Sellers from Hell (#125)


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.

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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

40 thoughts on “Sellers from Hell (#125)”

  1. His tactic made sense. I had one nightmare closing too. We were moving from a different state 2 hrs away. My husband had been transferred and he was living in a temporary apartment (which was very lucky). The seller was a former realtor who was retiring to Florida. We were looking for an early settlement. She changed it three times always moving it farther out. When she finally moved she left a bunch of crap too. (Most people get a dumpster when they move cross country. She left it for us.) There was childish artwork hanging on the walls. The wallpaper in the dining room was mismatched (we knew that going in but without furniture it really stuck out). The place was filthy. The law says it has to be “swept” clean. I later found out that she was an alcoholic so we were grateful that she didn’t burn the house down prior to moving. Like you cleaning was cathartic (and I did it for a week!).

    1. Oh, yes, cleaning catharsis is real! Yours was a drunk? Ours was a smoker. Mostly outside, thank God.

      We found out the sellers were getting divorced, and the terms of the split were that she got the money from the house. So he had wanted to sell so he could quit paying the mortgage, but she was holding out for more money. She’d already left, and he wasn’t willing to do any work on the property — or even water the plants.

      Andy was right not he locks, though — one of the neighbors saw her cruising around the ‘hood a few months later. 🙂

      1. It didn’t used to be but now you are told to change locks when you buy a house. My neighbors moved without getting their key back from me (their emergency key). Rather than upset the new neighbors with the fact that neighbors had keys, I just tossed it. There always is a back story too.

          1. We did away with keys. We have a numerical entry in the back which we can code in different codes for different people and then delete them. Great for pet sitters and such. It will also be easier for the new owners to just switch the code when we sell.

      1. Our realtor did, and I guess she’s seen some hellish scenes, because she didn’t think it was that bad. By closing, everyone just wants it to be over — you’ve gotta be out of your place anyway, the movers are scheduled, etc. There’s not much recourse in that situation, unless you are buying a second home, I guess.

  2. Bad karma to screw people like that. I guess I’m lucky that our first house had never been lived in and we built our current house. I’ve not had to deal with that end of things. But when we sold our first house the closing fell through, the buyer couldn’t get a mortgage. Meanwhile we had to stop construction on our new house because we didn’t have the money from the old house. It was a mess. Even with all that we left our old house in pristine condition.

    1. Of course you did! Because for some people it’s just simple consideration, or pride, right? I’ve heard of people leaving detailed sprinkler instructions, notes on flowers and trees, or just nice notes.

      Did you eventually get a buyer? Were you able to get construction restarted?

  3. Haha yeah, I actually change the locks as well when buying an apartment 🙂
    I never really trust some of the people I bought from, just to be safe I do whatever it takes to make sure my own new property stays that way.

    Those people where really horrible. When I was younger and rented apartments I always made sure that everything is 100% clean when leaving but whenever I moved to another apartment it was hell on earth…really

    1. That’s 2 for 2 on guys and locks!

      I think for those of us that are conscientious and neat, it comes as a shock when we run into people who aren’t. I’m just never prepared.

    2. Oh, God… This reminds me of the last apartment I rent… (before my current place). So many issues there. I could write a novel on the whole thing!

  4. I would have changed the lock too! I have done it sometimes in the past with rented apartments, with the approval of the landlady, of course. Those student flats get hundreds of people, you never know if there is some weirdo who feels like suddenly coming back one day, haha.

  5. Yes! Getting new locks for the house. If not changing the door knob, at least change the padlocks, or get a padlock for the door. This was the case when I lived in Malaysia and Singapore, and each time we moved houses and apartments, my parents would bring along their own padlocks with them.

    The sellers sound like hard pressed folks. Sounded like they were very reluctant to part with their house, almost as if they were going to back peddle or do a flip flop on their word on selling it to you. I wouldn’t be surprised if they drove by their old house in the weeks after you and Andy moved in….reading your comment above, hahaha 😀

    1. Padlocks? The doors in Malaysia and Singapore are designed for padlocks? I had no idea. Very different. But it makes changing the locks much easier. What about Australia?

      Yeah, sellers turned stalkers. Crazy!

      1. Grill gates are installed over doors in practically all houses and apartments in Malaysia and Singapore, hence we used padlocks. Almost no one thinks about NOT getting a grill gate.

        In Australia, grill gates are not that common. But my parents were insistent on installing one in their house here 😀

  6. Haha this is exactly the kind of thing my Chinese fiance does. I told him about this post and he couldn’t understand why changing the locks wouldn’t be the first thing everyone would think to do.

  7. Smart guy, Andy! I have a feeling Richard would do the same, too, haha.

    Dang that’s horrible about the sellers. Talk about sloppy, uncivilized and RUDE! I hope they were miserable in their next home…!!

    Man, buying a house seems like such a hassle. I might need your advice someday on home ownership…!!

  8. Wow. WTF? I don’t get it. Why were they such assholes? I guess they really didn’t want to move? Or wanted more money? I had no idea people selling their houses could be so inconsiderate! Well….see you later motherpluckers!

    1. I don’t think they were being deliberate. I think they were just being entitled assholes. Like, they were doing us such a favor by selling us the house, and they weren’t prepared to inconvenience themselves at all.

  9. I thought I read this before, but when I opened it, I realized I didn’t. o-o
    So, you were talking about that exact house you wanted to buy (next to a school or something)? Waah! Those people sure are something!
    Well done to Andy! I also do the same thing with the locks! I guess the fact that I’ve studied law before played a tremendous role in my accentuated fear of burglars and all the other kinds of criminals/weirdos. *Shivers* Better safe than sorry, that’s my policy.

  10. I tried to get all the crap out of my apartment when I moved into the new place with now-wife…that is until the landlord reamed me out for putting furniture that was being thrown out outside where it could be picked up by the trashmen.

    After that, I looked at the big red sofa that I had no idea how to get down the stairs and I looked at the laws around renting where I was and left the damn sofa for the asshole landlord to deal with, as was my right.

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