A Tale of Extended Woe

May 22, 2014
SHIRLEY MUELLER, MD

Keep in mind that service providers, like financial advisors or real estate brokers, have interests beyond your own, and emotions often affect transactions.

“…he is absolutely the single-most outrageous individual I've ever had the displeasure of experiencing in a real estate matter.”

This from my lawyer about our real estate broker. He is speaking about transactions relating to the sale of our old co-op. That statement by our lawyer was preceded by our broker saying, “We really have a terrible situation due to [your lawyer].

There is more, but I will spare you.

Yes, our lawyer and broker are having a pissing war. It isregarding the closing date of the Manhattan property that we owned from 1994 to 2014. This means, of course, that I am in the middle. When they malign each other, they don’t do it directly, but through emails to me and, on occasion, to me over the phone.

This, I hope, takes place only in NY, though I fear that could be too optimistic.

Though the two are unhappy with each other (each of them have valid points to some degree), it is I who suffers most, and my husband secondarily when he hears about it from me. Since we haven’t formally closed the real estate transaction (although, we and the buyers would like to), we are needlessly paying maintenance for a co-op we don’t use. We moved out about a month ago anticipating the new owners would be moving in soon. Also, we are losing interest on our monetary gain. Since this is fairly hefty, it is money we mourn.

This is what happened. Our buyers passed the board the Wednesday before Easter. That was good. But, what was bad is that our lawyer had a planned vacation around Easter. He probably, justifiably, did not want to give any part of it up. But, the clincher is he also did not ask his associate or his paralegal to take care of us. I don’t know why. The point is, we are out some money and our broker is angry because he wanted the closing quickly. Then, they started going at each other.

All of this doesn’t even take into account the cooperation our lawyer will need from our own Indianapolis accountant who will be, who knows where, when his paperwork is needed.

What can we take away from all these riled up passions that benefit nobody? Emotions affect real estate transactions just as they do investment interactions, sometimes for the better and at other times for the worst. In a nutshell, our lawyer overlooked our best interest to satisfy his own needs. Certainly, I don’t blame him, as he deserved a vacation. So, I was willing to absorb some monetary penalties to my husband and me as a result.

Our broker, however, was not so understanding. He wanted the property closed. He probably was feeling pressure from the new buyers, who wanted to move in. So, to offset his discomfort, he leaned on me to get my lawyer going. I couldn’t do it in a nice way, so I decided to let it go.

Basically, I like our lawyer; he has accomplished 3 NYC real estate transactions for us previously, always competently and in good humor. So, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. But, slack wasn’t forthcoming on our real estate broker’s side.

The moral of this story is that even good real estate lawyers have their own interests they will protect. And, as a secondary point, so do financial advisors even if they are the very best. In order to stay at their firm, they have to make money for it in a way that suits their employer, probably more than them. This can mean client’s interests can be compromised.

So, this is a cautionary tale about “Buyer Beware.” A real estate agent, like a financial advisor, is not your mother, who would give her life for you. He or she is a service provider with interests beyond your own.

Further Reading:

Do Investors Act in Their Own Best Interest?

Bad Boy Brokers

Financial Adviser Secrets Exposed