Few things are more crushing than having your home go on the market, getting an offer, reaching the closing table, and having the deal fall through at the last minute thanks to some late-breaking debacle. Whether it’s a financing issue, an inspection problem, or some other hiccup that pops up during the final walk-through, some home sales just aren’t meant to be, while others squeeze by at the last minute.
“It’s good to make sure you inform buyers and sellers that unexpected things can happen, often at the worst time,” explains Keith Thompson, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Charlotte, NC. “Depending on the nature of the individual transaction, I have my clients come up with contingency plans should the closing be delayed for any reason.” Here are five real-life scenarios where the sale almost didn’t happen — and how you can keep something similar from happening to you.
1. Locked out
“I had a three-bedroom apartment about to close on a Friday and the furniture was being moved out the day before,” explains Liza Nematnejad, a broker with Douglas Elliman in New York, NY. “The movers accidentally broke the key as they were removing a large piece of furniture from the apartment, and part of the key remained inside the door’s keyhole!”
Crisis averted: Know that just about anything can be fixed in a short window. “I was able to get a master locksmith in at 6 a.m. the next day to replace the entire lock, and we were able to close on time at 9 a.m. and deliver a set of new keys to the new owner,” says Nematnejad.
2. Lions and tigers and … rats?
“Working for a seller in the Pacific Northwest, you are always worried about rats,” says Matt Parker, a broker with Keller Williams, Matt Parker LLC, in Seattle, WA. Representing a seller, he was about to sell a home that had been an art studio to a first-time homebuyer. The home was immaculate and cute, and the potential buyer was ecstatic. “Until the inspection!” notes Parker. “The inspector found the normal things and then … rats. Rats everywhere in the crawl space. Dead rats, live rats, rat pathways, rat excrement all over the place. If you have ever smelled a rat infestation, with their nests, you know what the crawl space smelled like when we opened it up! This sale was during a very hot market, and so we could not find a contractor who would work on it.”
Crisis averted: “We begged a construction worker to suit up, remove everything in the crawl space, and completely reinsulate it,” says Parker. “The construction worker found the rat entry point, sealed it, and the girl closed on the home and lived happily ever after.”
3. Get professional representation
“Several years ago, my business partner had gone out of town and for the first time had left me running the show,” says Thompson. He says he received a call from his partner’s past client who was under contract to buy a new home and about to accept an offer on her current house. The catch? The former client had negotiated both of these deals on her own, without a real estate agent. “The day before closing for the home they were purchasing, there was a burst pipe that caused significant damage,” says Thompson. “She had called me looking for advice. Since we had not entered into a buyer’s agency agreement, I was prohibited from providing advice, and the seller of the home also did not have an experienced person to rely on.” He says there was resignation in the voice of the past client. “I told her if she asked us to represent them from the beginning, we would have been right in the middle of things helping them to resolve the situation.”
Crisis averted: “Realtors act as a buffer between the buyers and sellers,” explains Wendy Flynn, a real estate agent with Keller Williams College Station in College Station, TX. “Buyers and sellers can freely express themselves to their agents, and then the agents can communicate with each other, with a focus on the task at hand.”
4. Rotten to the core
“I represented buyers for a single-family home in the Portola district of San Francisco,” says Davis Pemstein, a broker with Climb Real Estate in San Francisco, CA. “When going through inspections, we drilled through the stucco to find the framing of the entire house rotted and in disarray. This was to the tune of $75,000, per the inspection company.”
Crisis averted: “We eventually negotiated a $50,000 price drop to keep the deal together and make the buyers feel comfortable moving forward,” says Pemstein.
5. Mortgage drama
“When we were selling our townhouse, the woman buying it decided to change mortgage companies two weeks before closing,” says Thomas Ferro of Washington Crossing, PA. “Because of this, she could not get her loan in time for settlement. On our side, we were buying a short sale and did not have any more time to push back our settlement on our purchase.”
Crisis averted: “The buyer of my house had to borrow the money, in cash, from multiple friends, to be able to close and buy my house,” says Ferro. “I ended up buying and selling my houses on the same day.”