One of the things that makes New York different from the rest of the country is that co-op boards, with their need to approve new tenants, slow down every transaction. For example, I listed a property in April, went to contract in July, and will be lucky to close in September.
This long cycle has a number of consequences; I think one of them is that it’s tougher for a seller to detach from the property because no one is ripping off the Band-Aid.
I didn’t think about this until I went to clean out my seller’s property. She had moved out a year ago, and her tenant had vacated about a month ago. I had been in almost daily e-mail contact with him, trying to capture him as a client, and as a result he thought of me fondly — after he moved out, he told me he’d left a few items and told me to pick over what I wanted and ditch the rest. So I raided the fridge, took the Stella, gave the Molson to the super, and invited the owner to either rescue or throw out the 27-inch television. “I wrote your tenant after he moved out,” I said. “He told me to take the TV if I wanted it but I don’t want it. I thought maybe I’d barter it for piano lessons but it turns out old TVs aren’t worth anything. So take it if you want or leave it for your buyer. Also, your tenant left you a vacuum cleaner and some shelving.”
“Great,” she said. “I’ll go down there with my boyfriend, we’ll probably take the TV.”
Then I get a phone message from the apartment: “We took the TV and the vacuum cleaner. We wrapped everything up in the curtains.”
I scrambled to call her back: “You can’t take the curtains, the curtains are contractual.”
“What do you mean, they’re not nice curtains. Not like my nice towel bar, which I am eyeing.”
Oh lord, I thought. “Why don’t you just take the kitchen cabinets while you’re at it?”
“Can I really?”
So then there was the discussion that the kitchen cabinets had to stay, the towel bar had to stay, the curtains had to come back in hopefully not-too-filthy shape. I was pretty PO’d because she took the vacuum cleaner WITHOUT VACUUMING. The standard at New York walk-throughs is “broom-clean,” and I knew from being in the apartment that there was molto dust and no broom.
“Who moves a vacuum cleaner without vacuuming?” I said. (Thankfully the seller is one of my oldest friends.)
“There’s not much dust,” she said. “You could get it up with three or four wet paper towels.”
I did — along with a dead palmetto bug the size of a half-dollar — on the trip I made to go re-hang the curtains. If I saw the source of the attachment it would be one thing, but it seems to me it’s neither financial (seller will make a profit of three years’ salary off of this deal) nor emotional (she moved out a year ago, remember?)
So I decided it was time to ask one of my mentors what to do. I wrote Ardell DellaLoggia of Sound Realty in Kirkland, Wash., and asked her what to do about the towel bars the sellers just wouldn’t take their paws off of.
“I let them take whatever and I replace it myself out of the commission,” she wrote, insisting that my seller was not “crazy” but merely “human.”
So now I want to hear from everybody else. Any “you-wipe-up-the-floor-dear” stories? Any seller try to take the knobs from the cabinets? (I talked my seller out of that, too.) Write me at email@example.com with your war stories.