Rick Shory

Offering a little something you might not otherwise have

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Five thousand dollars, just for the asking

Nice little house.  Not big by any standards, but three times the square footage my cottage in Colorado was.

Built in the 50s.  Present owner grew up there. Inherited it a few years ago.

House is basically clean and in good shape, but cluttered by six decades of memories. In the basement there are travel mementos, an ancient dishwasher, old toys.

Original asking price: $184,890

My offer 2011-12-05: $165,000. Outrageous! $20,000 less.  But I’ve got to stake out some bargaining room. The standard statement: “Seller to remove all personal possessions”.

Seller’s counteroffer the next day: $174,987.  Looks like he picked up a calculator and split the difference.

When the realtor told me that evening, I thought, I could go for this.  But I told him I wanted to sleep on it. See if I thought of anything else.

The next morning I woke up with a sentence of exact phraseology going through my head.

The ingredients were:

  • The seller grew up there, but it was his folks’ house, a past chapter in his life. His current address is a local post office box.
  • The house is costing him, every month he holds on to it:  Heating, security, aggravation.
  • The seller set the asking price based on “comparables”, similar houses that sold recently. Whatever his parents paid for it is now miniscule. Whatever he gets for it is like pure profit.
  • The house has obviously been picked over.  All the good stuff is gone, even the appliances. Those will cost some thousands of dollars to replace — though the shopping will be fun!
  • The house is far from a “fixer upper”, but there will lots to fix:  The weird old wallpaper, drapes, etc. How much of that goes with the seller? How much do we wrangle?
  • I’ll be there anyway, messing with it to make it my own. I’ll be bringing in appliances, painting some rooms, rearranging the space. Compared to that, clearing out the 50’s kitsch in the basement would be minor. But for the owner, maybe quite a blast from the past.
  • There are various things around that evidently “fit” the house, such as painting scaffolds, garden paraphernalia, workbenches. No monetary value, but the owner would have a major job to find storage for it all.  Then, I would have a major job to replace it.

In the morning I wrote the realtor an email.  My counter-offer: $170,000; five thousand dollars below the seller’s.  Fifteen thousand total below the original asking price, a mere two days previous. What nerve!

I knew the following sentence was a weird thing to say in such formal negotiations, but I stated this exact wording:

After seller takes all possessions he wants from the house, buyer will deal with cleaning up the rest.

A couple hours later, the realtor called me. “You have great intuition!” he said, “It’s accepted! The seller’s rep put a smiley face on her note. You’ve got a house!”

Five thousand dollars, just for asking the right way.  That buys all the new appliances!

I do feel shrewd. But if there’s anything to be proud of, it’s coming up with something so win-win.