Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Regan and Company: "We're never too busy for your referrals (but we are too busy for you!)"

Following is our review of Regan & Co., a real estate agency we used to sell our home in Durham. We hope this information proves helpful to any and all who may be considering using this firm.

Mrs. B.

Like many people in this current housing market, my husband and I were concerned about our ability to sell our home in Durham. Adding to our concerns was the fact that homes in our neighborhood simply were not selling and they were listed at prices far below what they’d originally sold for. Someone in our neighborhood told us about a house near theirs that had sold within 23 days; almost unheard of. The listing company was Regan & Co., and after checking out their website, I called them in early May to discuss the possibility of listing our home with them. I spoke directly with the owner of the company, Mike Regan. Although he was polite, he asked some fairly pointed questions and informed me that our neighborhood had really taken a hit.

We met Mike at our house a few days later. After touring our home and telling us there wasn’t much we’d have to do to prep it for sale other than to perhaps add some flowers to the front, we sat down to discuss the details. Mike had brought the typical numbers along with him and we had a very painful conversation regarding the best price point to list our house at so that it would sell and sell quickly. Unfortunately for us, the price point for our house meant that we were going to have to bring money to the table. Although we did not intend on going the short sale route, Mike should have brought up the possibility of a short sale. Much later in this process, a few weeks prior to closing, my husband contacted the bank to ask if they’d be willing to meet us half-way. The bank told my husband that, in order for that to even be a possibility, we’d have to scratch the contract we had with the buyers and, in essence, start all over again but this time with the bank being involved in agreeing to the price, agreeing to the offer, etc., etc. Obviously at that point we were not going to do this, but, it became apparent that Regan & Co. had not covered everything with us that they should have. If I had to hazard a guess, they likely would not have done business with us if we’d told them we intended to do a short sale.

Another thing that Regan & Co. stresses at the outset is that the home be properly staged. This is an issue for a lot of people because it sometimes means they have to put thousands of dollars into the home in repairs, paint, and temporary storage for overflow furniture, etc. Additionally, pets in the home are extremely problematic; Regan & Co. recommends they, and all signs of them, be removed for all showings. Going into this, we already knew our pets would pose an issue so we’d decided before we even met with Regan & Co. that we would not put the house on the market until we’d moved out. This made Regan & Co.’s job a lot easier. In fact, many of the things that Mike (and later his crew of home stagers recommended) we’d already decided to do on our own, such as power wash the outside of the house, clean all windows inside and out, have the carpets and house professionally cleaned once we’d moved out, etc. This goes a long way of saying that WE made THEIR job considerably easier.

At Regan's strong suggestion, we paid $450 to the stagers; for this we received a few (loaned) pictures on the walls and a couple of items on the counters and in the bathrooms. They also made use of an outside patio set we intended on leaving behind for our lawn maintenance man; bringing it inside into the sunroom. So, we paid them to use our things! We don’t believe the house even required staging since it was empty, it was sparkling clean, and the floors positively gleamed.

Back to the initial meeting. Encouraged by Mike’s opinion that, given the upgrades we’d made to the home and the excellent condition it was in that it would likely sell quickly, we decided to sign with Regan & Co. Although we had a figure in mind after that meeting, we didn’t settle on the final listing price because the house would be in “Coming Soon” mode for several months while we worked through the process of buying a house in Florida and moving out. What this meant was, there would be a sign in our yard but it would not be on MLS.

Regan & Co. processes their documents electronically. After digitally signing the listing agreement, my husband couldn’t get our copy to print out (after a period of time, the documents are no longer available online). This later became a problem when we saw a $395 fee to Regan & Co. on the closing statement for “Closing Assurance”. We were told it was in the agreement we signed (which we didn’t have to refer to). As of this writing, we still do not have a copy of the listing agreement.

From May-July, not much else happened; mostly because we were not yet ready to put the house on the market. We did meet/talk several times with Mike’s assistant Laura. Although Mike WAS our listing agent, he pretty much assigned all of the work associated with our listing to one or more of his employees. Unfortunately, these employees changed over the course of our involvement with Regan & Co., leading to several miscommunications.

In mid-July, we contacted Regan & Co. to discuss the final steps in getting our house on the market for mid-August. Mike came out to the house and told us that, in the two months since we initially spoke with him, the market in our area had suffered even more, and, consequently, he was recommending that we price the house $15,000 less than we’d originally been discussing. We’d been paying attention to what the homes in our neighborhood were doing so we were not totally surprised but still were incredibly disappointed and heartsick. After discussing several details, Mike left and, once again, we were in the hands of his assistant, Laura.

Over the next week or so, we talked to Laura numerous times; mostly regarding our concerns of how the property would be managed after we had left the state. For the most part, we heard “we won’t do that” or, “we can’t possibly be responsible for that”. Additionally, they were not happy that we had an alarm system; citing that a lot of agents won’t show a house if there is an alarm. I became sufficiently annoyed about this lack “care and feeding” on Regan & Co.’s part and the fact that it was taking several days to hear back from anyone regarding our questions. I sent a quite pointed email to Mike (whom, by the way, we hadn’t heard anything from other than a standard thank you note with (yet another) of his business card magnets).

After receiving the email, Mike came back out to the house for a few minutes (literally) to talk about our concerns. But, as with a lot of things to do with this transaction, we’d already decided on our own to turn off the alarm when we moved out, to have family and neighbors check on the house, etc. Mike’s primary concern at that point appeared to be that it was unfortunate we couldn’t have flowers out front because there wasn’t anyone available to water them.

