Tuesday, September 27, 2011

CONSTRUCTION: Hammurabi's real estate code

The ancient Babylonian Code of Hammurabi included some stiff penalties for builders of unsound homes:
  • If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death; and
  • If it ruins goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.
Oh there's more, but it gets a little morbid. Too much death for me!
But where are the Realtors mentioned? Have we always been a self-governing body of good talkers? I'm certain that as long as people have roamed the earth, middlemen and "middle-women" have existed.
I'm guessing the ANAR (Ancient National Association of Realtors) must have hosted some really great parties for Hammurabi and his wives. I'm thinking wine, flatbread, something stuffed with mint ... oh, and belly dancers -- lots of belly dancers. And thank goodness! What else would you expect for your 10 sheaves-of-wheat dues?
But just think ... what if we had been included in the code?
Picture this: You're at the signing. You've got your client's sandal in one hand and a hammer in the other and you're just about ready to nail that size 11 footwear to his new door post ... when that pesky title officer notices that you've failed to procure the buyer's signature on page six of the inspection report. Bah! You hang.
I think we'd be a mite more particular about those paper trails, hmm? That final disclaimer
stating that the buyer has accepted the seller's ingenious electrical wiring mashup in the garage area would be right at the very top of our files, in triplicate.
Buyer unable to attend the inspection? Better get that in writing. Buyer understands that the home is built on a natural spring? Let's take pictures.
But, we didn't make the code. And sadly, we as a group are lesser for it.
Sometimes those last-minute "get it in writing" jobs are just a headache. And then there are those times when the buyer and seller are so close but can't seem to agree on who gets to keep the curtain rods.
Maybe if we just, y'know, told the seller that it wasn't such a big deal? After all, the buyer's agent works in our office and she knows they don't matter, and we know they don't matter -- let's just get this deal done!
Ah, my friends, these situations are the downfall of our industry. The smallest of secrets revealed; the last document you thought you'd ever need; the idiot sentences we utter in a dull moment; these are the moments when we chip away at our own gold standard.
Being a Realtor should be hard work. An exacting profession -- daunting even! And certainly not for the faint of heart. We pay a lot of good money for "protection" that we shouldn't need. Well, that's in a perfect world.
In the real world, we should dot every "i" as if our own eye depends upon it.
Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer's broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.

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