The first listing that I took waaaay back in the spring just closed today, and I got a check for $6,000 and everything.

This must be the fun part.

It doesn’t normally take six months to sell something here; in fact, we had our meeting of the minds much earlier. The problem was that the intended purchaser was a grad student without terribly high assets. Mom and dad, instead of making a gift of the down payment to their academically minded son, wanted to be co-buyers. (I don’t know why, since they weren’t on my side of the table, but my guess is it’s that co-buying generates a better tax scenario for them.)

So, three board packages. Plus, they were from out of town, so they wanted to do all sorts of stuff that New Yorkers never bother to do, like read the building financials.

So that in itself was a delay of a few weeks; the buyer wants to read 2005 financial statements, that, it being mid-year, hadn’t been produced yet.

But my opposite numbers at the Corcoran Group did three whole packages and then — three interviews. We had tried to explain to the board that teleconferencing would be the way to go, but no, they wanted to meet their neighbors, so then there were schedules to juggle and plane reservations to make.

The really interesting account of all this would be from the buyer’s side, as they endured nutty Manhattan, which is both disorganized (What do you mean they didn’t do the 2005 financials by March? said Dad, the tax lawyer) and probing (Yes, you do have to each submit letters of recommendation, and no, we’re not going to interview you until we’ve read them.)

But it all got done, and then boom, a closing was scheduled, just in time for me to make my tax payments on the beach house.

I did remember that the check part comes at the end, so I showed up late, but unfortunately, not late enough. It took the attorneys about an hour to move paper back and forth — here’s the power of attorney so the son can sign for the parents; here’s the stock certificate the seller can cancel so we can issue a new one (this was not real property, but a co-op); and here are the taxes that New York state wants you to pay.

I had never been at a closing when I wasn’t a principal, and even those are tedious. This was mostly watching buyer and seller sign documents, but it was still fine: I chatted with my seller; I chatted with her attorney, who could be a great referrer; and I chatted with the transfer agent.

The problem was the mortgage. The seller’s bank attorney showed up, and the buyer’s bank attorney showed up. The buyer’s bank documents? No problem. Sent the night before.

But not the money. I guess Citibank figured holding onto it overnight meant, what? Maybe another $40 in interest. If you’re a big bank and you do a lot of mortgages … it adds up.

So we had to wait for the money to come. In the meantime I learned:

  • The attorney collecting the payoff had once played Minor League ball, and even worked out with Ted Williams for a week;

  • That it’s great to be a landlord to foreign tenants, because then you can just feign language trouble whenever they tell you that an X is broken;

  • That people selling a million-dollar house are not above stealing maple trees; and

  • When you knit and have 12 grandchildren, you’d better love making hats.

I mean, three hours. It was like a hostage drama; if we’d been in that room any longer, we would have become an ABC show.

But it all worked out, even the money.

My seller, who had brought her laptop and worked on world-changing grant proposals during the lulls, told me later that she was shocked about the money: half a million dollars moving around, and the attorneys are adding up figures on the back of manila envelopes. “I was the only one who had a spreadsheet,” she said.

Good, in a way. If everybody else had had one, wouldn’t she have been forced to sign and initial three copies of it?

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