Buyers and a language/cultural dilemma

jane__nyFebruary 23, 2010

We have sold our house and the closing is a week from today. Sold to a lovely young couple from Korea. They have two small children. Both are doctors at a large medical center in our area.

I posted on a different thread about their request to come and look at any gardening tools we have as they need tools. This came as an email from my agent. Before I could respond, I received another email from my agent saying the buyers agent requested a walk-through tomorrow and would like to see what furniture/tools we have. No one every mentioned furniture. I certainly didn't want a walk through tomorrow as the house is a mess with boxes. Movers come Thurs am.

Called my agent and she suggested I contact buyers agent directly. Buyers agent is also Korean and her English is difficult to understand. I called buyers agent. I told her we couldn't do walk-through tomorrow and suggested the morning of the closing (Monday). She said, No, buyers want to talk to you and have a lot of questions. They have never owned a house and need to learn how house works. She then said they had no furniture as they have been renting a furnished house. I was dumbfounded, didn't know what to say. I told her I had a few pieces of furniture they could have. She said they would pay for anything and needed furniture and had many questions about how house works.

I have summarized this conversation as I had difficulty really understanding what she was saying/asking.

I called my agent back and told her and she told me I could let them come if I wanted. She actually finds the whole thing funny, but I'm not sure I do. I asked her if such a thing is done. She said no usually but she didn't see a problem.

Sorry this is so long - its actually longer, but I'm trying to keep it short. What would you do?


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Call the agent back and tell her you will meet with them after the closing from such and such a time to such and such a time to answer their questions. I'd hand them the warranties on anything you have and the manuals, answer a few questions and then leave.
It may be their cultural way of doing things but it doesn't have to be yours if you don't want it to be. It's not your job to educate them on home ownership. There are plenty of books on that subject as well as computer sites.
As for furniture and tools I do believe they have stores for that sort of thing. Send them there.
Your agent needs to be slapped for putting you in this position and thinking it's funny. Moving is stressful,part of her job is suppose to be to protect you from this kind of nonsense.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 12:38AM
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Don't worry about their seeing your stuff out or any of that. They just need to get a few questions answered and being 1st timers are a bit nervous. They will be very polite, but do not feel pressured to give them any furniture - if necessary, if there's any misunderstanding when they're there, get their agent on the phone to explain it to them. Tools I guess so, furniture not. But do try and show them "how the house works" whatever that means. I suppose it would be about the utilities, where things are, what they do, etc., and whatever else you can think of that would be relevant. Give their agent your new phone # so if they run into a problem after closing they'll have someone to ask about it. Help them... they are doctors after all, and one day maybe they'll help you :-).

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 12:39AM
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You're in the middle of packing and moving !!! Tell them you don't have the time, but will be happy to hand over any and all warranties and manuals on the house and will leave the tools for them if they'd like. I agree with Carol, your agent needs a quick boot in the pants for not dealing with this on her own, that's what you hired her for, to act as intermediary between you and the buyers. Shame on her.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 7:59AM
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If I were moving into a house in a foreign country, I would be thrilled to have the previous owner walk me through and help me learn about it. I have lived overseas and have come across some unexpected things in houses.

If I were selling a house, I would be delighted if the buyers wanted to buy the items I didn't want to take with me.

Personally, I would take the time to have them come over and walk through the house.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 8:03AM
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While their intentions could be honest,i'd be very leery about providing any info on how things work,etc...And definitely don't give them your new phone #,i assure you that would be a BIG mistake...Did they have a home inspection? if so, they should have asked the HI guy about any questions/issues they had...

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 9:04AM
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I've found that I rarely regret minor acts of generosity.

If they make a fair offer for items you would like to sell, I would certainly do that. I don't know about you, but yardcare stuff seems to multiply in my house anyway.

If they ask a few questions about how the house works, I would try to answer them. If they need more help then you can comfortably offer, I would let them know that too.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 9:41AM
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what graywings & billl said.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 10:30AM
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Having played the nice guy, i would never again give buyers my new phone #..I was called constantly about trivial things, and even asked to reimburse them for a water pipe that froze and burst in garage.(Was told that i didn't inform them the gargae actually got cold in winter!!)..asked how to fix blown circuits, where WAS the circuit breaker box, etc...Answer simple questions? Ok, why not...But if you can't understand them,as you mention,how can you expect to understand their questions about semi-important issues. IMHO, tread very carefully here

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 10:37AM
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I think your agent is slacking off at this point. She's supposed to be protecting you and your interests, and it doesn't sound to me like she's doing that.

