A BAD CASE OF REEFER MADNESS

There’s the long and the short of it…..but in real estate, sometimes it’s more germane to talk about the big and the small of it.

Many of the things that cause frustration, consternation, perturbation  in real estate often arise from people not being able to distinguish between what’s big and what’s small. Specially when they are in the heat of the moment. What’s worth the time, effort, money and brain-space? And what’s not?

What’s that animal part of your nature saying when it insists that you should: get even, teach the world a lesson, draw an imaginary line in the sand, preserve some  semblance of pride by not succumbing to anything that is galling no matter how much of your own nose you have to cut off in order to save face?

And what’s that cool, more detached, smart part of your brain saying that is able to: let it all go, not sink to anyone’s level, recognize the value of living yet another day without lugging a ton of extra baggage around. And… isn’t so arrogant to think that it can force someone to learn a life lesson that they are not ready to accept.

Cardinal rule in all negotiations? Make sure you win on the big stuff. If you have to lose – lose on the small stuff. If you gotta give the buyer a home warranty for 350 buckaroos and throw in a couple of 1.6 gallon toilets to meet the County’s water-conservation requirements to help leverage another $10,000 on the purchase price – go with the flow.  Ten thousand bucks will buy a lot of Totos and TP. It will flush away all kinds of bad feelings that might either wash over you for a few moments or completely inundate you if you let them.

For quite a while there,  we  didn’t have a lot of normal negotiation in a marketplace dominated by multiple offers, overbids, fewer days on market and a general sense of entitlement on the part of the Sellers.  Many negotiations, circa 1999 through 2005,  pretty much went like this: Sellers said: “Jump!”  Buyers asked:  “How High?” Negotiation concluded. Bite your tongue. Sign here. Press hard.

It’s not that there wasn’t any negotiating going on in those years.  It’s that the bulk of the negotiations were between Buyers worrying about what other Buyers were willing to do, capable of doing or just crazy enough to conjure up. Buyers versus Buyers rather than the usual one Buyer v. one Seller going at it in a tete-a-tete, mano y mano steel cage wrestling chess match.

When the  national economy goes down, invariably, the collective incidence of serious crimes – murder, assault, armed robbery – goes up. Coincidence? I think not.

Whenever the real estate market slips into a transition period and stops running at an exorbitantly accelerated pace, it messes with the collective heads of people out there in real estate land.  It tweaks their ability to maintain perspective between big and small. It acts like some kind of mind-altering drug  that’s been surreptitiously slipped into the tap water. Suddenly instances of people behaving badly about little things increase with alarming frequency. Coincidence? Definitely not!

Almost 20 years ago, I was involved in a sale between two principals who got their knickers in a twist about an old refrigerator – a lovely harvest gold model.  Much to both Agents’ exasperation the refrigerator became the raison d’etre for the whole transaction. It kept popping up in the negotiations at every turn. It resurfaced during inspection contingencies. The buyer was determined to get it.  And the Seller wasn’t going to part with it, even though it was something he had absolutely no use for, end of story.

Well not quite the end of the story…..The Seller prevailed.  Sorta. The fridge was personal property. And in the end, his after all that squabbling. Arrangements were made for the Salvation Army to pick it up.  While moving the appliance, a bumbling volunteer managed to scratch the hardwood floors throughout the house. The Seller had to spend thousands refinishing the floors at the same time the Salvation Army decided the refrigerator wasn’t worth it and left it sitting at the curb for someone else to haul away!

Worst case of reefer madness I ever saw. But that’s what happens when you stop distinguishing between big and the small and can’t see the floors for the freeze.

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