a punctured oil pan, a stolen passport, etc. One of their favorite lines when planning a trip is, “What can we do without getting on a plane?” And Brian’s website says, “We haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on our list.”
We Real Estate Gals have known Kim and Brian for quite a while. We helped them find their first house and even loaned them $10,000. But after ten years in that first house, the couple realized that homeownership and full-time travel are pretty much mutually exclusive. It’s hard to spend a year in South America and simultaneously manage a property back in Seattle. In their own words, “It’s time to be unshackled.” They decided to transition back into renting, so they asked us to help. It would mean less money for us, because we’d only get paid for selling their house, and not for buying a new one, too, but we jumped at the chance to work with them again. Kim and Brian are good people, and we put a high value on loyalty to our past clients.
None of us knew what we were getting into.
Selling Kim and Brian’s house took two long, obstacle-filled years. The entire housing market seemed to conspire against us, and for a while, the whole RE/MAX office was convinced that Kim and Brian had been cursed. But we stick with our clients—bring on any real estate curse!—and thankfully, Kim and Brian’s traveling had taught them how to face impossible problems and overcome them. In the end, everything worked out fine, but we all had a hell of a time getting there. Here’s how it happened:
Part 2: The Buyers with a Secret
We put Kim and Brian’s home on the market in the fall of 2012. It was an adorable little house in Broadview. The couple didn’t have an immediate need to sell, but they wanted to test the waters. We received a lot of interest but no solid bites, so we took the house off the market and waited until things picked up again in the spring.
Jump forward to the spring of 2013. We placed the house back on the market and received a full-price offer immediately. The offer came from a family, and here’s what we knew about them:
- First-time home buyers
- Absolutely in love with Kim and Brian’s house
- Pre-approved for a loan with six figures down
- Working with a brand new agent
That family wanted to buy a home in pristine condition, so they asked Kim and Brian to fix and update a few things. It would cost a few thousand dollars, but for a full-price offer from a personable family? Well, we agreed to make the improvements. We accepted the buyer’s offer and moved forward with the deal. Kim and Brian spent thousands upgrading their home, made an offer on a Queen Anne condo, packed everything they owned into cardboard boxes, and prepared to move out of their house and transfer it the new owners. But a week before the deal closed for good, a bomb dropped.
Here’s what we didn’t know about the family:
- Not actually pre-approved for the loan
The husband in that family was fresh out of grad school and had just jumped into a commission-based job. He would make good money, if he performed well, but banks don’t like untested “ifs.” So when the family went to get the loan and the bank discovered that the husband’s great job was a commission-based great job, that pre-approved loan vanished.
The buyers told their agent the bad news, and their agent told—no one. For two weeks the agent kept it a secret. Johnine only found out because she called that agent first to check on their appraisal.
The bad news devastated us.
That deal had been as close to closing as you can get. But suddenly, all those cardboard boxes sitting in Kim and Brian’s house weren’t going anywhere. And the $3,000 they had spent upgrading their place no longer mattered.
In more than twenty years of real estate work, we had never seen anything like this. No other agent would be so unethical as to hide information like that for two weeks—especially not so late in the deal.
“We cried for a little while,” Kim confessed.
And on our end? According to Kim, “Johnine was like Mama Bear. She was so pissed on our behalf.”
Johnine called the RE/MAX attorneys and discovered that Kim and Brian had a case. They could sue and win, but the cost of a lawsuit—both financially and emotionally—was too great to justify it.
The only option was to jump back on the saddle. It’s a good thing Kim and Brian are made from stern stuff. They had overcome hopeless situations while traveling, and they could overcome this one, too. We had 72 hours to unpack all those cardboard boxes and re-stage the house. It was a whirlwind, and everyone’s emotions ran high, but three days later, we put the house back on the market got another offer.
And this time, the offer was in cash. A woman had just sold her rental property, and she needed to reinvest in real estate to avoid paying extra taxes. The woman inspected the home, decided she liked it, and made her offer. Kim and Brian accepted it, and we celebrated.
But. This is a story dominated by that word. The “but” that ruins great things. Because for the second time, Kim and Brian were about to watch their dreams collapse around them.