When the listing agent and seller are great friends

Reader Question: Just put an offer on a house, and we are under contract. The listing agent and seller are great friends, live on the same street, and have known each other for many years. They are friends with a contractor who does work for them. Following my home inspection, some items came up. The roof needs replacing. They want to certify it will last five years, and we agreed, using a 3rd party roofer. They did the certification on their own and stated the roof still has 7-8 years of life. They used the same roofing company that installed the roof, a friend of the listing agent’s contractor.

The plumbing is backing up. We asked to have a 3rd party plumber diagnose and repair. They said they would be using their contractor for those repairs. My agent looked him up, and he is a class B residential and commercial contractor, with no plumber certification. The listing agent, who has been uncooperative with our requests, responded that their class B contractor would be making the repairs.

They are unwilling to use 3rd parties we choose to evaluate. They state their contractor will perform the plumbing repairs. We don’t feel their response is a fair resolution. Finally, my brother was in town, so we rode by the property over the weekend and ran into the seller’s wife. She texted their agent who showed up while we were there and told me their guy would fix everything as long as my agent didn’t blow it. What are your thoughts?

Monty’s Answer: It appears that throughout the negotiations, there has been little or no direct communication between you and the seller. Is the roof certification a written guarantee? What happens if it fails in two years? The repair on the plumbing should be permanent. Your skepticism regarding the friendships is valid. While the seller’s reluctance raises a red flag it does not mean the contractor is dishonest. There is also no harm in a second opinion. As the buyer, it would seem that you can dictate the choice of contractors, as you are the one that will be living with the outcomes.

Agents can unwittingly pour fuel on the fire

If the agents do not like each other, those feelings can sometimes creep into the transaction. Both may be competing to see who can “out-protect” the other at their customers’ expense. If the negotiation drags on, be mindful of the consequences of the inspection contingency expiring.

An alternate solution

  1. Propose a second opinion on the condition of the roof. It takes the seller’s roofing contractor off the hook if the roof fails earlier and gives you the comfort you need to proceed.
  2. Propose a second opinion from your plumber. Your plumber may agree with the seller’s contractor or find he missed something. If he missed something, the seller must agree to escrow your plumber’s estimate, and you will hire the plumber after closing.

To check on the agent attitudes, suggest a meeting directly with the seller to work out the details. Consider the pros and cons of walking away if the resistance continues.