Home Buyer Takes Consumerist Hive Mind Advice, Emerges Victorious

Remember Frank? He asked Consumerist readers for advice about his short-sale purchase of a house gone terribly, terribly wrong. He’s back, with an update! As you may recall, the hive mind advised him to walk away from the deal. Better yet, run away. Or drive away in a supercharged muscle car. Frank writes that he took this advice to heart, and emerged victorious. But not in the way you might expect.

Thanks to the Consumerist community, I was motivated to walk away from the house after more than 8 months of waiting. So I contacted my realtor and immediately began looking at other homes and condos. In the mean time, however, I let the Realtors keep trying to settle the original house, but I gave them a deadline of July 23rd (which was when one of the contracts would have been up for renewal anyway), or I was walking away.

I got the seller to grant me and my realtor permission to access the sale information from Bank of America, and we were on the phone with their executive customer service on a daily basis, making sure there was progress and that they had all the documentation they needed. I also put my foot down with the seller’s Realtors about the vandalism and deterioration, and demanded that they return the house to the condition it was when I signed in November. They protested for a while, but eventually agreed. They patched up all the leaks in the pipes and repaired the water damage. I supervised the work myself, but they paid for it all.

And, amazingly, on July 20 we got final approval from Bank of America for the sale. I closed yesterday, and now I am the owner of a new house that has some brand new realtor-paid repairs. So thanks, Consumerist, for reminding me that the buyer has a lot more power in these situations that I realized!

And just to clarify, since it came up in some of the comments: yes, I was getting a really, really good deal on the house — much better of a deal than I could have gotten on the regular market. Basically, I bought the house for about $90,000 less than it should have cost, which is the only way I would have been able to afford it.

But lesson learned: when something seems too good to be true, it probably is. My short sale dream turned into an unexpected nightmare because I believed the Realtors when they told me everything was going OK. But they never gave me any proof, and when things fell apart, I wasn’t in control and I couldn’t get things moving again. Once I took charge, though, things were resolved pretty quickly. Next time, I’ll be in control from the beginning.

Learn from Frank’s experience: remember how much power you have. And don’t necessarily believe everything a realtor says without proof.

PREVIOUSLY: Realtor’s Incompetence Means I Can’t Move Into My Vandalized, Deteriorating Short-Sale House


Edit Your Comment

  1. MeCatLikesMeHamSanwich says:

    Good Job. I like hearing success stories like this.

  2. Pax says:

    Way to go, Frank!

    Enjoy the new (and newly-repaired) home … you deserve it!

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Consumerist Hive Mind and Frank – 1
    Crappy people – 0

    This is a good way to start Friday.

  4. Bativac says:

    I would amend “don’t necessarily believe everything a realtor says without proof” to say “never believe anything a realtor tells you without proof.” My own aunt sold us the house we’re in, and we still discovered a few “issues” we weren’t made aware of when we bought the place.

    In fact, don’t trust the seller’s realtor, your realtor, the seller, the home inspector, or anybody else unless you see it with your own two eyes.

    • Sumtron5000 says:

      This. I had a realtor ask me for 1.5 months rent nonrefundable security deposit plus first months rent 45 days before the move in date. Before she could give me a copy of the lease. And before she would let me see the inside of the unit we wanted. Needless to say we declined to give her anything without any sort of written agreement. I ended up renting the apartment directly through the landlord, who gave us a signed lease as we gave her only the deposit, while inside the unit we wanted. I have no clue why this landlord even still uses said realtor.

  5. Daverson says:

    Congratulations, Frank. Glad everything worked out.

  6. Wrathernaut says:

    So how’s about putting some of that $90,000 towards a donation to consumerist?

    • Garbanzo says:

      “I bought the house for about $90,000 less than it should have cost, which is the only way I would have been able to afford it.”

      There is no $90,000.

  7. KyleOrton says:


  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Awesome, I love those stories of consumer empowerment.

    I just hope he can afford the property taxes on the house he wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford : – )

    • finbar says:

      Interesting question. I don’t know much about how property tax is assessed either. Would the local government use the sale price of the home or some value based on averages for the neighborhood?

