Disclaimer: Any real estate stories I share here are based on real experiences over the past couple of decades, however, I protect the privacy of my clients by changing names and places. So, if I’ve sold you a house before and something sounds vaguely familiar…it probably is…Our little secret.


I had listed a home in Fair Oaks. The actual seller was in hospice, so her son was handling the sale. As with many homes that have been lived in for dozens of years, this house had a whole lot of stuff in it. We tend to accumulate much more than we realize, and I know I’m guilty of that as well.

Anyway, the son lived out of town, yet each week he’d drive up her to visit his mom in hospice and try to make a path in the cluttered home so that we could have an estate sale and get it sold. As it turned out, even after the estate sale and donating everything still usable or worth saving, there was a grand total of 10,000 thousand pounds delivered to the dump. That’s a whole lotta throw-away.

Due to a previous refinance, there wasn’t a lot of equity in the home, but frankly, the son had other things to worry about, such as the fact his mother was dying. I tried to help cut costs as much as possible. In fact, after the last of the refuse was hauled off, my husband and I spent hours with our brooms, shop vac, and cleaning supplies the evening before the final walk-through so the seller didn’t have to hire cleaners. Who knows how I got “garage sweep-up duty”, but I wasn’t too thrilled to come across an ancient squirrel carcass in the dusty old rubble, but yeah, that happened.

The bad news came when we found out about the bugs. These were not text book termites–they were huge and they were eating the house. The estimate for repairs was around  $12,000. Knowing the stress my seller’s son was under, I wanted more than anything to not have to tell him. Here he was in the process of watching his mother’s health deteriorate and I had to tell him his shrinking equity just dropped another $12,000 dollars.

Surprisingly, my seller’s son was not upset. I’ve had sellers blow a gasket over a $12.00 request to repair a ceiling fan, yet there he sat, nodding his head and telling me if that’s what he had to pay, he would.  That wasn’t what I was expecting, and that’s when it hit me. Most of us freak out a little bit about money when we are losing it or something threatens to take it away.  It’s perfectly normal and happens all the time in real estate. But in this case, there was something much more important at stake. He was losing his mom. The woman who gave life to him, changed his diapers, and was the grandmother to his own children.  His priorities were clear and correct.

With a little negotiating, however, the buyers agreed to accept a closing credit less than the full amount, and everyone was okay with the arrangements. The buyers moved in and are excited about starting their new life in the house that was once filled with a different family. The son continues to come up to see his mother once a week, and at this writing, she is still hanging in there. I think of them both daily.

I believe with virtually every transaction (and I’ve had many) a little part of  my client’s lives become part of my own. In most cases, with most of my real estate transactions, those relationships can be nurtured and maintained for years to come, but in other cases, people move away or die, and all we can do is keep them in our hearts. This client reminded me that there are things way more important than money, and that we should always focus on those we love while we still have them.

It’s never about the house.