After a very frustrating series of events over the past two weeks, I have a new phrase for buyers of rural real estate: “If you wait to see, don’t blame me.” This article is a quick anecdote to illustrate that point. The names are changed to protect the author.
A land broker friend of mine from Mississippi referred some buyer prospects to me on a small farm with a house about an hour from Birmingham that I had listed. We will call the buyers the Fisher family. I was representing the sellers, the Bartons, on the sale of their 40 acres with a nice home.
The Fishers are relocating from out of state for work, and came to see the Barton’s farm on a Saturday. The wife loved it, but the husband wasn’t sure about it due to the hour-long commute to his new employer. They looked at multiple properties, but liked this best of all. My listing agreement on the farm happened to expire that same day, so I was trying to encourage them to make an offer if they wanted to. The sellers had called me two days previously and said they would consider doing a lease to purchase for up to 12 months if I knew of any interested prospects. I communicated that to the Fishers, and it suited them well because they needed to sell their current property.
Grown men (and women) do not like the word “no”, and you don’t have to be a behavioral psychologist to understand that.
The Fishers thought about it for a couple of days and made an 85% offer. The sellers countered back at full price, but offered to do a year lease at favorable terms. Mr. Fisher replied in an email to the seller’s offer, “No. The purchase price will be…”. When the Bartons saw the word “no”, they were not happy. Grown men (and women) do not like the word “no”, and you don’t have to be a behavioral psychologist to understand that.
The Bartons had another couple contact them directly about their farm, and they showed it to the new prospects who made an offer that day that they accepted. The sellers called me and said they had contracted on the farm, and for me to tell the Fishers it was off the market. So I passed along the disappointing news.
Several days later Mr. Barton called me back, and said that the contract with the new prospects had fallen through, and he asked me to contact the Fishers to see if they were still interested. I immediately called Mr. Fisher and relayed the good news. They said they would think about it. Instead of making a deal straightway, the Fishers made another offer that was lower than the sellers were willing to accept. The Fishers said, “We have 6 more farms to look at this weekend, and then we will let you know.”
When Mr. Barton heard that they were continuing to look at other properties, he ran an ad on Craigslist, but didn’t mention that to me. After dragging their feet for several days, the Fishers came back to me and agreed to accept the Barton’s terms. It was 8:30 Sunday evening, so I texted Mr. Barton and told him congratulations that the Fishers accepted his offer. Mr. Barton didn’t respond to me that evening and around 10:30 the next morning, I called him. That is when Mr. Barton told me that he ran an ad on Craigslist and had several prospects come look at his farm over the weekend. He said he had one more showing that day, and he would call me after lunch and let me know what he was going to do.
When he called me after lunch, he told me he had a check in hand from some new prospects and that he had come to terms with them. I had to let the Fishers know what happened, and they were very upset. I got passive-aggressive emails from the husband and an upset phone call from the wife. I told them that because my listing had expired, it was out of my control. They weren’t happy, but there was nothing they could do at that point. They missed out again on a property they had fallen in love with.
The moral of the story is that the buyers should have taken the deal if they really wanted the farm. They tried to negotiate, multiple times, and it ended up biting them in the end. Now it’s just sour grapes for the would-be-buyers. My best advice to prospective buyers is that it is okay to pay a little extra for a property you really love. Every counter-offer is like a spin of the roulette wheel; the only sure bet is to take a fair deal when it is presented to you. “If you wait to see, don’t blame me” when things don’t work out like you wanted. Be ready to move when the opportunity presents itself.
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