I don't know what state you're in, but I've been told over and over again that in my state, there are a lot of points in the sales process where the buyer can pull out without penalty. There's nothing inherently wrong with them coming and looking at your garden tools or asking to buy your furniture, but it does open a door that might complicate things. And it sounds as if you'd much rather not deal with it. So why isn't your agent dealing with the other agent on your behalf?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 11:38AM
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Is there a Korean cultural center or something like that locally? I might give them a quick call and just ask if they have some insight, see if there's some nuance to understand here.

If not, I agree that it's your agent's job to be the heavy.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 2:22PM
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Also their agent, especially if he/she is of the same culture. Being Dr's may give them a different outlook on buying property. their agent should help them. I would be polite, but professional and maybe have a friend/relative quietly in the background when the do the walk thru, which I understand should come after all your furniture and boxes are out so everything can be seen and examined. I definatly would not give them your phone/address. Any questions after closing, refer to their agent or your broker. Just say, I am sorry, but your agent can answer the questions or contact my agent. I cannot legally answer at this time.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 5:33PM
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As I recall, this has been a loooooooong period between signed contract and closing. They chose the week before to decide they did not know anything about running a house? Really?

First, kick your agent in the fanny and have her come over and "explain things" if she thinks it is so funny. Next decide if you really want to leave them anything. If you do, consider having them over, or ask what they would like left. Under no circumstances do you leave them (or allow your agent to give anyone) a forwarding telephone number.

I live on a street of doctors. There are two families (we are one of them) who are not MDs. No one cuts their own lawn or does their own gardening. No one plows their own driveway. No one does their own maintenance. No one cleans their own house. Everything is outsourced in all households, and few people on my street were born in the US. Most doctors I know simply do not have the time to do anything routine around their house.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 6:28PM
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Wow, thanks for all the responses. Let me update...Last night, after talking with my husband we decided to offer them a few pieces of furniture and TV's we really didn't have room for in the new place. I took pictures and emailed their agent. I also explained in the email, that we would pick any gardening tools we thought they could use and put them aside. Everything else would be removed. I posted pictures of various large planters, etc.

This morning our mover calls to say they are pushing up the move to tomorrow due to a bad snow storm coming Thurs. He stopped over to see our progress and flipped. Say we are so far behind we better stay up all night to pack. After this, my agent calls to say buyers agent called her to say buyers want to bring construction people over tomorrow to measure. I said NO! We are moving and aren't finished packing. She said she told their agent that and agent said that was suspicious and were we hiding something!

Xamsx is correct. We went to contract early Nov. They had all this time to bring people and now they think its suspicious that we don't want them to bring construction people. I got so upset I hung up. Called my lawyer who also laughed and said, its your house, do what you want. Don't allow it if you're uncomfortable.

So tonight, as we are running around packing, the buyer calls my home, (somehow got our phone #.) He asks if they can come to see the furniture I sent his agent. I said the furniture was the same that they saw when they came in my house. He said he didn't remember it. I told him it wasn't a good time, we were moving in the morning and the house was full of boxes. He said he really wanted to come and promised he'd be quick. So I gave in and let them come. I looked like something the 'cat dragged in' but he looked at the pieces and said he'd take everything. Said he didn't plan well and they had no furniture. He said he should have planned better.

They were very sweet and genuine. I really liked them and the children. They are young and speak well. The wife hardly said a word, he did all the talking. He said he'd like to bring the construction man over, that they were planning to remodel the kitchen and the man needed to measure for the cabinets. I told it it wasn't a good time, that we were moving in the morning and no one would be at the house. He understood. He expressed that he wanted the walk-thru early so he could ask questions like garbage pick-up and people we used for the lawn and pool. He said he was nervous about the closing and he might forget to ask us questions. So I told him to come Sat. at 4:30 and I would give him all the info he needed. I told him I'd invite my next-door neighbor over so they could meet her. They were very appreciative.

So, unless they were good actors, I think it was a good thing and felt good about meeting them. They seem so young, I forget what it was like to buy your first house. BTW, he spoke perfect English.

