Forget About the Furniture

J Philip Faranda March 23, 2011

It all starts out innocently enough. The seller comes in at the tail end of the home inspection and meets the buyer. They press the flesh, exchange some small talk, and the conversation drifts around to the furniture. The seller might be willing to sell some. The buyer likes some of the pieces. Like many social ships that pass in the night, they say they’ll be in touch. My people will call your people. 

If only it ended there. But sometimes it doesn’t, and the outcome is seldom productive relative to the effort required. 

The buyer agent contacts the listing agent to let the seller know that if they want to leave some of the furniture, that’s fine with the buyers. 

The seller says wait, I said they could buy it. I’m not giving it to them. Call their agent and ask when they’d like to come by and pick out what they’d like to make us an offer on. 

A week, 3 emails, and 4 calls later, two real estate agents that were brokering a half a million dollar deal are now arguing over whether there is more value to one guy buying a chaise lounge than the seller saves by not having to load the thing into a moving van and driving it 2 states away.

Now we have a flea market. 

The principals, sensing that the agents might not want to broker furniture (the nerve for what we’re paying them!) decide to cut through all the parliamentary procedure and deal with each other directly. The buyer arrives on a Saturday morning to see if the sofa is worth throwing a few dollars at. Hey, while we’re there, let’s measure some rooms. The seller, recalling that the buyers mentioned they liked macrame, wonders if they’d like the basement workbench. 

3 hours later, after discussing everything from whether or nor George Lazenby would have been a good 007 if he stuck it out to the true ant-oxidant power of dark chocolate, the buyer sees an ant on the kitchen floor. On their drive home, they recall a puddle in the garage that seemed strange. And what was that smell? Did the neighbor look at us funny as we arrived? Did you see that tree in the back yard? THAT will have to come down sooner or later. Was the seller serious when they made that throwaway remark about the Norwegian parliament ? 

That week, the buyer agent faxes a mortgage denial letter to the seller’s attorney. Please send back our money. We got turned down. So sorry. 

Think it hasn’t happened? 

It sure has. Many a deal has died over a stupid sofa. And those that don’t can get unecessarily messy and complicated. My clients want me dealing with bankers, lawyers and appraisers, not getting the blue book value of a gas barbecue for some other guy. 

Take my advice. Put the furniture on Craigslist if it wasn’t part of the original deal. Don’t make the agents run a flea market, because it isn’t our area of expertise and opens us to liability, and don’t be a wheeler dealer with your counterpart over lawn furniture. Keep your eye on the big prize, the sale of the home, and don’t bog down the biggest transaction of your life over an impromptu garage sale. 

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