Sunday, June 13, 2010

We've Been Banned!?!?!?!

I was sorta wondering when this was going to happen but dang it caught me by surprise today!

We went to look at a listing on Gibbons drive today. When we walked into the house the listing agent told us that the owner of the house specifically requested that we not be allowed access!?!?! Holy Fricken Moly we've been banned! Or barred I guess you could say.

I should of known something was up when there was a sign posted at the entryway declaring that taking pictures of the house was not allowed! Never seen that before....

The listing agent who is also the listing agent on 1417 Central was VERY unhappy with my review of the Central Ave house.... It looks like we're, me, my wife AND my baby are not going to be allowed into any listings by Alain Pinel realty company. Even after I told the agent that we were just looking and that I wasn't going to 'review' the house we where still not let in.

I go back and forth about this where I feel cowed and just want to give up the reviewing to getting my Irish full up and wanting to do something ridiculous in response....what I did tell the Realtor was that first thing Monday morning I would go down to the permit office and check the permit record and redo the review if any new information changed my opinion of the house.

Now, at this point I was going to go into a detailed dissection of the rather heated conversation we had on the front door step of the rather well attended open house but I'm not. I don't want to get into a pointless he said, she said kinda thing but the showing realtor seemed to be mostly upset with two things. 1. That I misquoted our conversation and 2. that I was representing my opinion as fact.

On the misquoting of the conversation thing. I'm just going to say this. I've been employed for the last several years as what can best be described as an investigative journalist. I'm very good at getting interview subjects to drop their guard and answer questions honestly. After our conversation I immediately went home and wrote up my notes. So yeah, I guess its possible that I could of miss-remembered our conversation. Lets just say that he and I remember having a very different conversation and leave it at that.

I thought that it was pretty clear that these 'knifecatching reviews' that I've been doing are just my opinion and only my opinion. In fact the review of 1417 Central Ave starts off with what I thought was a pretty straight forward disclaimer.

Read This: The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. You should probably regard this as just the incoherent babbling of an unbalanced mind....

That seems pretty straight forward to me, no? Maybe I should have a 'write a disclaimer' contest. Everybody can write what they think would be a good disclaimer in the comments section and I'll pick the best one and use it on my reviews from here on out.

In the spirit of fairness I'm going to go back through all my knifecatching reviews and add the following disclaimer.

Read This:The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. The opinions expressed in this review are based on my own inspection of the property, the publicly available facts from aggregator sites such as Redfin and Zillow and the online permit database for the city of Alameda. I am not responsible for incorrect or missing data that appears in these sources. In fact, its probably best that you just ignore everything you read here as the lunatic ravings of an unbalanced mind.

There, what more could the Realtor want? I basically say that I'm a know-nothing moron who should really just be ignored.

Why Do I Do These Reviews?
Why not? In our modern society you can find impartial reviews online for any kind of techo-gadget at cnet. Cycleworld and Road and Track do reviews of new vehicles, but where's the impartial reviews of houses? Our houses, as people say, the biggest chunk of our net worth, most peoples largest asset, yet where are the impartial reviews? The selling Realtor isn't going to say anything that could sour a deal. The buyers Realtor has the same motivation. The house appraiser knows that he will lose business if his reports cause too many escrows to be broken, same with the appraiser...all these people have a vested interest in you (the buyer) staying ignorant. Who's really on the side of the buyer? It just seems like the deck is stacked against buyers. Which seems crazy to me as this is the single biggest purchase people ever make.

The Genesis Of My House Reviews.
Really, this just started off as a way for us to keep it straight in our heads which houses had which features and to help us evaluate the houses. We would do the thing where we would confuse the features of one house with another, so we started taking pictures to keep them all straight in our heads. Then we would sit down and after looking at the reports figure out what the house needs and estimate what that's going to cost. Then we back calculate what we are willing to pay for the house so as to not end up putting way, way more money into a house than it will ever be worth. Isn't that basically what everyone does who's looking at buying a house?

Is it my fault that a lot of the houses do not appear to be priced to their condition?

I want to be clear on something. We are not looky-loo's. We are seriously looking for a 'finished' old house to buy in Alameda in the right neighborhood with features that meet our perhaps unique requirements. We have a big ole hunk of cash saved up for either a down payment on a new house or to remodel our current house. We are officially pre-approved for a loan that's so large it literally scares me. We are serious buyers and as a part of our process we check the permit records and the 'public facts' of any house we are interested in.

Now, vague threats of legal action aside...the Realtors at Alain Pinel have figured out a way to censor me. If all the Realtors on the island decide that I will not be allowed into any more open houses then well, I can't really review them can I? But of course they are also turning down a serious buyer.

One Final Note
It will always be my first, second and third take that someone who doesn't want an impartial review of their house has something to hide. The cockroaches and rats gather where the sun doesn't shine. If, in a parallel dimension, I was a realtor when I did an open house I'd have front and center the complete termite report, the complete house inspection AND the complete certified permit record. I would know all there was to know about the house and represent and price it accordingly. I would have nothing to fear from an impartial review.

I figure that if the sellers think I'm the anti-Christ and buyers think I'm the second coming then I must be doing something right.

And that's the way I see it.


Furiousg said...

Coming out of the anonymous woodwork to say "Bollocks!" and give you my support. I like your reviews, they're very thorough and knowledgeable. This is just another way that the Internet is revolutionizing industries, allowing many more voices to be heard.