Thanks for all the advice. Boy have I learned a lot from this move. How utterly stressful...


    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 9:46PM
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Jane, I sure would find out who gave the buyers your telephone number. Your agent needs a little talk in your spare time.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2010 at 11:17PM
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Maybe they looked it up in the phone book?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 9:18AM
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Jane, I sure would find out who gave the buyers your telephone number. Your agent needs a little talk in your spare time.
It is easy to find phone numbers, even if they are unlisted.
Have you googled your own name or put it in one of the people search sites?
Jane, I'm glad the meeting worked out for you. Keep being polite, but don't let yourself be overwhelmed with other peoples requests for your time.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 9:41AM
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Most doctors I know simply do not have the time to do anything routine around their house.

My Dad was a doctor. He had two offices, worked shifts at the VA and was forever attending seminars and courses. Still, he never missed a chance to mow our large yard! Good relaxing exercise.

Stop making this a "cultural" difference. Some people are a pain, some not.

We have just sold our home to a couple moving from Mainland China. Since they are bringing no furniture, they asked several times if they could buy ours. I'd love to. Less to move. But not my decision to make.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 9:58AM
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Could you imagine buying a house in a foreign country, (your first house!) and not having a stick of furniture? Not knowing how the HVAC system works, how trash removal happens, how yard work is done and who does it? Automatic sprinkler system? Having the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, etc. all be completely different?

Of course they're nervous!
Bless you for allowing them to come Jane. You did a good thing --

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 10:29AM
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I'm sad to see so many people seem to expect the worst from folks just because they are home buyers. Yes, their timing was bad and it isn't an obligation for a seller to give them instructions, but gee, does everything about a real estate transaction have to be armed camps?

I would have been very happy to have a walk-through with the previous owners of our home, because I couldn't figure out the heat/ac system, the bathroom floor heaters, the exterior lights, or the garage door. I had to have a hvac service call and two for the darned garage door, just to teach me what to do, and I've been living in American houses all my life.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 11:28AM
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I've lived overseas in both Europe and Asia, and spent a lot of time visiting my children who also lived overseas. So many things are different .... very basic things right down to household voltage, how things are vented, heating systems, construction materials. Even what is customarily left in homes for the next occupant. Many places, the furniture stays with the house routinely. I would also not be afraid of ulterior motives if someone moving into my home had questions. They're probably as relieved to be moving in to your place, as your are to be moving out. It's refreshing to know that not everybody has a defensive attitude, and you did the right and generous thing by giving them this time. What they are facing is pretty overwhelming, actually. And not to have extended your effort could have been misinterpreted as an unwelcoming gesture.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 12:53PM
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Most well-educated Koreans speak English extremely well, as it's the universal business language. If you've been watching the Olympics you might have noticed that Kim Yu-Na has absolutely no accent, in fact.

graywings and calliope are quite right: this is an example of a different culture. Buy a house in Latin America and it always comes completely furnished, for example.

Seen from an Asian viewpoint, a walk-through with the previous owner would be a gesture of courtesy, not an invitation to be taken advantage of.

The best way to think of it is perhaps in terms of big bad city vs small friendly town. The small courtesies and polite hospitality that have disappeared in US urban lifestyles still exist elsewhere, including in Asia.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 6:08PM
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I think Jane's main point was the timing of this request for a visit was really ridiculous.

Any day prior to the day before they're moving would have made sense - but as the new owner stated - he's bad at planning!

If you have a decorator friend, you should give them their name, sounds like they could drum up some business from the new owners!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 7:31PM
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But it sounds like the buyers didn't *know* that the timing was "ridiculous".

I've sold real estate for a very long time, & it's always good to make sure that what you're hearing is what the other party is really saying.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 7:41PM
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From this thread, I see red neck attitude, cultural ignorance and double standard.

What the young couple did was normal for any new first time home buyer; it has nothing to do with their cultural and educational background.

Criticizing buyers' timing of visit is ridiculous. With the narrow mindness exhibited in this thread, God knows how much suspicion it would have caused if they made the request earlier. Speaking of poor planning, the seller has her fair share too. Did not they have a long closing? why could she pack early enough for the movers?

