After the sellers accept an offer on their house, the rest of the home-buying process is generally tedious. There are housing inspections, termite inspections, and thousands of reams of documents to sign. But at this point in the process, everyone wants the sale to go through. Everyone has incentive to play nice.
Or so you think.
We were selling our townhouse and buying a lovely little house with a giant yard (for LA) a few miles away. We had two sets of forms and inspections, as well as plans for both escrows to close on the same day. (For those unfamiliar with escrow, an escrow company holds all the monies such as down payments while the mortgage company funds your loan. When the loan is funded — usually the last day of escrow — escrow closes. Think of escrow as a safe holding cell for thousands of dollars. If the sale falls through, you get your money back.)
Here’s how we treated the buyers for our house:
- Made sure we were out for the home inspection.
- Made sure the termite inspector could get in.
- Made sure to keep watering our one rose-bush and square yard of flowers.
- When evidence of termites showed up, we agreed to pay for termite treatment out of escrow funds, but informed buyers that Home Owner’s Association would be treating entire complex within a few months.
- When buyers requested that the money for termite treatment be given to them directly so they could use it to defray termite treatment fees later, we agreed immediately and released funds from escrow.
- We were out of our old house 12 hours ahead of schedule.
- We left any ladders (we went from two-story to one-story house), equipment, paints, and cleaning supplies we wouldn’t need neatly labeled in the garage.
- I literally vacuumed my way out of the house, down to erasing my footprints in the carpeting.
This is how the sellers of the house we were buying treated us:
- Locked us out of the house for an hour when we were supposed to have the housing inspection. They finally left after their realtor arrived and insisted they had to go.
- Stopped watering the window boxes of flowers, the vegetable garden, fruit trees, and even the planters with dozens of roses. The roses and most trees survived, barely. The window boxes and vegetable gardens did not.
- We had asked if we could buy their patio set, as we did not have one ourselves. The sellers never responded. (We found out later that the sellers had given this furniture to the neighbors. FOR FREE.)
- When the home inspection turned up a potentially serious problem in the garage of double-lugging and over-fusing (think badly arranged electrical wiring leading to FIRE), the seller refused to fix it, even down to writing a nasty note saying, “If it was an actual problem, I would have fixed it myself!”
By this time, Andy and I were so ticked off that we were ready to walk. The seller’s realtor was equally frustrated. She finally paid her own electrician to come out and fix the double-lugging/ over-fusing issue in the garage.
Escrow finally closed. We gleefully collected our keys, went to our house, and stepped inside.
The place was a mess. Boxes, wires, even an old plywood desk had been left behind.
“Assholes!” Andy growled.
I patted him on the shoulder. “It’s okay, honey. It’s ours now.”
Andy scowled. “I’ve gotta run to the hardware store.”
Our plan was to paint two of the dark blue and green rooms lighter colors before we moved in our furniture. I figured he was getting more painting supplies, so I nodded and concentrated on cleaning while Andy roared away in his car. I should have prepped walls or sanded or taped up molding, but I wanted to get all the seller’s shit out of the house. Even out of the rooms we weren’t painting. Despite what I told Andy, I didn’t feel like the house was really ours yet. I guess cleaning was my form of exorcism.
By the time Andy got back, I had most of the big debris out of one room and had swept out two others. The house felt more like it was mine already. I called out, “Ready to paint?”
He yelled back, “In a minute!”
I went out the back, found a hose, and tried to revive the dehydrated flora. Results were not promising. After ten minutes, I went to the front door.
I found Andy kneeling on the porch with his toolbox. The door handle lay in pieces next to him.
“GAH! You broke the door already?!”
Andy rolled his eyes at me. “Oh, honey. I just finished installing new locks. See?” He flipped a key in a shiny brass lock. “Now the front and back doors use the same key. Also, I didn’t trust those bastards. They might have hung onto a key and tried to get back in.”
I doubted the sellers would ever be back, not after their scorched earth policy. (The poor tomatoes!) But I understood. We all have our own rituals.
Some folks burn sage.
Some of us clean.
And some men change locks.