"I've Done Asbestos Mitigation Before!" He Shouted Into the Night [Tales from the Trenches]

--- by Osman Parvez

Story time. 

A few months ago, I submitted an inspection objection notice to a listing agent. I represented the buyer for a property we had under contract. 

We had just completed our inspection process. It wasn't good news.   

The house had a lot of problems, and I mean A LOT of problems. The mechanical systems were toast. The roof was structurally compromised. The popcorn ceiling contained asbestos. The awning covering the patio was falling apart. To top it all off, there were grading, drainage, and improper owner repairs to contend with. 

What happened next was a surprise. 

Minutes after I sent over the notice, my phone rang. It was the listing agent. He was not happy. 

"Look, your buyer should have KNOWN it was asbestos," he said. "99% of the houses in Longmont built during that time have asbestos ceilings!" 

"Really...  So, you knew the ceiling was asbestos?" 

"Uh... no, I wasn't 100% sure." 

"We suspected it might be, so we had it tested. It's definitely asbestos popcorn. Now we want it mitigated."

"... Does the buyer want the ceiling textured and painted, too?" he snarled. 

"What? Yes...they're going to want the old texture removed from the ceiling by an asbestos mitigation contractor and of course, they're not going to want a bare drywall at the end. They'll want the ceiling to look like the rest of the house." 

"I'VE DONE ASBESTOS MITIGATION BEFORE!" the listing agent thundered. 

"OK... well, then why are you asking about the scope of the work?"


"Look, I need to know what your buyer wants us to do about these inspection objection items." 

"Well, the list is long and we haven't discussed solutions in detail. Likely, they'll want a mix of repairs and a reduction to the purchase price. We're going to need estimates from contractors, first. This could take some time to figure out." 

"Can you get back to me with what they want specifically?"

"OK, but would you check with the seller to see if they're willing to work together to solve these issues?"

"Look, you're being really condescending," he snapped. 

It went downhill from there.  

It's not uncommon that buyers and sellers become emotional around inspection negotiations. The buyer just paid for an expensive inspection and has discovered issues with the house they didn't expect. The seller is perhaps learning about new problems they didn't expect or plan to remedy. It's not good news. 

It is rare for a listing agent to get emotional about it, however. Top Realtors are great negotiators. We know that our job is to calm the buyer and seller down in order to help the parties find mutually acceptable solutions. 

Remember, there's no hiding. The seller and their agent have a duty to disclose latent defectsIf you're on the receiving end of an inspection notice, it's almost always better to work towards a solution with the current buyer instead of choosing stick your head in the sand. 

Hope is not a strategy. 

The conversation continued, but it kept skidding off into the weeds. Instead of working together towards a solution, the listing agent kept making it personal. Despite repeatedly reiterating our common goal - help buyer and seller reach resolution, there was no bringing it back. 

The next day, the listing agent informed me that the seller was unwilling to correct anything. 

"Nothing?" I asked. "Not even the grading?"  

"Nope, zero," he replied, smugly. "Your buyer can take it 'as is' or they can walk." 

Sadly, based on this agents behavior a day earlier, I was not surprised. Sellers almost always take the advice of their agent. After all, they believe this person is an expert, It's why they hired them. So if an agent is acting inappropriate and hostile during an inspection negotiation, likely they will advise their clients to stonewall. 

Presented with this ultimatum, my buyers correctly chose to walk. It was late July and there was still plenty of inventory on the market. My buyers eventually found a better house in a better location, and we successfully navigated the inspection objection and resolution process on that home without any drama.  

What happened to the listing on the contract we terminated? It went back on the market and about a week later, it was under contract again. Buyer #2 terminated a few weeks later. After that, the seller decided to withdraw it from the market. They're still the owners today. 

Take Home Lessons

1. When emotions are flaring, it's challenging to make progress in a difficult negotiation. It's better to begin negotiations after a cooling off period. 

2. If you're shopping for a home or planning to sell your property, interview several agents. Be sure to ask them about their negotiation style and their strategy for dealing with inspection issues. It can make the difference between a successful sale and a failed listing. 

3. Don't ever enter a negotiation without knowing your BATNA

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The ideas and strategies described in this blog are the opinion of the writer and subject to business, economic, and competitive uncertainties.   We strongly recommend conducting rigorous due diligence and obtaining professional advice before buying or selling real estate. image: Luz Fuertes 


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