Their Client Was Ready to Buy the Home. Then Came the Curveball.
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Their Client Was Ready to Buy the Home. Then Came the Curveball.

How last-minute demands almost derailed these deals

Thu, Jan 19, 2023 9:08amGrey Clock 3 min
Q: Has a buyer ever thrown a curveball at a deal, making a request that almost derailed the sale?

Frances Katzen, broker and head of the Katzen Team, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, New York City

I had a buyer who was adamant about having a very quiet apartment. He was a nice guy, very smart, but he had an issue with noise. He didn’t want to have any kind of impact from the city once he stepped into his home.

I worked with him for nine months. We found an apartment on the East Side, a one-bedroom on a side street that we visited 12 times. He wanted to know what day the garbage trucks came and where the building’s mechanicals were, like for the elevator. He wanted to understand what time of day the street got busiest and what kind of riffraff was there. The apartment wasn’t on a particularly high floor, and he wanted to know how noise carried.

We went back during business hours. Normally, we stop showing at 6 at night, but we went back on a Saturday at 8 p.m. to hang out and see what was going on. After that, he asked if he could come back on a weekend morning. He asked people in the lobby of the building what they thought. The seller’s broker was getting pissed off.

After going back and forth, we struck a deal. We had an accepted offer. Then at the 11th hour, he turned around and said he would like the seller to install soundproof windows.

The seller was like, “You know what? I’ve bent over giving you access, you jackass.” But eventually they decided to do it. We all had to chip in for the windows. I threw in a little bit to show my support. It was like $12,000. We were doing a triple-glaze and my client wanted them to be attractive. It took weeks.

We’re at the closing, and he says, “After further consideration, I just feel like I’m rushing into this.”

I said, “Stop—you’ve been trying to do this with me for nine months.”

He said, “I just feel like maybe I should wait.”

Finally, I said, “Do you really want to be out there paying rent?”

And he said, “OK.” He has been happy since, but it’s always such a bloody process.

Peter Torkan, founder and managing partner, The Agency Toronto, Toronto

It was a 26,000-square-foot home: 10 bedrooms, 16 bathrooms, an indoor swimming pool, indoor spa, a tennis court and a beautiful water fountain in the backyard—you name it. I represented the seller, who was a billionaire.

I showed the house to a billionaire couple. They went through the house and absolutely fell in love with it. They went back for a second visit, and then they went for a third time with a feng shui master. The feng shui master went through the whole house and approved it. The tour took about 1½ hours, at least. While they were in the house, the buyers ran into the housekeeper and started talking to her. She had been there three or four years and was extremely familiar with the house.

They submitted an offer. We went back and forth, and finally an offer of $15.888 million was accepted. There were two hooks. The seller had over $1 million in furniture in the house, and the buyer wanted every piece of furniture to be included—free of charge. The second hook was a nut-job clause: The housekeeper to stay with the house. They made it a contingency of the sale.

I told the agent, “You want over $1 million worth of furniture. If the seller is willing to sell it to you, maybe we can negotiate. But this condition that the
housekeeper stays in the house—I can’t demand that.”

If the seller had signed the offer and the housekeeper refused to stay, the whole deal would have fallen apart because of that stupid contingency. It took 31 days of back and forth and back and forth. The buyer wanted the furniture in the main bedroom, the dining room, the family room.

We decided to give them a few things to make them happy, throw in certain pieces of furniture. But the buyer was adamant: The lady had to stay.

Finally, I lost it. I told the buyer’s agent, “It’s impossible. How can you demand somebody stay? Maybe they don’t like your face. Let’s cancel the deal. You go ahead and buy something else.”

This was just a bluff, but I’m a good poker player. The next day the agent called me and said, “We are going to remove that condition.”

Afterward, I found out that the housekeeper actually did stay. I assume they made a deal. And funny enough, the sellers left behind a $100,000 Bang & Olufsen sound system and TV. It was humongous.


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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


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