Planting the Seed: The Power of Relationships in Real Estate

Garret Home

It’s always nice when you can write a story about how you, or your team, were the hero in a real estate transaction. About how you helped a client and saved the day. Sometimes, though, the client saves the day in a way you could never have.

Ben and Tracey (Client names have been changed for privacy) found all the things they were looking for in a home in Holladay, and it was a great price too. We made an offer and it was accepted. The following Monday, the seller’s agent called me. She had just found out that the neighbors (the day before Thanksgiving) filed a lawsuit against the sellers over a tree near the property line. They claimed it was damaging their pool patio, and wanted it removed.

The sellers were distraught. The Seller’s agent was worried we wouldn’t want to close the deal with a suit pending. She encouraged the sellers to cut the tree down and make the whole problem go away.

I was worried that a lawsuit could impact title. Our escrow officer, Scott, at LW Title, (actual name and company) consulted with their legal team, who assured us it was OK. I still worried about what a lender might think.

On top of that, I was worried whether or not Ben and Tracey, who value relationships, would want to move in next to a neighbor who sues an older couple while their house is for sale on the day before Thanksgiving!

While we were all busy worrying about the law and the deal and our clients, Ben was worried about the tree and about an older couple being harassed unfairly.

Building relationships with clients is a fun part of the job. I knew Ben had worked for the forest service, but had no idea that when he lived in Chicago, he had been a licensed arborist and was familiar with encroachment laws involving trees. I knew Ben was a thoughtful, caring person, but didn’t know the extent to which he would go to do the right thing.

He went to the seller’s home and met the wife. He found out that she had planted the elm, and grown it from a sapling. She was distraught as much about the tree as she was about getting the home sold. He examined the elm. He examined the neighbor’s patio. He learned that the elm predated the fence, and the patio. He told them the suit didn’t stand a chance, and that he wanted the tree. His caring earned him the sellers’ respect. Then he told me and the seller’s agent, that he wouldn’t buy the house without that tree.

A few weeks later, the appraiser missed some significant problems with a nearby property that he used in his appraisal, and valued the house considerably lower than our contract price. Unfortunately, his appraisal was based primarily off of that single home, which he had decided was most comparable to the home for sale.

We appealed. We pointed out problems. We pointed out the other reasonably comparable properties. We were completely ignored.

The low appraisal limited the loan we could get. Ben and Tracey needed more money to save the deal. Ben said, “Pete, we know they can get more for this house than we are offering. All we can do is ask them if, from the goodness of their hearts, they will lower the price for us.”

So we did, and the sellers agreed. Not because they had to, but because they wanted to. And they wanted to because Ben had built the relationship by planting the seed of trust and friendship.


–Peter Green