“Don’t Ever Interrupt Me When I Am Negotiating Again!”

Last week I was lauded for closing a transaction that many thought would never be sold.  I wish I could wax poetic about my unique strategy in getting the deal done, but the truth is I got lucky and learned an invaluable lesson in the process.  The firm had been retained to sell a particular property for over a year.  I was told that this was an unprecedented period of time to retain a listing, but our client, a 2nd lien buyer, was firm in his price and had the patience of JOB, so we kept the property listed because periodically he presented us with properties that were actually priced to sell.  The home was small, unremarkable, and located in a downtrodden area of Gresham.  I was told by another broker of an old minister that called the office from time-to-time claiming that he had an interest in buying homes within a certain radius of his church.  The Preacher would use wayward parishioners to remodel the homes, and then sell them to other parishioners under favorable terms or rent them out.  So I went to see the Preacher, unannounced, and true to his word he had an interest in looking at properties within a 3 mile radius of his church.  We set it up to look at the house on Saturday.  We weren’t there 10 minutes and he agreed to buy the home, for full price, provided he could meet with the lienholder to discuss matters related to the rehabilitation.  Recognizing the unusual nature of the request, I told the Preacher I couldn’t make assurances about a meeting.  He requested that I try hard to set it up and further agreed to provide me with a $1000 bonus if the transaction could be consummated.  In our Monday morning meeting at Fairplay Realty-Elite, I announced the sale of the home to the other brokers and was hailed as having pulled off the biggest coup since the sale of Manhattan for $24!  I saved the conditional meeting part for my weekly followup with Jeff Potts. To my surprise Jeff was all for the meeting.  He felt that under the circumstances we had nothing to loose by bringing the parties together, so he set it up for that afternoon.

Me and Preacher met just outside downtown and I drove us into the Pearl District to meet at noteholder’s condo/office.  The place was fabulous with north and west views to die for.  The Preacher got right down to business, explaining how he was a master carpenter and would whip that place into shape in no time. He explained with painstaking detail how he would correct the many quality deficiencies that someone had left the property victim too.  He spoke of his rehab schedule, on-and-on-and-on.  At some point, the noteholder started seizing moments where the Preacher would speak with his eyes closed (as if he were visualizing this beautiful transformation) by looking at me gesturing the universal – “WTF?”  Then the noteholder blurted out, “That’s all great Pastor, so perhaps you should sign off the contract and take your house and convert it to the fabulous structure you speak of!”  And the Pastor said, “Yes, I will but I’ll need to get an additional $20,000 to do the work at that level.”  To which the noteholder said, “And where do you plan to get that money from?”  And the Pastor countered, “Well, I’m going to get it from you!”   Bingo! Realizing I was dealing with a kook I offered, “Hey Pastor, I don’t think he’s going to offer you financing on the property and give you $20,000 to do the repairs, perhaps we should go?”  Without missing a beat, the Pastor turned to me and said, “Keith, these negotiations have taken a lot longer than I thought and I really need to go over to the specialty hardware store and pickup brass hardware for another project.  I wonder if you will take this $100 bill and run over to XYZ Hardware and pickup 20 brass cabinet pulls for me?  Please hurry they are closing at 6!”  Realizing it was 5:40 I hopped to, took the money and his chicken scratched directives, and barreled out of the building.  Upon hearing the click of the security door I realized that my participation in the meeting had been ended intentionally.  I was fuming!  I was insulted by his misleading reasoning for requesting the meeting; I was probably in line to be scolded for putting our client in this awkward position; And now, I had been put out of the meeting under false pretenses.  I paced around outside until 7:10 waiting for the Pastor to either call me to pick him up or come out of the building.  If it hadn’t been that he was at the home/office of an important client I would have left him there.  After all, he deserved it for what he had done to me.  It was then that I spotted him gleefully walking out of the elevator.  He barreled through the entry doors, and before I could set him straight he reached for his wallet, counted out 9 more $100 bills (as I stood with my mouth gaped open in shock), and said with great deliberation,  “Don’t ever…interrupt me…when I am negotiating – again!”  Message received.

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About asuomason

Graduate Student, Conflict and Dispute Resolution - University of Oregon
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