      • KyleOrton says:

        You’d like to think so, but most cities claim that this isn’t a market sale because of the distressed sale. It will be assessed based on higher priced comps in the area. They don’t even want to realistically do that though.

    • Acidsniper says:

      Depends on the area. Here our property taxes were based on comps of the area, however after moving in I simply went down to the tax appraiser and asked for a reevaluation based on the appraisal and purchase price of the home.

      End result, tax assessed value dropped $40k (from 140k to 100k) resulting in a savings of almost $1k a year.

  9. Matt Park says:

    I was in the exact same boat, and took the same approach as you after 6 months. (Look for other houses and let them keep trying to settle.) Well Suntrust finally came back $120,000 higher than I had agreed with the seller. Since it wasn’t worth that at all, I came up 5k as a parting shot but Suntrust countered back with the same price. When I declined, they instantly relisted the house 50k lower, which is where it sat on the market for 8 months last time, and I can’t say that the market in the Northern VA area is that much better (if at all). It’s irritating.

    • PSUSkier says:

      Yep. In September I signed on a short sale and they came back $10,000 over their asking price. I resubmitted my original offer and made sure the realtor knew in no uncertain terms that it was going to be that or nothing. So of course it was nothing. They dropped the price shortly thereafter and last I checked it was still on the market for less than I offered in full foreclosure.

    • Buckus says:

      Same crap happened here to me. I signed a short-sale offer for 89K, bank came back at 110K. Eventually wen up to 95K and bank came down to $107.5K. Told them they can take the house and shove it.

    • dangerp says:

      These stories are irritating. I put in an offer on a house, and since I decided I could live without it, I offered 10k less than asking plus 3% in closing costs. I was fully expecting a counter offer, and many of the annoyances listed below, but 1.5 months later the bank responded with an acceptance! Don’t know how we swung that one.

  10. chiieddy says:

    I’m glad it worked out, Frank.
    I think the moral of the story is: Never be afraid to walk away.

  11. MuffinSangria says:

    Yeah Frank!! When’s the house warming party?

  12. Madman says:

    Doesn’t sound like he walked away at all – “we were on the phone with their executive customer service on a daily basis”.

    • dadelus says:

      No, but he notified them of his intention to walk away from the deal and began looking at other properties. Which apparently lit a fire under their collective @$$3$

  13. aaron8301 says:

    Cue “Team America” theme song. Because I just thought it would be a good victory song.

  14. dangerp says:

    Maybe I should have followed this advice when buying my house recently. There were some vandalism issues (stolen electrical?) and some fha issues (old, unvented stove, among others). The owner had walked away from the house (but not yet foreclosed), the seller’s realtor was unreliable and slow to communicate, and the bank had granted us the short sale, but only with a 45 day window for escrow. Given that I couldn’t expect timely support from the buyer, realtor, or bank, I just did the repairs myself (I’m quite handy). I did the electrical under the radar, but everything else was agreed to in paper.

    Could I have talked them into paying for repairs? Maybe, but to me it was a remote possibility, and it would have added to the risk of taking too long and the bank foreclosing on the house. Besides that, I got an incredible deal on the house. I now pay $160 less on my mortgage (including taxes, insurance, and PMI) than I did on my rent in the duplex I lived in previous, which was affordable anyway.

    I still stand by my decision to do the work myself, but it still makes me wonder when I hear stories like this…

  15. psm321 says:

    Yay, followups! Would love to see them more often

  16. Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

    The moral here about bargaining is that you MUST be prepared to walk away if it comes to that, but if the other negotiating party knows you will just walk away, they will more often than not make things happen, because they can’t afford to let you walk away.

    You have to be prepared to walk away, though, because you never know when they will stand their ground and call your bluff.

  17. JF says:

    *stands up* clap….clap…clap…whistle….

    Way to go!

  18. common_sense84 says:

    Keep in mind that the realitor may have been much more willing to deal after wasting so much time on this sale. Job pressures may have come into play. What kind of boss would want to keep someone around that fucks up a sale for 9 months and then loses it.

    • puka pai says:

      “What kind of boss would want to keep someone around that fucks up a sale for 9 months and then loses it.”

      Bank of America. Chase. Wells Fargo.

      But, yeah, probably not too many realtors would stay employed after that.