| Family Diary |

Close to Home: Chapter 3 

The doctor had just gotten married, and his wife detested his house; they wanted to sell it along with most of the furniture in it


Nechama Norman with Batsheva Berman


he Levins bought the first house I’d listed, but my first sale was the fisherman’s house.

My kids love fishing, and we had a neighbor who loves fishing, and they used to schmooze with him. One fine day, he posted a “For Sale” sign in his yard. Immediately, the opportunity bells started ringing in my head. I headed over and asked if I could be his seller’s agent.

A seller’s agent means that anyone who wants to buy the house has to go through you. It’s the best option for a realtor because someone will buy the house (and in Lakewood that will probably happen before you blink), so you’re guaranteed a commission. But Fisherman didn’t want an agent. However, he was willing to pay me a commission for finding him a buyer.

I’d been working for the Voice of Lakewood, coordinating their food section. I’d assign articles, get the recipes, run contests. While most of my work was remote, I’d pop into the office once a month or so. I let the staff there know I was moving to Toms River, then told them I was getting a real estate license.

The very week I received my license, I got a call.

“Hi, my name is Rivky Klein, I got your name from Shira from the Voice — her husband is my husband’s chavrusa. We’re looking to buy in your area and our realtor just keeps showing us the same few houses we don’t like. Do you have anything for us?”

They knew I was a newbie but they trusted me. I took them on as clients, and showed them the two houses I had in mind — the fisherman’s house and a doctor’s house.

The doctor had just gotten married, and his wife detested his house; they wanted to sell it along with most of the furniture in it. The Kleins fell in love with the house. Rivky Klein confessed that her husband is super organized and she’s a creative mess.

When we walked into the master bedroom and saw it had two separate walk-in closets, Mr. Klein declared, “I don’t need to see another thing! I want this house!”

But there were aspects of the fisherman’s house that they also really appreciated.

One day, Rivky Klein called. “My mother’s 60th birthday is this week,” she told me. “We’re making her a surprise party. We need to get her and my father to Lakewood and then distract her for a while. Can you show her the two houses?”

I was happy to be part of the surprise. The kids told their mother that they were making a sheva brachos in Lakewood and wanted her to come. And while she’s in town, could she see the houses Rivky is debating between?

So Mom came dressed to the nines.

I showed her around the doctor’s house, taking my time, then I showed her the fisherman’s house. Luckily no one was home in either house. Then I texted Rivky: How are we doing with time?

We need more time!!! was the response.

“Hey,” I said to the mother, “Rivky is really unsure, let’s go take one more look around the doctor’s house.”

The mother was surprised, but gamely followed me. After that round, Rivky needed even more time, so then we did yet another tour of the fisherman’s house. And then we finally wound down.

The mother called Rivky and told her she really liked both houses and either one could work, but the best thing is this new neighbor you’re getting. And then she headed off to her surprise party.

In the end, the Kleins decided to go with the doctor’s house. They made an offer, and we were up to attorney review. Once the buyer puts in an offer, and the seller accepts, it moves to attorney review, at which point the lawyers on each side look over the contracts. The attorney review can take anywhere from an hour to two weeks. Because things are precarious — you’ve committed to the house, but it’s not actually yours — you want it to move forward as quickly as possible.

There are people who will sometimes burst in and make a higher offer while a house is under attorney review. It’s not illegal, but it’s very problematic halachically. If you’ve already proposed to a girl, it’s not the time for a shadchan to push her to date someone else.

But this was my first client; I wanted to negotiate and get as much as possible for them. We started getting into long discussions regarding the details of the furniture being left behind. What I didn’t realize was the doctor was slowly getting fed up. And then I got a shocking call; the doctor’s agent told me he’d sold the house to someone else. Someone had put in an offer, and he’d accepted.

The Kleins were devastated. They couldn’t imagine who would have done this to them.

The next day, Rivky got a call from her sister Malky. Malky is a popular sheitelmacher, and that morning, her secretary came to work beaming.

“We just got our offer accepted on a house,” she informed her.

“Mazel tov!” Malky responded. “Where?”

She told her it’s in a new neighborhood and started describing the house and the area, and Malky gasped. “Oh, my gosh! That’s my sister’s house!”

The secretary felt awful; her agent hadn’t told her that the sellers already had accepted another offer. She called the Kleins and asked how they should proceed. The Kleins admitted that the owner was fed up, and wouldn’t sell to them, so they may as well take it.

It was a serious disappointment, but I learned an important lesson: Don’t get stuck on little details. Agents don’t sell furniture, they sell houses.

The good news is that we knew just what to do next. Today, the Kleins lives in the fisherman’s house, and I’m always happy to see Rivky’s mother when she comes to visit.

to be continued…


Keyed In

When negotiating, do not give up on the price of the house or the terms of the contract. But do let go on little details like furniture, the exact entrance date, etc. If you’re going to be renting to the seller for some time, don’t haggle about the rent price. In short, don’t lose pennies over dollars.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 801)

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