The title should have been “Now closing on track 9,” but I have trouble coming up with snappy titles.
I once was out in the boondocks in Utah taking photos of abandoned farm buildings when I got a phone call from Barbara Jean. She wanted to buy a rent house in McKinney, Texas, and I needed to go back to my apartment in Salt Lake City and sign and return the sales contract papers. It turned out we did not buy the rent house, but that’s not the craziest real estate deal we ever did. This latest was it.
We had the house in Dallas since 1996, and we rented it out after we moved to San Antonio. We hired a management company to handle the rental and maintenance of the property. The renters lived there the for a year, and then they wanted to sign a two-year lease to lock in the absurdly low rent we were charging. We said no way, we didn’t want to lock in for two years, so the renters renewed for another year. That was a joke.
At the end of May this year they told us they were purchasing a house in South Lake and would be moving out at the end of June. We noticed this was about two months short of their contract term, and we perhaps innocently figured they were going to take until the end of August to get moved. Not so. They moved out on June 26th and had the water shut off so they wouldn’t be billed for it anymore. Only they didn’t tell us they had ordered the water shut off in the middle of the summer. Besides, they wanted us to return their deposit. Absolutely not.
We told the agent who was managing the property to put it up for sale, and we planned to head up to Dallas in July to see if anything needed fixing up. Turns out something did.
Twenty-two months in the house for these renters was like twenty years for the two of us. They had apparently wanted a surround sound system in the living room, so they strung speaker wire all along the baseboards, in front of the side door and along the back wall, and they tacked it to the molding with staples. One of the solar screen panels in an upstairs window was bent outward, something on the new cook top had been spilled and apparently cleaned with a scouring pad, severely scratching the enamel. Paint on the interior corners was severely chipped off and an Indian muggu design had been painted on the front porch. Apparent lack of watering had caused foundation movement, and the wall board in the high-ceiling front room had parted at the seams. Barbara Jean started to cry.
The muggu on our front porch
Then Barbara Jean checked her cell phone and found a voice mail from the agent. Somebody had written a contract to purchase the house. “As is.” “As is?” “We don’t have to fix anything up?” Barbara Jean stopped crying. The agent, Fred, came by the house to talk to us.
A woman in Richardson wanted to buy the house to live in. She was downsizing, and this was what what she needed. Almost no yard, quiet neighborhood (nobody mentioned being under the approach path to Addison Airport), neighborhood pool and clubhouse. Her contract for purchasing our house was contingent on the sale of her house. She had a sales contract on her house and expected to close in less than a month, and she could move immediately. I never got out my tools. We came back to San Antonio the next day.
Things started working. There was the inspection report. The inspection report from hell. It was as though we had seen the same report before. The outside faucet leaks. No it does not. When we first attempted to sell the house two years before the inspection report said the faucet leaked, and we had it replaced. Leaves in the rain gutters. No way. We had told Fred to have his crew clean the gutters and send us a bill. Fred may not have done this, and he for sure never sent us a bill. The gas fireplace did not work (inspector did not know how to light it). The outside compressor units of the A/C were too close to the neighbor’s fence and needed to be moved to the other side of the house where there was more clearance. Besides, the upstairs unit did not work and would need to be replaced entirely. There was soil settlement in front of the house and piers needed to be installed to fix the foundation. Also a root barrier between the front of the house and the trees. Barbara Jean started to cry again.
But wait. Barbara Jean agreed this looked like an inspection we had seen before. In fact it was an inspection report like the one we had seen before. In fact it was done by the same inspector as the one that had inspected the house two years before, only now working for a different company. Barbara Jean dryly pointed out to the Realtors involved that the same inspector that never mentioned having to move the A/C units two years ago had now decided they needed to be moved. It would appear this inspector was fairly arbitrary about what he found wrong with houses he inspected. The woman buying our house no longer insisted on having all these fixes made. However, her lender would require, and any lender would require, that the foundation repairs be made. No root barrier was needed.
Now, out of the phone booth, decked out in her Wonder Woman costume, stepped Barbara Jean, into the fray. She wasn’t crying anymore. She first had a very direct phone conversation with Fred and informed him of his and his agencies many deficiencies in the handling of the property and the sale. She then took Fred almost completely out of the loop and organized an engineer’s inspection of the foundation and obtained a report outlining what needed to be done. Steel piers were the way to go, and no root barrier was needed. She wrote checks and forwarded them to Fred to make the payments and stomped on people who were late getting progress reports back to her. Things got done. The problems got fixed. People got paid. Receipts and reports were obtained and forwarded to Chicago Title. In the required time we had all our ducks in a row, and we were ready for the closing on Friday, 16 August.
