Saturday, April 18, 2009

Think your Realtor is looking out for you? Ha!

My wife and I bought our current home in the suburbs of Chicago three years ago. Yes, our timing was terrible; We bought right before housing prices started falling. We did shave some money off the seller's asking price, but probably not as much as we could have.

No problem, though. We like our house. We love our neighborhood. We figure that by the time we sell, our house will have appreciated significantly. ('Course, I'd like to sell in 30 years, after we've paid off the house. My wife might not be on the same timetable.)

Then it rains. And if it rains hard, then I no longer like our house. Not at all.

Our basement leaks. When it rains hard enough, the damn thing floods. During a recent downpour, I was able to spend a Saturday afternoon pumping rainwater into a shop vac all day. Nothing better.

The people who sold our house to us did not disclose this leakage problem before we bought it. That's supposed to be a big no-no. So the first time our basement flooded, we did what any ticked-off homeowner would do: We called our real estate agent.

Surprise! The agent passed us off to our home inspector. The inspector reminded me that on the day he inspected our home, it was not raining. How then, he said, could he have known that the basement flooded?

We moved on to our real estate attorney next. You have to hire a real estate attorney in Illinois before completing a home purchase. I have no idea why, though I suspect it has something to do with the $250 or so real estate attorneys pocket for sitting half-awake through a closing. Our real estate attorney told us to buck up and pay to waterproof our basement by ourselves. It'd be too hard to prove that the sellers had ever experienced flooding in the eight years they owned the house. Never mind that this same basement has flooded four times in the three years we've owned it.

The point to this story? It's the same point as with this entire blog: Don't trust anyone in the real estate business. Real estate agents -- and mortgage loan officers, real estate attorneys and home inspectors -- promise that they look out for their clients. Don't believe it.

I'll chart the many ways in which real estate agents and their industry peers have screwed over the U.S. home-buying public. And I'll do it three times a week, updating the blog on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Log on and add your own stories. I'm sure we've all been screwed over by our "trusted real estate professionals."

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