Although on the surface real estate is about buying and selling property, it is really about people and the interaction between them.
Let’s look at these interactions through some stories – all true and all a bit strange:
THE FENG SHUI TREE
A few years ago I represented someone who was selling a three-room apartment on the third floor of a building on a residential block in the pastoral Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. The buyer liked the apartment, and an agreement was reached with regard to price, terms and all other details. The engineer had given a clean bill of health to the property, and the lawyers on both sides were happy. Even the mortgage had been pre-approved.
The day before the signing the buyer asked to bring her friend, a feng shui expert, to see the property.
Obviously, everyone was quite happy to oblige, and 16 hours before the scheduled signing, the expert arrived. She took one step inside the property, turned to the buyer and said, “I forbid you to buy this property.”
Her claim was that a palm tree some 100 meters away was sending terrible vibes into the apartment, so the deal was canceled. I subsequently invited two separate independent feng shui experts to the apartment.
Both actually decided that not only wasn’t the tree a negative influence on the property, it was sending positive energy into the whole area.
Soon after, we sold the apartment to another buyer who has lived there happily since – tree and all.
The scene is the lawyer’s office at the signing of a deal.
The contracts were presented to both parties, and each side was prepared to sign. Suddenly, the buyer’s lawyer stopped all the proceedings with a new demand: “I insist that both parties sign with my pen and only my pen.” The seller and his lawyer point-blank refused on principle, and a 20-minute argument ensued. The situation was finally solved when I went down to the nearest stationery store and bought a “neutral” Parker pen, which both sides agreed to use. I still have the pen, and it comes with me to every signing – just in case.
THE INDOOR SWIMMING POOL
A few years ago, during a particularly good rainy winter, I received a call from a seller asking me to assess her ground-floor apartment in Jerusalem’s Musrara (Morasha) neighborhood and provide an estimate of the market price. In response to my questions, she admitted that the property had a “small” problem with dampness, but “not too bad.” I arrived at the appointment and immediately noticed that almost every wall in the apartment was damp, going on wet.
We walked around the various rooms until we arrived in the family room, which was a few steps down from the rest of the apartment. Not only was the room damp, it was at least 10 centimeters under water! I told the seller that she had only two options: either get an expert engineer and completely fix all the dampness problems and then sell the property, or have the engineer prepare a report of what fixing the problems would entail, and then sell the apartment with full disclosure to an informed buyer, obviously at a much lower price.
The seller chose a third option, telling me that I was basically an idiot and that if the property were shown during summer the dampness would not be an issue! I wished her all the best, left and have not seen her since.
I did notice that another agent listed the apartment later that year. As far as I know, it never sold despite having an indoor swimming pool!
Raphi Bloch is the manager of Re/Max Vision real-estate agency in Jerusalem.