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Does decency rule?

Posted by Rona Fischman December 9, 2011 02:05 PM

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In the transaction I wrote about yesterday, the sellerís agent disclosed that the sellers were moving because of bad health. This is a risky thing to do. It could either bring out a level of decency and understanding or it could bring out a jerk who wants to take advantage of the situation.

The previous would-be buyer was the jerk. My client benefited from his jerkiness. They got a good price on the house and a great deal of goodwill. There were complicated requests after inspection that seller accepted. Every step was done thoroughly, although a little slower than if the sellers were healthy.

I learned this lesson when I was in my 20s. I learned that decency is the way to go in life. Aggressiveness, especially when the other side has a stated weakness, will backfire. Back then, it had nothing to do with real estate.

There used to be a fine jewelry store in the Garage near Harvard Square. I used to window shop there a couple of times a month. One week, there was a sign up that it was closed due to a health emergency.

A month or more later, it was open again. The owner, who knew me as a window shopper who didnít have money for the things in her store, greeted me. She told me that everything was going for near wholesale. She told me that she tried to sell the shop and that someone had been so insultingly low in his offer that she decided that she would sell the inventory herself. She said something like, ďI would rather take some loss and have gifts left over for my friends and family than have that jerk profit from my illness.Ē For someone who was sick, she said this with a great deal of power. And, I didnít forget it. I also bought some great stuff at near wholesale pricing.

The next time I was in the Garage, her store was gone. I hope she recovered from her cancer and is living happily in Cambridge someplace.

Do you agree that decency has monetary benefit? Have you gotten more with good pricing and goodwill in a situation where you know the seller is distressed?

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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