We moved out Monday August 15th. That week was a whirlwind of activity that had previously been arranged between us, Regan & Co., and independent contractors. We’d been told the house would be on MLS by Friday August 19th; the weekend at the latest. We’d also been told that there would be a flyer placed in the house, along with copies of the MLS, for potential buyers to take away with them. Finally, we’d been told by Laura (who was now no longer with the company) that we’d have input into both and if there were things we wanted added or removed (in particular to the flyer), that could be done. When we finally saw the flyer, it had grammatical errors and it hardly did anything to highlight the features of the house. We recommended several changes to it and the MLS; some were made but others were not. The pictures were nice, at least.

The house officially went onto MLS on Wednesday, August 24th. Our first showing was Sunday August 28th. Early Monday morning August 29th, Mike called (the first time we’d heard from him in weeks) to tell us we’d received a full price offer but they were requesting we pay $2,000 of their closing costs. This is where things really started to fall apart. Obviously, we were very pleased to get an offer so quickly. However, we felt extremely pressured by Mike to accept this offer; he suggested we not risk irritating the buyers by pushing back on anything. Even though these were only the first people to see the house, it was very apparent he did not think we should hold out to see if any other offers might come in. He told us to review the offer and call him back. This was around 7:30 am.

When we checked our computer for the offer, we saw that we only had the first three pages. Neither of us felt comfortable agreeing to it until we’d seen the entire offer package. I called and left Mike a message to this effect. He called me back and left a message in essence saying it wasn’t all that important to see it but he ‘d get it to us, that he’d worked with this buyer’s agent before and he trusted her, and that we didn’t want to delay too long with accepting it because buyers were pretty fickle in this market.

My husband finally spoke with him (after reviewing the entire offer). He asked him why the due diligence period (when all appraisals, inspections and repairs had to be complete) was as late as a week prior to closing and requested this be shortened. Mike said 30 days was about normal, but, he’d see if he could get it pushed back a week (from October 10th to October 3rd; closing was set for October 17th) and he’d let us know. We’d also not seen proof of the buyer’s prequalification; he assured us the other agent had it and would fax it to him later that day. This phone call was around 9 or 9:30 that same morning. We told Mike to tell the other agent they had our verbal acceptance, even though, as it turns out, the buyers had given until 5:00 the NEXT DAY to respond.

From the point until closing was, if possible, even more of goat rope. Given how sloppy everything was handled, we’re actually surprised the house closed on time.

Mike assured my husband that any repair requests from the inspection would have to be things that were not functional. Instead, we received a long list of items, many of which were cosmetic and some bordered on the inane, indicating to us that Mike never even looked at it/discussed it with the buyer’s agent. Additionally, Mike did not follow up with us regarding the due diligence period. In fact, the last we ever heard from Mike (with the exception of a note with yet another of his business card magnets) was the evening of the day we received the offer. Regan & Co. never seems to have more than 15 listings and there are now at least five agents plus Mike. They don’t do any real marketing of their listings, choosing to work instead by smoozing other agents. So, we’re not entirely sure WHY Mike never had time to follow up with us/see how we were doing. His motto appears to be, “I’m never too busy for your referrals”. Yes, because he drops his existing customers like a ball of lead once they sign, so, he’s got all the time in the world for potential customers.

"I am never to busy for your referrals! However, I am too busy for YOU".

As closing drew near, we were asked for information that we’d already provided. We received forms that had to be signed in front of a notary and sent back on the THURSDAY before the Monday closing, which meant we had to pay almost $40 in FedX fees to ensure it got there in time (and then no one was around to accept delivery; we got a call from the closing coordinator, Jim Ellis, on Monday, as in closing day Monday, telling us it hadn’t been delivered. Luckily, it was later that morning).

In summary, the bottom line is this. We’d be hard pressed to recommend Regan & Co. It started out ok, but, in the end, it felt like the proverbial bait and switch situation. Plainly stated, the house sold itself; Regan & Co. had little to do with that. They gave almost zero consideration to how we were handling this difficult circumstance of both losing a considerable amount of money AND dealing with a real estate transaction from another state. We also believe that certain information was deliberately withheld and that we were pressured into accepting the first offer we received so that Regan & Co. could advertise that they sold our house in six days. After the offer was accepted to the point when we closed, it was just one thing after another that led us to be completely dissatisfied with Regan & Co. in general and Mike Regan in particular.

The Good:

Initial meeting, although painful, was informative and productive. Decent data was provided to assist us in determining the appropriate price point.

The photographer did an excellent job with the pictures for the flyer/MLS.

The closing coordinator, Jim Ellis, was mostly helpful.

The Bad

All possible options regarding listing/sale were not discussed/disclosed.

The stagers were a total waste of money; it should have been more than apparent they were not required in our situation.

Regan & Co. did not go over the listing agreement/all charges with us nor did they provide us a copy of the agreement once they found out we couldn’t print it.

There were ridiculous fees. $395 for “Closing Assurance” my foot! Given what happened later in the process, this is an oxymoron if I’ve ever seen one. WE should have been paid this as a mental health fee for all the headaches they caused us.

Negligible at best interaction with our agent Mike Regan; we were in essence delegated to his (ever changing) flunkies pretty much from the get-go.

No genuine concern for our concerns; we were made to feel as though we were being unreasonable.

Mike Regan was far more concerned about being able to slap a “Sold in Six Days” sign on our house than he was about our concerns and our best interests; in fact, after that sign was put up, we never heard from him again.

A sloppy, careless and slapdash approach to just about anything related to transactions, documents and follow-up.


Mr. B said...

Very good summary.

Hopefully anyone considering using this firm will read this and think twice!!!

Analee said...

i hope you are also posting this on citysearch and putting reviews on every possible search engine possible. when i seek a service, i ALWAYS read reviews and if there was one like that, i would look elsewhere.

Mrs. B said...

I fully intend on it, Analee. I'm a firm believer in providing feedback; positive and negative/constructive.