Rental Dementia: The Irish and The Hawaiian

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Did you hear the one about the three Irish guys who wanted to buy a bar and the Jewish surfer dude who wanted to sell one? I’ll cut straight to the punch line as the joke takes awhile. (A few months of my life.) The real estate agent gets screwed in the end.

The three Irish guys wanted to buy a bar. Just what the city needed: one more good old-fashioned watering hole with a shamrock and an endearing Irish accent to entertain the tourists. Without a lot of the details worked out, it was difficult to take them seriously. Another empty search was what I figured.

They had $250,000 in cash and backers if that wasn’t enough. They also had what they described as “a secret equation” which, if followed correctly, would guarantee their new establishment’s success. This highly guarded information had been passed down from an older gentleman whose identity was never revealed. I guessed the secret recipe had something to do with a few kegs of Guinness, some shots of whiskey and a whole lot of U2 on the jukebox, but they would neither confirm nor deny this.

After a little digging, and basically getting nowhere, I caught a break. A colleague of mine was nice enough to tell me that a bar owner had stopped into our office a week or so before. He had a place on the West side and wanted to walk away from the business with a solid $250,000 and move to Hawaii. The one hitch: He wouldn’t pay a commission. If we could work out that little detail, he’d be happy to do business.

I couldn’t reveal the location or the name of the spot to my Irish guys lest they run over there and strike a deal without me. I met them first at my office, where they signed a document, which stated they would pay a 6 percent commission on this space only—unusual for a buyer, but so far, so good. We left the office and walked to the bar.

Dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt, the owner was at first very relaxed about our meeting. A little magic goes a long way, and the space hit my guys in the gut. They loved it. On the way out, Mr. Smooth Bar Owner told us he lived above the bar. If we needed another look, we could stop by anytime.

This is where things got a little hairy. The Irish were serious and needed another look, but I never actually got around to making that appointment. He said drop by anytime, the place would be open, so I called the morning of our meeting. I called all day. I left countless messages. Fifteen minutes before our “scheduled” time and still no word from “The Hawaiian.” Making matters worse, the Irish guys had invited a butt load of people, including family members, friends and a contractor. My worst-case scenario had become a reality. There was no way to reschedule.

I finally got The Hawaiian on the phone. He said, “No way, not today. I’ve got other buyers coming through.” He was full of shit, and I knew it. There was only one thing I could do.

The entire group waited on the corner while I walked into the bar alone. The bar owner was wiping down tables alone. No other buyers were in sight. He flew into a tirade at the sight of me. I tried to explain, “You said to stop by anytime!” He was outraged. I argued and described the group waiting on the corner.

This second viewing wasn’t so nice. The tension between bar owner and agent was palpable, and at times audible. The entire group approved of the space, but looked at me sideways. I said, “You were there, you heard him say … any time!” It didn’t help.

A few days later I called my Irish fellows to apologize, but more importantly to gauge their interest. They would be moving forward, only without me. After our last meeting, they doubled back to square things with the owner. Apparently, Mr. Hawaiian was unwilling to work with someone as unprofessional as myself, or any real estate agent for that matter. Part of their agreement was to negotiate the deal directly. They assured me I would be compensated at closing. I had the signed document, and I needn’t worry. If I had a nickel … From this point on, their attorney would take over, and I was told that they would notify me about the closing. Something smelled rotten, but at that point they weren’t going to listen to me.

I could go on about the phone calls, the fighting and the fact that they never did call about that closing. It wasn’t until after they were up and operating that I finally tracked them down. Their transaction hadn’t gone smoothly and was apparently caught up in some litigation. It turns out Mr. Hawaiian wasn’t the only legal owner. Old partners had surfaced with lawsuits. Hmmmm? Perhaps that had something to do with his insistence on direct negotiations. I eventually got paid, but it was a few thousand dollars light. I had the choice of going to court or taking what they offered. I took the cash and went back to rentals.

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