Lessons in Real Estate…Your Honor Says What?




One would think when you are old and sick in the hospital and you’ve hired many professionals to deal with your assets that everyone would be working for your best interests completely and absolutely.

This story will make you shudder and re think who you are leaving in charge of making decisions for your assets.

I found a cute little cape home for sale on the MLS. It was priced well below market value although it needed some updating and freshening up. I was looking to buy this house for myself as a first investment property to rent out.

A few weeks prior I offered and missed out on a home just like it that sold for 128k.  This time I was armed and ready to offer the highest I was willing to go for this hidden gem that came with instant equity.  This is the first time I had offered on a home that was in the process of probate, so this was a completely new experience for me.

The probate judge had requested that all the offers are submitted to the probate court directly and don’t even cross the listing brokers desk. I found that an unusual way of doing things but, okay I thought I guess this helps them get a higher price because it doesn’t give the listing agents any capacity to withhold any offers etc…. This struck me as being a very fair process for the seller.

My offer was the highest in the room, and by a significant amount of $13,000.  However, I did not get the house even though for a few heart stopping moments I thought I did.  Here is the kicker. My deposit check for the down payment was not exactly 10% of the offer. It was short by literally $100, only because by nature I had decided to round down rather than round up.  I was stunned as I walked out of that court room, My offer was very legitimate. I had brought my checkbook in case I had a chance to offer more and need to give a larger deposit. But the probate judge refused to consider my highest offer in the room by, merely because my 10% deposit was $100 short of being exactly a 10% of the total amount I offered.

I thought it was really bizarre and even unethical turn of events for the judge to not accept the highest offer in the room. The homeowner is actually sick and infirm, and she would expect all these professionals to accept the best possible price for her.  But instead they ignored my offer, based on the deposit check not being a precise amount. Ive never seen such an irrational decision take place and all the people involved seem to think there was nothing wrong with it.

As soon as I got home I emailed the listing broker to express my surprise at the turn of events and that I felt that was unjust towards her client.   I asked her to take my offer and give it to the sellers attorney as the backup offer in case the first buyer cant or doesn’t proceed.

The bigger surprise was the listing brokers comment to me when I told her it’s a shame that the judge’s poor decision lost her client $13,000. She said, “well if a judge made an exception for you he would have to make an exception for everyone”.  But if I was the highest bidder in the total amount offered, then that point is completely moot. 

The lesson here was round up not down when deciding the amount of your deposit check, especially with a property being decided in probate court.  And be careful who you choose to trust to act in your behalf when you become incapacitated.