As real estate professionals, we are more or less used to the stress level which exists within our clientele. I am a Massachusetts real estate attorney with more than 40 years of experience. I have bought, and sold, five and four homes, respectively. In not one situation was I calm and relaxed throughout the process. it seemed that there were a million things to do, and I did not have the time, or the patience, to tackle all of them. Sometimes the lender created problems with requests for information I was sure I had already submitted. Sometimes, the walk-through did not go particularly well. In one situation I had a flooded kitchen between the time of Purchase and Sale and the closing. That caused its own set of problems.
Looking back on my own situations, and the many others I have handled for others, I have developed a few tried and true approaches to the resl estate “pressure cooker”, which I would like to share with all of you, whatever part in the process you are assuming:
1. Try to Stay Calm. Problems are going to arise, and almost always when we least expect them. Acccept the fact that there can be problems. Think about your customer first. What can you say or do to assuage the issue. I have found that the last minute inspection problem, or the lender delay, or any number of other things which can delay a closing, or worse, are best addressed by calmness. Do not let yourself get emotional about the problems. Speak with the other professionals. Try not to relay bad news to a customer without suggested approaches to a solution. Think positive thoughts; convey your sense of confidence to your customer through your calm mien.
2. Do Not Point Fingers. Many times the approach which appears simplest to effect is to blame another person or entity for what has happened, and step away. I used to do this, because lawyers are very fat targets when there is a problem, and I wanted to stress that I had done nothing wrong, but Mr, Jones or Ms. Smith, was the true culprit. I no longer take this approach. Rarely do real estate disputes actually result in litigation. More often than not there is a solution out there which everyone can live with. If I have been solution, rather than blame, oriented, I can preserve my relationships with the professionals I will have to work with at other times, and in other places. Furthermore, I have found that coming up with a solution in a difficult situation is the thng that a lot of people remember about me, and my firm, when the smoke clears.
3. Do Not be Afraid to Call a “Time-out”. In our profession, no one really gets paid unless and until the deal closes. Sometimes, that colors our behavior. We all have lost deals, and spent time on matters that do not produce revenue for us. On the other hand, sometimes a deal just cannot work, no matter how hard we try to push it forward. Sometimes, it can work, but the financing must be re-tooled to fit the specific situation of the Borrower. My experience has been that it is better to call a “spade a spade” early in the game than to labor relentlessy on a project where there is little, ot no, hope of success. Call “Time Out”, regroup, and go a different path.
4. Never Sacrifice Your Integrity to Make a Transaction take place. New financing rules have severely hampered the ability of the Borrower to exaggerate assets or income, or even lie about them. In a way, that has taken some pressure off the rest of us. There are still situations which arise, however, where a half-truth or a lack of disclosure may let a deal go forward. I suggest to each of you that you do not want to be a part of any effort which involves ANY deceit or subterfuge. I mentioned above that real estate matters rarely become litigations. If they do, however, and you are called upon to testify, you want to make sure that your behavior in the matter, from an ethical standpoint, is above reproach. Deals come and deals go. Your reputation is forever.