We had purchased and sold houses many times before. We always helped our buyers to learn about the houses by leaving instructions, manuals, forwarded address and new telephone number. In a couple cases, we stopped by to help. We also received assistance from our sellers; one even sent us a video tape teaching us to take care of the plants she left for us. In my humble opinion, if you worry by merely helping your buyer(s), it shows that you may not have a "clean house" and a water tight contract to begin with.

I recalled there was a thread the seller talked about bargaining for a rental by offering a reduced price after her "final offer". To me, this is purely playing silly game. But I view it as an individual's way of doing business, I would not equate it as the "American way".

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 8:46AM
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axmom, I did bargain on the rental and got what I wanted. How is that a game?? I was prepared to move on if he didn't come down. Its a buyers/renters market. Tons of places on the market and many sitting for over a year. I realized, as I was looking around there was room for a lot of negotiating. You wouldn't believe what landlords were willing to offer to get their places rented. Trust me, I wasn't playing games. I got a good deal.

I am ignorant of the Korean culture, as well as many other cultures. Should I well versed in all cultures before selling my house? How is that 'redneck?'

They buyers are lovely people, I allowed a long closing because they are renting and their lease ends in April. I wasn't in a rush to move, but did not want to move in Feb. because I feared weather problems. I was right as we got hit with 2 ft. of snow and no power for 2 days. Had I insisted on an earlier closing I would have saved myself a few thousand dollars. We close Monday, Mar. 1 and I went to see my home today and we have tremendous tree damage which I am responsible to clear up. My allowing a 4 month closing will cost us a lot of money and headache. I'm not even sure how this is handled.

Buyers called me daily on both cell and home phones asking to do the walk-thru with some friends and construction people. No matter how I explained we were moved out and the roads were closed, I hadn't cleaned after the move and we had no power (electric and water), they kept insisting they see the house.

We moved Wed. because movers were afraid of the impending storm. I was not prepared and had to pay extra to have an man help me box. Took all day to move out and in to the new place. It started snowing that night and by morning my neighbor called to say trees were down and the power was off. We are on well/septic and I had left many plants behind in the house. I thought I had 3 days to clean up before the walk-thru. The roads were closed, my husband and I spent hours yesterday trying to get to our house. Our Town declared an emergency and we were almost stranded on the road. We managed to get to the house today to assess the damage. Luckily the trees did not hit the house or pool but we have huge limbs all over the ground and dangling from the trees.

During all this, the buyer and his agent continued calling both me and my agent insisting they wanted the walk-through. No matter how I explained I couldn't get to my own house, how there was no water or electric, he didn't care or he wasn't understanding. I didn't want to be rude, but my nerves were frazzled and I just wanted to see my house and whether it was still standing.

This is my first time selling a house. We've lived in it for almost 40 years. I wasn't prepared for the stress and amount of work involved. I did pack in advance as much as possible but we were still living in the house. I was trying to sell furniture and other items which took time and we both work full time. Plus, we love our house and enjoyed the time it was off the market. Those four months before closing were like a vacation.

Guess we could have timed it better, but we still would have faced the snow storm because we allowed a long closing. So we pay the price.

Tomorrow we agreed to meet the buyers, their agent and construction people at 2pm. My house is a mess from the movers and I will have to try to clean it up before they come. They want to inspect it again and worry it was damaged in the storm. I understand their anxiety, but they don't seem to understand mine. I need to hire a tree service to clear the mess but no one is even answering my calls. It will be Spring before the snow melts and work can begin. We were told money will have to be held in escrow to cover any damages. The tree work will cost us a small fortune. My problems could have been avoided if we closed earlier.

Azmon, there was no 'double-standard.' I could have refused any of their requests which was my right.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 1:56AM
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I think part of the problem might be that as they are MD's, their schedules are probably very tight and they need to schedule things whenever possible, which should not be your fault or on your head to accommodate every time. Maybe your lawyer or agent could get involved and be more assertive with them about your rights relative to theirs. If his English (the buyer's) is as good as you say, then that's not a problem, as originally thought.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 6:11AM
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Good for you to get a good rental. I view offering price reduction after a "final offer" as playing game. If it is not offering the bottom line, it is not a "final offer". Using the terminology when making an offer, to me, is misleading.

Red neck referred to the cultural ignorant comments in this thread from more than one poster. You too admitted that you are ignorant of the Korean cultural.

