Broken Chandeliers and Oven Fires: What Happens When a Real-Estate Pro Damages a Listing?
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Broken Chandeliers and Oven Fires: What Happens When a Real-Estate Pro Damages a Listing?

It was a total accident, and their worst nightmare

By ROBYN A. FRIEDMAN
Fri, May 17, 2024 9:00amGrey Clock 4 min

Have you ever accidentally damaged a client’s home?

Debby Belt, senior associate, Hammond Residential Real Estate, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

I was representing the seller of a four-bedroom Cape Cod-style home in Newton, Mass., just west of Boston. It was May 2016 and the house was listed for $929,000. It had a beautiful kitchen, with wood cabinets, granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances.

The house went under contract, and it was scheduled for a home inspection. I wanted the house to look pristine for the inspector and buyers, but the kitchen counters were cluttered, so I frantically threw things into drawers, and I put some glassware, baking tins and plates into the oven. When the inspector walked into the kitchen, he turned on the oven to test it without looking inside first. I was in another room at the time, but I smelled something burning, and then heard explosions as the glass shattered.

When I ran into the kitchen, I saw smoke and a small fire in the oven. There was broken glass all over the place, and the kitchen was smoky. Since it was a gas oven, it could have been much worse. The oven was damaged, and the seller wasn’t happy, so I gave her a $500 discount on the commission to offset any damage or credits she would have to give to the buyers. The buyers weren’t too upset, fortunately, because they were probably planning to update the appliances. The home ended up selling for $920,000 with the oven not functioning perfectly. Now, when I meet the inspector, we both still laugh about it.

Jeffrey Kahn, broker, Broker Associates Realty, The Villages, Fla.

In 1995, early in my real-estate career, I was representing the seller of a condominium in a luxury high-rise building on the ocean in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, just north of Fort Lauderdale. My seller had the mistaken impression that the dining room chandelier was excluded from the sale, so she had it taken down just before closing and replaced it with a less-expensive fixture.

When we did the walk-through the day before closing, the buyer noticed that the original chandelier, which was about 3 feet wide and custom-made from oyster shells and glass on a wrought-iron frame, was missing and, since the contract said that the unit was being sold furnished with everything included in the sale we needed to rectify the situation. The buyer was refusing to close because she loved the chandelier, and my commission—about $30,000, which I was going to split with the other agent—was in jeopardy. The original chandelier was packed in a box on the dining room table, and to make the deal happen, I told the seller I would replace her chandelier with a comparable one if we would rehang the original.

It wasn’t a difficult chandelier, and I’ve done a lot of electrical work in my own homes, so I took down the one hanging from the ceiling. As I started to remove the oyster-glass chandelier from the box, a hairless Sphynx cat jumped on the glass dining room table and rubbed against me. I had never seen a cat in the apartment during the entire listing process, so it scared the heck out of me. I dropped the chandelier, which broke, and I ended up having to pay $8,000 for two new chandeliers and electrician fees. Thankfully, the unit sold for $978,000 and my commission was sufficient to cover the costs. I was just happy the glass dining-room table didn’t break because then my whole commission would have been gone.

Joshua Garner, real-estate agent, The Agency, New York City

In October 2022, I was representing the owner of a Classic Seven co-op on the Upper East Side that was listed for $3.1 million. It had three bedrooms and 2,575 square feet of classic prewar details, with 13 windows and high ceilings. It also had the most particular seller ever. She trusted no one but myself to open up and show the apartment, and it took no less than 30 minutes to prepare and close up each time. There was a written checklist I had to follow, in a specific order, that included the proper angle at which to pull the string for the blinds, how to pick up and strategically fold, stack and put away the series of white sheets she had laid out as runners to protect the bedroom carpets and wearing shoe covers and gloves. She would watch everything from Switzerland via her security cameras and would call me to correct the smallest details.

Prospective buyers were told not to touch anything and to stay on designated walking areas, which were placed a distance from the Ming vases. If they wanted to see the interior of a cupboard or closet, I would refer to myself as Vanna White and would respond to what they instructed. I always warned them ahead of time that she was probably watching and that anything they said or did would be recorded. Buyers would enter with their guard up, which made it difficult. One day, after a showing, I couldn’t get one of the blinds to lower properly. I panicked, but I notified her immediately, and she had a maintenance worker inspect it. The cord had come off the internal spool, and even though it was a quick fix, the seller was livid and ready to withdraw the exclusive.

The only thing that saved the listing was offering to pay $300 to fully replace the mechanism to restore it to new condition. Although there were incidents that upset her during other showings, thankfully, nothing else was ever broken. This co-op, which ended up closing for $2.95 million in October 2023, was the most high-stakes deal I ever worked on.

—Edited from interviews by Robyn A. Friedman 



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Owning a Home in an LGBTQ-Friendly Area Comes With a Hefty Price Premium
By LIZ LUCKING
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The cost of owning a home in an LGBTQ-friendly area in the U.S. comes with a hefty price premium of almost 50%, according to a report Wednesday from Redfin.

In a metropolitan area with state laws protecting LGBTQ people from housing discrimination, a home buyer needs to earn an annual income of $150,364 to afford a median priced home. That’s 46.8% more than the $102,435 buyers need to earn to afford a home in places without such protections, the online property portal said.

For the purposes of their report, a metro is considered to have protections if the state it’s located in prohibits housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, Redfin explained. In the case of metro areas which span multiple states, Redfin considered the metro to have protections if at least one of the states it’s located in prohibits such discrimination.

“LGBTQ+ Americans face disproportionately large barriers to homeownership,” said Redfin senior economist Elijah de la Campa in the report. “On top of paying a premium to live somewhere that feels safe, many LGBTQ+ house hunters are earning less than the typical U.S. worker, and face discrimination while shopping for homes despite laws that prohibit it.”

The locales where individuals identifying as LGBTQ make up the largest share of the adult population are also those where housing is the least affordable, the report found.

In San Francisco, where 6.7% of the adult population identifies as LGBTQ—the highest share of any of the 54 metropolitan areas Redfin analyzed—only 5.1% of listings last year were affordable based on the median local income, one of the lowest shares in the country.

In Portland, Oregon, which had the second highest share of LGBTQ adults at 6%, only 6.7% of homes for sale were affordable; in Austin, Texas, where 5.9% of the adult population identifies as LGBTQ, 2.9% of listings were affordable.

And in Seattle and Los Angeles, where LGBTQ adults make up 5.2% and 5.1% of the population, 4.8% and 1.9% of homes for sale were affordable, respectively.

All but one of those top LGBTQ metros—Austin—has state-level protections, the report said.

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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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