Monday, July 21, 2008

The Hunted

In our constant quest to undermine the American family, the Husband and I have decided that perhaps we've been going about it all wrong. Maybe the best way to undermine families is to undermine the American economy. So we thought long and hard about it. We're just two people -- how could we really have an impact on the economy?

Then I realized that we were being foolish. If our marriage can destroy the institution of the family, certainly our financial decisions can cripple the global economy. So we decided to buy a house, and went house hunting this weekend.

I know what you're thinking! "But Mark, doesn't buying a house help the economy?" Not when the gay marrieds do it! Then it's destructive!

Actually, that's not quite how the decision came about. On Saturday morning, there was a knock at the front door. A man was looking for our landlord. I explained that he longer lives here, and that we're renting from him. He asked for contact information, I declined to provide it, but I offered to give a message to our landlord. So he gave me his business card.

The Husband looked up the information on the business card, and the man works for a real estate firm that bills itself as a "pre-foreclosure services" firm. Apparently, they are contacted by banks, and they try to contact homeowners to get them to sell their homes before they are foreclosed upon.

Buying a home was on our list of near-term projects, but I think it just moved up the list a little. The Husband, the puppy, and I would prefer not to come home to an eviction notice from the bank on the door.

Apparently the home mortgage crisis isn't impacting some local real estate agents, though. This morning while I took a walk around a nearby pond, I noticed a "For Sale" sign at a very cute house. Since I'm officially looking at houses now, I decided to call the number on the sign and find out the list price. Not as easy as you'd think:

"Good morning, I was walking by a house and noticed your sign in the yard. I was hoping to find out the list price."

A very cheery young woman assured me this was no problem. "Do you mind holding for a moment?"

I listened to their music for a minute or so before she returned.

"Actually," she said, "the agent who's listed that house is on the other line right now. Can I have him call you back in a few minutes."

"Oh, I don't really need to speak to him yet," I said. "I'm just trying to find out the list price."

"Right," the receptionist replies, "But I don't have that information."

My jaw dropped. "Seriously?"

"Well, I'm not an agent, sir, so I don't have access to that kind of information. Can I have the agent call you back?"

"Don't worry about it. I'm out right now, so I'll call later."

When I got home, I typed the address into Google. After the link to Google Maps, the next hit was the listing, on the website of the firm I had just called. So what information was she unable to access? The internet? Yesterday's newspaper, which contains a small ad for the property?

A suggestion to real estate brokers -- before you complain that you're having difficulty selling homes in this market, please try to train your staff to provide basic customer service over the phone.


  1. Despite some histrionic media reports to the contrary, a renter in good standing cannot be evicted merely because the landlord defaults on his mortgage and the property is foreclosed.

    When one acquires property, regardless of the process, one acquires it subject to all pre-existing leaseholds, easements, covenants, etc.

    Of course, the new owner can choose not to renew the lease upon expiration. But then again, so could the original landlord.

    In any case, good luck with the house-hunting. =)

  2. Yeah, we're actually month-to-month right now. Our lease ended, and the landlord isn't the easiest guy in the world to find, so we just decided to let it slide, since we weren't sure we wanted to commit to a full year anyway.

    After doing a little research, it looks like we'd be able to go to housing court and get at least two or three months, and that's after the foreclosure is finalized.

    It's no big deal to us, it just made us go, "Hmm, maybe we should take the idea of house hunting a little more seriously."

  3. Ooo ooo! Bring your deviant behavior to my neighborhood!

  4. That's exciting! Seems like a good time for a move. Good luck with the house hunting!