One standard means applying the same rules. If it is OK for the seller to wait until last minute to pack, then it should be OK for buyers to wait until right before the closing to check the house. If it is OK to use whatever approach in getting a good rental deal, it should be OK for the buyer doing whatever they see fit to protect their interest. If offering a long closing in order to get the house sold then bearing the risk is one of the consequences.

The storm surely was a horrible timing and put everything out of whack. Especially without all the details, it is easy for us to sit and "cold bloodily" discuss in theory but you are the one who is suffering through the troubles. I truly feel for you. I also sincerely applaud the help you extended to the buyers.

Hope things are getting better.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 10:04AM
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Being culturally ignorant is not my definition of 'redneck.' The title of my post spoke of possible cultural differences.

The owner of the rental refused my final offer. I kept looking and then he contacted my agent with acceptance. By that point I had decided to lower it further. My original offer was a mistake on my part. I realized I didn't want to spend that amount and went lower. This rental was priced high. Listing price was $3,400. I offered $2,800 he refused but lowered to $3,000. I countered with $2,900 but realized I did not want to go that high. He accepted and I lowered it to my original offer of $2,800. He refused and I walked away. I spent weeks looking elsewhere when he agreed to $2,800. At that point I felt it was still over-priced and lowered to $2,700. He accepted. Call it what you want.

With my house, I reluctantly agreed to the long closing. Frankly, I would have waited until Spring to avoid the weather. The bank didn't agree and I was stuck with this closing date. I stretched it as far as I could. March 1st is the bank deadline.

Tree men came today, gave me an estimate and said they couldn't do anything until the snow melted. We have over 2ft of snow. I told them I'd pay extra to have it done by tomorrow. They agreed and said they'd have to plow paths to the areas. I have over an acre and the damage is all over the property, but they will not climb any trees, too dangerous.

Buyers came, spent over an hour and took copious notes on everything. The husband looked like a 'deer in headlights.' So nervous about everything. I told him I'd give him the names and numbers of the people we use to fix things and who service the property and pool. We have a large in-ground pool and I explained how we've maintained it over the years. We couldn't get to the pool because of the snow, but I asked him if he loved to swim. He stated he doesn't swim, doesn't know how. I looked at his wife and she laughed and said she doesn't know how to swim either, "I'm terrified of water." I asked why they bought a house with a pool and he said for the children. Their children are 4 and 8mos. I then spoke of safety measures and the importance of getting the children swimming lessons. Frankly, I believe that no one should have a pool if they can't swim because you couldn't help someone if they fell in or got injured. How do you get your child out if you can't swim?

All in all, it went very well. I like them very much and will not mind at all if they call. He kept stating that they always rented and know nothing about owning a house. I told him that's how everyone starts. You make some mistakes, but learn.

They left, we took the last of our things out of the house. Turned off the lights and cried our eyes out. We will miss our home.

Thanks for all the support,

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 12:15AM
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You did the right things. I compliment you on going the extra mile for the buyers. Someday someone will do something as nice for you. I think a lot of the problems must have originated with their agent, actually. And your agent fell down on the job, too I think. She should have been arranging the walk-through and helping you deal with the fallen limbs issue in a more reasonable way without you having to nearly blow a gasket over getting it done before closing. The buyer shouldn't have been needing to meet with you to find out about things like trash pick-up.

The last time I sold a house, my agent had me show her how to work everything (she had a list and was very thorough). She attended the walk-through; She never suggested that I be there and I was not there, I could not get out of work. She had my phone number in case there were questions that she couldn't answer, but none came up.

The sellers of my current home also left me all booklets, names and numbers for service people, recs re restaurants and groceries, and their agent gave me the names of a few handymen that she vouched for--as I was moving from another state and knew no one, it was greatly appreciated!!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 2:50PM
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Jane - might your HO insurance cover at least part of the tree removal?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 5:27AM
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I don't think "redneck" was aimed at you, Jane.

I think it was aimed at the paranoid responses to your post.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 1:14PM
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Just an update. We closed on Monday and it went smooth as can be. Lovely, young couple and we hope the house brings them as much joy as it did to us. I left a basket of fruit (Edible Arrangements), chocolate cupcakes for the children, the tree people were working on the property, and we left.

Very bittersweet, we loved our house.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 1:25AM
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