Coming soon: Problems for buyers and sellers

Friday, April 5, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 14

The spring market is approaching, and it has a tough act to follow after the first quarter blew the lid off local residential sales.

A trend of late is for Realtors to place “coming soon” sign in the yards of houses that will soon be market ready. The signage is now requested by homeowners who have seen similar signs around town, is causing great debate among Realtors, who are bound by a rather strict code of ethics.

The issue raised is that the Realtor controls the listing and can decide when “soon” is, a Bill Clintonesque interpretation that depends how you define “soon.” Many times a homeowner is presented with a list of repairs or renovations to be completed prior to the listing the property. Following the “coming soon” program, sellers want the home to be noticed by those driving past as they could be the future buyers.

The rub lies in the code of ethics that requires all Realtors to provide a level playing field to all other Realtors.

Suppose a “coming soon” sign appears on a listing of Marvin Monroe located on Hollywood Boulevard, and Realtor Bela Karloff calls Monroe and says his client is interested and would like to see the property. Marvin says the house doesn’t premiere until April 15, as it is coming soon, not yet on the market.

Then, Karloff’s client himself calls Monroe and inquires about the listing. Monroe invites the caller to come on over immediately and sells him the house without Karloff’s involvement. In that example, Karloff and other code-abiding, well-meaning Realtors who had asked to see the property, as well as their clients, are screwed.

Another situation could occur when Monroe means well, but another player steals the scene. Monroe places the coming soon sign, and Peyton Wallach presents an offer for asking price with a 24 hour deadline, sight unseen. The Tennessee statute requires that Monroe present all offers in a timely manner, with time of the essence included in the boilerplate language of most offers. So Monroe presents the offer and it is accepted. It is sold before it arrived on the market.

In both cases, it appears the homeowner wins, inasmuch as he received the listing price for his house. That might not be the case, however.

Suppose Monroe, who played the unscrupulous role in the first act, mispriced the house at less than market value for a quick sale. Perhaps the property would have received multiple offers for considerably above asking price if it had hit the market. One recent property in Brentwood listed for $410,000 and sold for $505,000.

Or in the case of the Monroe’s transaction with Wallach, if the buyer felt he paid too much and walked after inspection. Then the listing is stale.

If the sign says coming soon, it should.

Sale of the Week

The home at 4535 Wayland was owned by Tennessee Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon and closed for $1,338,500, or about one third of his annual salary, according The Cape Cod home is covered by mature trees on a 1.140-acre lot in Forest Hills.

Witherspoon picked off the home in 2010 for $1,325,000, just a pooch kick more than his signing bonus. The home has two bedrooms down and two up. With five full bathrooms, two up and two down, and a nickel bath thrown in over the garage for passing situations.

The kitchen is equipped to feed a defensive line with a Dacor cooktop and elegant finishes, according to the tandem of Trudy Byrd and Rita Puryear, the listing agents who play for Fridrich and Clark Realty.

With these two seasoned veterans, there was no chance of fumbling the transaction. Trudy’s husband who also goes by Will, is about Witherspoon’s size and played for Vanderbilt when they were about as good as the Titans were last year.

That doesn’t give away Will Byrd’s age by any means, as that could have been almost any time in the past 100 years. But, happily, both teams are on the upswing now.

The screened porch at Wayland overlooks a flat backyard that could accommodate a practice field, while the vegetated canopy allows an environment similar to a domed stadium. The refrigerator, no relation to Perry, remains, as did the tankless water heater. The house was listed at $1,475,000 for 67 days before selling for $1,338,500 after several buyers passed on opening day. The buyer was not represented by an agent in MLS, perhaps representing himself. I doubt Witherspoon will do the same.

Listing of the Week

The listing of the week involves yet another Witherspoon, Nashville’s own Reese Witherspoon. This property is listed by Vicky Marchetti, daughter of Gino Marchetti, who is part of the cast at Fridrich and Clark Realty.

This listing was owned by John Witherspoon, father of Reese, asnd was a set on which Reese honed her acting skills, starring in the role of a young Nashville child growing often walking the line between Woodmont Boulevard and Harpeth Hall. It is likely that it was there that she first learned of the man in the moon.

Like so much of the property in the area, the land under the home is valued more than the structure. The property is zoned to allow for three single-family homes or four attached home, possibly becoming its own little Pleasantville. If an attorney with Elle Wood’s acumen and zeal took the case before zoning, it could be even more.

Richard Courtney is a partner with Christianson, Patterson, Courtney and Associates and can be reached at