Chicago Title was going to handle the Dallas end of the transaction, and we were advised to contact a local office of the company to handle our sign-off. Barbara Jean contacted three offices, two in San Antonio and one in Austin, just in case none of the San Antonio offices could schedule us in. Almost none could. The only San Antonio office that could handle us on 16 August was down on Military Drive in the south of town. We live in the north of town. That office desired $100 to do business with us. That was better than the $150 requested by the Austin office.
There was only one small hitch. Recall the woman buying our house was selling her own house, and the purchase of our house was contingent on the sale of her house. Enter the buyer of her house. After Barbara Jean had gotten all reports and receipts in to the Dallas office of Chicago Title just days before the scheduled closing, the person buying the woman’s house decided he needed to remove one name from the loan he had negotiated with the V.A. The V.A. loan people now needed to go back and redo all the loan paperwork. The woman’s buyer would not be able to close on his purchase on or before 16 August. Our buyer could not purchase our house on or before 16 August. WTF!
Chicago Title had a suggestion. Come by on Military Drive on the afternoon of 16 August, pay the $100, and sign the paperwork. We did that, and on a Friday afternoon we drove down the freeway to Chicago Title to sign away the house that we bought in 1996. But first there were some problems that needed to be cleared up. Barbara Jean has some real estate training and also the experience of buying and selling multiple houses since 1980, and she knew a screw-up when she spotted one. No release of loan fee was required, but Chicago Title wanted to charge us $20 one. Fred was supposed to get only 2% fee, but Chicago Title was prepared to award him 3%. We sat in the outer office while Dallas Chicago Title fixed the screw-up and transmitted the corrected documents. We signed and then we went home to wait.
The next week came. The woman’s buyer could not close until at least Friday (that would be 23 August). The woman’s buyer did not close on Friday. The woman’s buyer would likely close on Monday. Have a nice weekend.
It was a weekend from Hell.
By Monday morning we were still married, but just barely. That was yesterday. My job was to stand by the phone and to watch for e-mail. Barbara Jean tried to get some sleep. I wrote a belated Bad Movie review. I tried to take a nap. I watched news on CNN. Finally I decided I needed to clean up and shave. While shaving I heard my Samsung Tab 2 go “ding.” That’s the sound it makes when an e-mail arrives. I finished shaving and went downstairs to check the e-mail. It was from Janet at Chicago Title. Closing in Dallas was going to happen at 2 p.m. Only… Only we needed to sign again some papers.
I gritted my teeth and woke Barbara Jean up. I regretted it immediately. How come I didn’t wait until the papers actually arrived before waking her up. I apologized and mentioned the required papers were expected to arrive by e-mail shortly. I was reminded to wake Barbara Jean up when the papers actually arrived. Barbara Jean went back to sleep. The papers arrived. I woke Barbara Jean up.
All the screw-ups of all the real estate agents and inspectors and title companies were vested upon me, because I was the only target available. I fled downstairs while Barbara Jean got on her computer to print the paperwork. I was called back. One of the forms had been scanned incorrectly, and the left few columns of print were cut off. In an amazing display of diplomacy and directness Barbara Jean phoned Janet and pointed out the problem and requested could the document please be rescanned and retransmitted? Yes? OK. The deed was done, and Barbara Jean printed out the documents and went over them carefully to make sure there were no more screw-ups. Then we took the warranty deed down to the local Post It mail center and had our signatures notarized, again. Then we came back home and made copies of all relevant documents. Barbara Jean scanned the critical documents to PDFs and transmitted them to Chicago Title Dallas, and we took the real documents back to Post It. Chicago Title Dallas had also transmitted to us a FedEx label in PDF, and Post It stuck that onto a FedEx envelope and sent all our paperwork off to Chicago Title Dallas.
Barbara Jean completes the real estate transaction from Hell
Then we walked across the shopping center parking lot to the Bank of America branch facing onto Loop 1604 and withdrew some cash to live on, and we walked back across the parking lot to Yogurt Zone and treated ourselves to large, fat-free, chocolate frozen yogurts with almond chips all over the top.
Back home a phone call from Chicago Title informed me we would get our money on Tuesday. That would be today, but Monday night Barbara Jean and I put on some civilized clothing and drove down to Ruby Tuesday on Interstate 10 and had their salad with grilled salmon. And we celebrated the completion of the real estate transaction from Hell. And may Jesus have mercy on all your souls.