Adventures in real estate, part 2: the lawyer who "phoned it in"
For at least the past 7 years or so, I knew where I wanted to move as soon as my ex-boyfriend and I could finally agree to sell our old place. It’s a great coop complex in the Bronx near my current boyfriend BG. I’d first seen it advertised when I picked up one of those free “real estate books” they had in a kiosk on Fordham Road. The two page ad blew me away right then and there.
A few years passed, and I became manic and almost bought a place there—even put down a hefty deposit and signed a contract. But I realized that paying a mortgage as well as maintenance, though do-able, would be more of a stretch than I’d feel comfortable about, and I was able to get my deposit back.
But S, the guy I dealt with at the coop’s management company, remembered me when I called him again after we’d finally put our Manhattan coop on the market last fall. He told me to call back when we went into contract, and call I did.
Soon enough S showed me the home of my dreams. I got all my paperwork in order. I was paying cash, so no mortgage hassle was involved. He did a credit check, and informed me that I had an A-plus score.
S had a list of several lawyers he worked with on contracts and closings, and gave me two names to choose from. I called B and we got down to business, or so I thought.
B’s fee was relatively modest, especially compared to the lawyer we retained for the closing of our place downtown. But that lawyer met with us in his office and sat down with us for at least an hour and went over the contract line by line. He was friendly, courteous, and a pleasure to work with.
No so with B. He, too, was pleasant enough at first, but seemed to need to justify his fees by exaggerating the importance of his role. In any case, I expected contracts to be sent to me in short order.
Unlike our lawyer for the sale of our place, B did not meet with clients for contract review. Rather, he would messenger me my copy, I would review it, we would discuss any questions I had by phone, and I would messenger it back to him.
Nevertheless, quite a bit of time went by with no contract in sight. When I told S a few days ago that I hadn’t received it as yet, he was, and I quote—“shocked.” Though B had told me that the seller’s lawyer hadn’t sent him anything yet, according to S he just hadn’t bothered to send a messenger to pick the papers up from the seller’s lawyer.
Another problem was that B seemed to have some vested interest in convincing me that I could not have the speedy closing S had assured me of from day one. Since S obviously had clout with the Board, he assured me from the get go that he could arrange for them to meet with me for my board approval shortly after the contracts were signed.
But during every conversation I had with B—which involved numerous calls and messages, all in an effort to find out where my contract was—he insisted on telling me that there was no way I would close on March 2nd or soon after.
Although coop boards often meet only once a month or even less frequently, during which they consider potential buyers and schedule board interviews, this situation was different. S had been working there for years, and could get deals done in record time by surrounding himself with a competent network of lawyers and mortgage brokers who knew the process for this building backwards and forwards and could close a deal in weeks rather than months. And he had enough clout with the board to get a meeting set up for me to be interviewed within a week’s time or so.
In my final conversation with B yesterday, he once again told me that I would not close on March 2nd. I again explained that S had said I would, and he then advised me to “reach out” to S about the matter. In turn, I told him that S had again assured me that all was well, and that I had last spoken to him shortly before I called B (for the third time that day, having left voice mails and an e-mail in the interim).
He gave me the usual tired schpiel about having been in the business for years, etc. etc. but finally grudgingly said fine, if you’re ready to close it’ll happen.
Meanwhile, the contract was still not in my hands. Though S told me B definitely had it at this point, B said he wouldn’t get it til Monday. He needed time to “review it,” so we could probably go over it on Tuesday.
When I first spoke with B, he told me upfront that he had to review all contracts before sending them out. This gave me considerable pause, since most real estate contracts are pretty standard as far as I know. In fact, I’m pretty sure he could recite the while thing in his sleep by now.
When I talked to S after this, I asked him what possible motive this man would have for tying to put a monkeywrench in the works on what should have been a no-brainer transaction. S couldn’t imagine why, and we both noted that how soon I closed was really none of B’s concern.
I had to conclude that in an effort to prove to me that he was worth his fee, he had to try to make me believe that he was all-knowing and that the process was fraught with red tape. Moreover, he was simply lazy all the way around: too lazy to meet with me and go over the contract in person; too lazy to schedule a messenger to pick up the contract; and too lazy, dishonest, and deceptive to send them to me in a timely fashion.
I don’t know if he bought his own bullshit, but I don’t really care. After telling S that I’d give B till Monday to produce the contracts, I called S back later and said I no longer wished to continue my non-professional non-relationship with B. S said he’d get me another lawyer posthaste, and would talk to B on Monday.
At first I thought I’d give B a “kill” fee of a hundred bucks. But since he was too lazy to send me a retainer agreement to sign or to request some of his fee up front, I realized with great glee that I owed him nothing. In point of fact, he should have paid me for the aggravation and endless phone calls.
S believes in working with others who can get the job done., but the job can only be done well if those working with him cooperate and do their share. My most fervent hope is that S will think twice before offering B’s “services” to any more hapless buyers down the line.