Tg said...

Don't get discouraged and keep up the blogging!
We also had been looking to buy for the last 6 months, and the amount of unpermitted major structural work and crumbling foundations in the sub-$650k range is just mind-boggling for a city that will almost certainly be struck by a major earthquake in our lifetime.
Your blog confirmed that we weren't the only ones noticing this.

Leslie Harvey said...

Keep up the good work! Ran into Irene this morning and heard the whole saga. I have to confess that I kind of suspected that someone might try this one day - you are the victims of your own blogging success. So many readers that you are now a recognizable threat.

Alameda is a beautiful town, but the reality is that so many properties are just in bad shape. Fine to buy these, if you know what you are getting into and the property is priced accordingly. When we bought, we went the other direction - bought a property that was renovated right and paid a pretty penny for the privilege. But we were lucky to have advice from a scrupulously honest agent along the way who walked through many a run-down overpriced mess with us for more than a year and a half before she finally got her commission. She was the one talking us out of many places! Sad that many others don't seem to have this same guidance, but I'm glad you have been doing the dirty work in educating the public.

irene said...

That was very well said. I would only add that a bad - even scathing - review of house would not necessarily prevent us from buying it, nor should it prevent anyone else. It's a matter of knowing what you're getting into.

From a look at the early posts on this blog you can see that a house being in abysmal condition does not make it a definite 'no,' it just makes it an enormous amount of work and/or a massive expense. We knew what we were getting into (even if we didn't know the market was going to crash around us..), but most buyers do not. Most buyers have to take realtors at their word, and hope that the house inspection turns up any real problems before they shell out their life savings. We are not most buyers. When a realtor tells us the house's foundation has withstood 2 earthquakes and the house is still standing so it doesn't need a new one, or that if we really want a new one it would cost ~15k, we know it's BS.

We'll see what happens in open-house land!

Gene said...

Withstood two quakes means one of two things: it's designed and built right, or they've been lucky so far :-) Given that we haven't had a major quake on the Hayward fault in recent history, my money is on it being luck for a lot of these homes.

That's to say nothing of unpermitted electrical work, which is even more likely to have problems and is harder to see.

I've enjoyed your reviews -- I guess your banning means you've hit the big time :-)

The MadScientist said...

Thanks Furiousg and Tg,
I'm not planning on stopping the reviews...but of course if I'm banned from every single open house in Alameda what can I do? I'm working on something to address that issue so stay tuned.

The MadScientist said...

Like I say those brick foundations might of withstood the big 1906 shaker but that was when they were new. Now the mortar is turning to sand and the sole plate is most likely rotting away....not a good thing.

The MadScientist said...

Thanks Leslie for confirming one of main points.
Most of the houses for sale seem to have many, many years of deferred maint and they are not priced accordingly.
It sounds like you were lucky and had one of the few good real estate agents around.
And since I have inspected your house I can say that even though its outta our price range I feel it was well bought.

Anonymous said...

You're either a "mad scientist" who should be ignored or your not. A disclaimer you disclaim is no disclaimer at all.

The MadScientist said...

Well Sam I Am,
I don't believe that I disclaim my disclaimer so the disclaimage is still in effect.

shineyspikeything said...

This is awesome!
I got ripped into by some realtors (TM) for writing up what I thought of the housing market and it's crashiness (mostly pre-crash), more from the finance side. Agents (even buyers' agents) are incentivized to get you to pay the most for a house they can, in the shortest possible time. It takes a good agent to see through that and get down to the real details of what's good for everyone.

I am totally begging you to be on our house hunt with us, should we ever decide to buy.

The MadScientist said...

Hi Again Spikey,
Well, my wheelhouse is old houses in the immediate bay area...not sure how much help I'd be if you're looking at new houses or a condo or something.

L. Opine said...

The Realtors in the area are a nasty colluding mob and they deserve to have their noses rubbed in it. Keep up the good work.

The MadScientist said...

Long time since we've heard from you. I trust that you are well.
If the colluding mob decides to ban me from all open houses then well, I'm screwed aren't I?

L. Opine said...

You could get a real estate license and go on the broker's tour on Tuesdays. I don't think they can ban you from that short of getting a lot of restraining orders.

The MadScientist said...

Actually i've thought about getting a real estate license just so I can represent myself when we want to buy a house.

No offense but it can't be rocket surgery can it? Is it like a course at the junior college and then a test? Bet its multiple choice!

minnie said...

please keep doing reviews.anyone who needs stuff shrouded in secrecy is an asshole.
the market in this area is so fucked up that there simply has to be people review and check up on things. obviously a potential home owner should be hiring professionals to inspect any home anyway.

After looking at one of the stupidest house remodels ever in oakland I started a blog reviewing houses (mostly snark and no actual informed info on my part). but it ended in naught. I couldn't stomach it anymore. although if our current deal falls through and we have ot keep looking i'll revive it.

also? one word - DISGUISES!
I vote you put a mustache on the baby.

P.P.S. I wish i could have brought you along on our inspections of the old old victorian in oakland we are trying to buy.

The MadScientist said...

Hi Minnie and thanks for commenting.
So far its only one realty company that is banning us...but I swear I got triple taked at another open house this past weekend.

You're not the first person to wish that I had reviewed a house that they were looking into..... Maybe I should start up a business...uh, 'House Reviews by the MadScientist'? Or something like that...