My dad works in real estate and loves it.  Loves.  When I was interviewing with law firms for summer jobs, they always wanted to know what kind of law I wanted to practice, and since both “child advocacy” and “public housing” were unlikely to get me called back, I often said “well, my father works in real estate and I’ve always found it fascinating.”  Which, you know, is kind of a lie.

But now that we’re in the process of actually trying to buy a condo (we’ve made an offer!  fingers crossed!) I’m sort of starting to see the human drama side of real estate that’s giving me a whole new perspective.

The condo we are trying to buy is a beautifully rehabbed apartment in a vintage building, which we like a lot.  It has two smallish bedrooms and one bathroom, which makes it smaller than a lot of places on the market.  It has a nice fridge, and a cool den, and the bathroom has a really cool sink in it.  Pro.  It has no parking space.  Con.  It  has a gas range.  Pro.  It is dramatically overpriced for the softening real estate market.  Con.

We went to look at it over the weekend and decided we really liked it.  We poked around the various rooms, whispering furtively to each other where in this place we could put the furniture in our current place, plotting small home improvement projects, sneaking peeks at the other people entering or exiting the building to get a sense of who our neighbors might be.  We went home and talked about it, talked in circles, and decided to go back and look again.

My dad, (who works in real estate, remember,) offered to let us use a guy who works for him who has a residential real estate license as our buyer’s agent.  Excellent!  No need to interview agents!  Swell!  So we called the seller’s agent and told her we’d like to come by and see it again.  She was anxious to have us back.  The house has been on the market for over a month with no offers.  The sellers had recently reduced their price because there were no offers (if we think it’s dramatically overpriced now, it was really overpriced when they were asking $20K more.)  They seem nervous about this whole “no offers” thing.

So we walk back into the apartment for visit number 2, and the seller’s agent says “so welcome back, and I brought some more information for you about the apartment, and also this is going to be a dual agency deal with me representing both sides and I also brought the condo association’s annual report from 2006…”

Um, excuse me?  What was that part you just tried to sneak in there?  This is going to be a dual agency deal with me representing both sides?  Oh no.  I don’t think so.  My almost-lawyer self started to get my back up and I was about to say something really snippy (because, um hello, ETHICAL VIOLATION, there needs to be knowledgeable consent to dual agency oh my god did you seriously think you were just going to sneak that in there you sneaky wench?) when John, rational being that he is, saw me about to blow my top and beat me to it, saying “actually, we’re represented by our own agent.”

“Oh,” she said.  “Well, he’s going to have to contact me about the commission.”

“Of course,” said John.

Can you guess where this is going?  Our agent called her and proposed the standard 50-50 split, which is the default rule in Illinois, and she won’t do it.  Because she claims that between the first time we saw the place and the second time we saw it (a grand total of 22 hours,) she was acting on our behalf as our agent (without our knowledge or consent, BTW,) and so she is entitled to a larger percentage.   And she suggested that maybe she would delay presenting our offer to the seller until she gets her way on the commission.

I would really really really like to see the look on the current owner’s face if we knocked on their door and said “hey!  We want to buy your apartment!  And we put in an offer!  But your agent is quibbling with our agent over a quarter of a percent of the commission, so she isn’t showing you the offer.  Did you know that?”  Because I have a hunch that they are more interested in, I don’t know, selling their condo then in making sure their broker gets the bigger piece of the pie.  Just a guess.

So it turns out I was kind of right- real estate is fascinating– especially when you’re working with crazy people!