Monday, January 24, 2011

Real Estate and Real Life - Say What?!!

Communication is key in real life and in real estate. How we express ourselves and how other people interpret our words can make a HUGE difference to the context of a conversation. When buying Las Vegas homes, a miscommunication can lead to a lawsuit. In real life it can also be serious or just plain funny. Case in point:

My friend, Jamie, recently purchased a property in San Diego, California. This house is 80 years old and was originally the home of a sea captain’s widow. The home is only about 700 square feet and will need almost $150,000 in rehab work. But the location is great – only 5 blocks from the beach – and in a lovely residential neighborhood. (San Diego is pretty pricey - there are homes for sale in Las Vegas that are cheaper than the rehab! Luxury Las Vegas golf course homes with more than 4,000 sf are cheaper than Jamie's 700 sf fixer upper.)

Among the items that needed attention:

  1. Shore up foundation
  2. Exterminate termites, fleas and rats
  3. Replace all interior sheet rock
  4. Replace plumbing
  5. Get all new cabinetry and appliances

I've never seen a foreclosure in Las Vegas that needed this much work! Not only that, but the floor plan needed to be redesigned within the existing footprint to make it more practical (no easy matter when you are only working with 700 square feet!)

After more than six months of trying to get permits (the City of San Diego does NOT make it easy!), finally the last blue print was signed off on, and work began last week. One of the first items on the agenda was removing the sheet rock and re-doing the foundation.

Unfortunately, the foundation was even worse than anticipated, and the home had to be raised to allow them to pour an all new foundation. In the process a Bobcat forklift was being used and the entire front of the house almost collapsed. (Thankfully they were able to save it!)

During this time, Jamie was emailing our friend Lisa about the progress being made and how fragile the whole structure was. Then she sent Lisa this message “Unbelievably busy with work, and then today my new-old house was almost knocked down by a bobcat doing foundation work. It's been a time alright.”

Lisa took this statement literally, and was hysterical thinking a wild bobcat had wandered up the road in downtown San Diego, brushing against the home and almost knocking it into oblivion. The following conversation ensued via email:

Lisa: “Are you kidding me?? A real bobcat..that’s incredible!”

Jamie: “I should have been more specific about this- actually it was a Bobcat forklift. Today they had to remove the foundation and lift the house in the air. Stressful wondering if the whole place was going to fall apart.”

Lisa: “OMG… I’m so stupid that I almost wet my pants in a fit of uncontrollable laughter thinking you meant a real animal. Promise me you won’t tell Diann!”

But of course this was one miscommunication that was just too good not to share. So Jamie, in an email to both of us, asks Lisa if it is all right to tell me about the “cat” with no other explanation. Keeping in mind I had not seen the previous correspondence, I immediately responded “What cat?” and Lisa, not realizing that I have NO idea what is going on, responds to me:

“The cute adorable kitten I left at Jamie’s doorstep was killed by the orange bob cat that strolled in her yard. Can you believe it?”

And now I am freaking out because I lost my cat a couple of years ago to wild coyotes in our back yard. I figured since Jamie knew how upset I was about losing my kitty she purposely didn’t tell me what had happened. I write Lisa back a LONG note about how devastating the experience was when my cat was killed and how sad Jamie must be. Fortunately I cc’d Jamie who finally clued me in on what had happened. But only after I had had a bit of a cry over my poor cat.

This is a perfect example of how one simple sentence misinterpreted in the wrong way can set off a totally unintended chain of events. That is why Las Vegas real estate contracts must be clear, concise and NOT open to interpretation.