True story. Buyers arrive from the hot south to look at homes in the Sequim and Port Angeles area. They’re excited about retiring on the Olympic Peninsula, and enjoy looking at homes with a broad range of features and prices. After spending time with their Buyer’s Agent (that would be yours truly), looking at a number of potentially great homes, the list is shortened to . . . “the one.” It’s no small thing to find “the one” in this life. We start that search early on. Grade school girls begin searching for “the one” out of ignorance, thinking that there really is a guy out there who is perfect. High school boys commence their search for “the one,” only it’s not a girl. It’s a beautiful car with loud mufflers. Hollywood even made a movie about “the one” and called it the Matrix.
Perhaps for retirees who have been down the road of life a little further, experienced some of the bumps along the way and had a few flat tires, moving to Sequim or Port Angeles to retire and find the ideal home is not so much about searching for “the one.” Retirees have the advantage of a lifetime of experience and no longer wear rose-colored glasses. Reality replaces fantasy, and one comes to realize there is no such thing as “the one.” (Sorry, Keanu Reeves.) What retirees do have is wisdom and rational thought, common sense built on a lifetime of solid experience.
So when the buyers from the hot south decided to make an offer on said home, aka “the one” in this story, they first inquired with their Buyer’s Agent at the county building department as to the date the home was built and other details about the construction and permits issued. Alas, truth is stranger than fiction, and that is true more than once in this story. Our good buyers found out that said home is completely illegal, never had a building permit issued, nor are any of the outbuildings permitted.
As my mother used to say, “Oh my!” I suppose there are more popular colloquialisms that might be uttered, but not by me. (I have no idea what those words would be.) After much discussion with the kind county officials about what would have to be done to make the home legal, it was apparent that there would have to be thorough inspections from the crawl space to the peak of the roof, including concrete, frame construction, roofing, insulation, wiring, and on and on. The bottom line is that the building department would issue a building permit if the owners went through the entire application and permitting process and proved all of the construction, electrical, plumbing, etc. complied with the building code. The house would have to be inspected by engineers, electricians, carpenters, roofers, and probably by my mother.
Walls would have to be ripped open for many of these inspections, framing would be examined for code compliance, nails have to meet minimum specifications, flooring and carpet might have to be pulled, concrete bore samples may be necessary to prove the concrete will meet pressure requirements and has sufficient rebar, and so on. You get the idea. The cost would be exorbitant, and there is absolutely no guarantee that the county would issue a building permit and occupancy permit. This home turned out to be an extraordinary disaster, and why someone would do such extensive construction, build a custom home with absolutely no permits, is really an amazing thing in 2010.
As the annoying late night commercials used to say, “Wait, there’s more!” If you aren’t already shaking your head in amazement, as were these buyers and yours truly, imagine our amazement when we figured out the seller had never disclosed any of these things to his listing agent. The fist time the listing agent heard the house was unpermitted and completely illegal was when I told her. As the cell phone texters like to say, “OMG.”
What would you do if you were a buyer in this situation? (I know you’re thinking “run.”) The intelligent and reasonable buyers in this story who happened to be my clients (I always get the most intelligent and reasonable clients), decided to make an offer at a lower price that was well within reason, considering the circumstances, and they also required the seller to prove to the county that the home had been built to meet the requirements of the building code. Not unreasonable at all, right?
Ah, but remember, truth is stranger than fiction (and this is the second time that is true in this story), and so the sellers (or was it the seller’s agent/broker?) came back with a counter that wanted the buyers to pay nearly full price and . . . no permit would be obtained by the sellers. In other words, the seller (or was it the seller’s agent/broker?) was saying, “Buy this house that is completely illegal with no permits and which could be red-tagged because no occupancy permit has ever been issued, at full listing price (which is far above the fair market value for an illegal home that cannot be lived in . . . legally), and by the way, we’ll throw in the washer and dryer.”
Does the word “insanity” come to mind? Or perhaps “irrational” is better. Or “unreasonable,” “ridiculous,” or “unbelievable.” The counteroffer was so extraordinarily ridiculous that my clients used the word “Saturn” to describe where the sellers must live.
This kind of negotiation can happen when one of two things happen, and they can happen independently or together. First, a seller may actually be from another planet, which is to say they may be completely irrational. Second, the seller may have an agent (or broker) who is completely irrational. They make those kind, too. If either or both are true, move on. You cannot negotiate with someone who has both feet firmly planted in thin air. There are many other homes, and most of those homes are owned by rational human beings who . . . actually got permits when they built their homes. What a novel concept!
How did my clients respond to the counteroffer from Saturn? They said, “Oh my!” And then they decided to move on. They had no interest in trying to negotiate with citizens from another planet.
Last Updated on July 27, 2012 by Chuck Marunde
Now that is a funny story Chuck. One of my favorite sayings, ” common sense is very uncommon” comes to mind here. Best of luck finding the second “one”.