"Trust me - I'm an ex-policeman" . . . If you ever hear this from a real estate agent, be on your guard. We recently purchased a property through an agent who said these very words. Luckily, every warning bell in my mind went off.
As it turned out, this purchase produced one of the worst experiences I have had in dealing with an agent. Disarmingly, things started out well. The pre-purchase process went fairly smoothly, although I was dealing with the agent's assistant when coordinating viewings and making the offer.
There was a delay in obtaining a response from the owner, but I was told this was due to the owners being 'busy' and hard to contact. The offer was accepted on first go, so there was no negotiation. The property had been on the market a while, and we had included some attractive terms which we knew would be appealing to the owners. All happy.
With our offer subject to successful building and pest inspections, we organized the inspection. The ex-police agent offered to attend which we thought was a sign of good service. Even before the pest inspector got to work, the building inspector discovered active termites. The diligent agent advised us that he had called the owners on the spot and had organized pest treatment straight away.
There was no panic on our side. The house was more than 80 years old, so we were expecting some issues. Our building inspector advised the termites weren't a terribly bad type and the area of infestation wasn't too badly affected. Plus, the agent had organized for the pests to be treated immediately . . .hadn't he?
In addition to the pests, the building inspector found some other structural issues – once again, not surprising – so the next activity was to organize building quotes for the repairs. When we discussed this with the kindly agent, he efficiently advised he could coordinate two building quotes and liaise with the tenant to facilitate access.
Oh yes, yes. Paperwork. "You wouldn't need that until you purchased, would you?" Ugh. I explained . . .no paperwork, no sale. "Oh . . . but the paperwork won't be released until the vendors pay the pest controller". Seriously . . this was all in the one conversation. I saw a nightmare looming.
Then the paperwork for the pest treatment came through. No surprise. Instead of a 'full' treatment, all the pest controller had done was a 'stage one' treatment to areas outside the house. Not the area INSIDE the house that was infested! Yes . . . ex-pol agent was there when the controller did the work, and specifically directed the controller to the area outside, despite being with the inspector when the initial infestation was identified.
Now that we were talking to the vendors, we discovered ex-pol agent was also withholding information from them. After the initial building and pest inspections, we had immediately turned over copies of the reports to ex-pol agent, asking that he pass the details on to the vendors. Three weeks later, the vendors politely asked for copies of the reports.
The issues were becoming dangerous, but also predictable. With this in mind our negotiations were directed through more reliable channels and we concluded the matter with a successful purchase. Still have the scars though.
Top five tips for dealing with a flim-flam agent (and good rules for life)
1. Confirm all conversations in writing – just a quick email will do. If you send texts, follow these up with an email.
2. Validate all information the flim-flammer / agent produces – use reliable sources, check quotes to ensure all items of service are included and speak directly to trades people to confirm details.
3. Use deadlines for when you expect a response and communicate these clearly – yes . .in writing.
4. Be ready to pivot and have contingency plans available – this could mean ensuring you have a couple of back up properties to move on to.
5. Include the vendors' and the buyers' solicitors in the communication exchange.