When It Comes to Money, Don’t Play Nice

February 27th, 2007.

Americans crack me up.

When it comes to making small purchases, they have no problem searching for the best possible price. They compare tags in department stores, scour ebay for hours, and drill information from their friends and family. You can find them inflexibly haggling in a furniture store over the sticker price on a couch or confidently showing the representatives at Best Buy an ad from the computer place down the street when buying a computer. Very rarely do you see an American blush when presenting a card that gives him 10% off of a $6.00 purchase. Nowhere do you hear about people paying double the price of a new television set because the saleslady was once a single Mom. Americans love a bargain and come hell or high water, they’re going to do their best to get one….

….Unless, of course, they are making a major financial purchase such as a house or a vehicle. Then they close their eyes tight, hold out their hands, and allow the smarmy guy in the suit to lead them like lambs to the slaughter.

It’s ironic, no?

You have millions of people who will bust your chops for paying an extra $20 for a cell phone, but when it comes time to purchase a home they’ll overpay by thousands because they didn’t feel comfortable asking for a reduction from Mr. Nice Seller. Two years later and you’ll find them facing foreclosure while Mr. Nice Seller laughs his way to the bank.

Buying real estate is a tricky business and if you lack the gumption to stand unflinchingly by your offer, then just give up now and resign yourself to a life of renting. Because you will never, ever, in the entire history of your life, come in contact with more people personally invested in screwing you over than you will when you attempt to buy a piece of property.

The seller will attempt to screw you for obvious reasons. The seller’s real estate agent is getting paid to help the seller screw you. Your real estate agent will gleefully screw you as well because his commission increases as you spend more. The finance guy will try to screw you harder than anyone and when he fucks you over, it can last for 30 years. On top of that, all of these people feel comfortable dicking you around because it’s not like they can expect you in the ‘store’ next month looking for something new. They know they’ve got one shot at you and they intend to make the most of it.

It’s it ridiculously naïve to claim conspiracy when a grocery story jacks up the price on milk only to turn around pretend that everyone is going to play nice and fair when it comes time to discuss that cute little house right across the street from the elementary school.

Don’t be dense people. No one who profits with every hundred thousand dollars you spend is looking out for your best interest. On the contrary, they are actively preying on your emotions and good will in order to convince you to make a financial blunder that could be detrimental to your entire family.

Want an example?

When my husband I bought our first property, we made almost every rookie mistake that one could possibly make when getting into the business. We knew how much we needed to buy the property for, but we let our realtor talk us into offering more because he ‘heard that the guy was entertaining another offer.’ Quickly, we re-calculated our budget to see if we could afford to spend an extra few thousand. We found that we could….if our life continued to resemble a Best Case Scenario.

We should have walked away right then and there, but we were young and optimistic so we kept going.

On top of that, we foolishly decided to coordinate the day we closed on the paperwork with the day we moved out of our apartment. We had a romantic vision of packing up a U-haul, dropping off our keys to our landlord, meeting the notary to sign the papers, and then moving into our brand new house all on the same day. If that wasn’t colossally stupid enough, we cheerfully mentioned our plan to the finance guy. He played it real cool, but I imagine that sneaky fucker saw dollar signs.

The day of closing came and our plan was in motion. We spent the entire morning packing and had managed to move completely out of our apartment by 2:00pm. We dropped off our keys to our landlord and had an hour to kill, so we sat down for lunch. Directly after lunch, as we were in the car driving to the meeting place to close on our new house, my husband’s cell phone rang. It was our finance guy who very apologetically informed us that the interest rate he initially quoted us had increased. Turns out, the paperwork that we were on our way to sign sported an interest rate a full percent higher than we thought.

One percent doesn’t sound like much until you do the math. Depending on the price of the house, 1% interest can tack $100+ onto your monthly mortgage payment. So if you already made the mistake of calculating your budget using the Best Case Scenario because you got talked into paying too much for the property in the first place….well, let’s just say that extra 1% interest very thoroughly throws your budget out the window.

Still, that finance guy had us over a barrel. He knew full well that we had just moved out of our apartment and if we didn’t sign these papers, we would render ourselves homeless. He also knew that most of our family lived out of state; therefore, we had nowhere to crash while we searched for alternative financing. We couldn’t even rent another apartment without taking ourselves out of the game for an entire year while we waited to satisfy the terms of another lease. To really drive his point home, the finance guy mentioned that he spoke to our realtor who informed him that our deal had a clause stating if we didn’t close in the next few days, the house would be put back on the market. If we didn’t sign these papers, we’d end up homeless for a good six weeks and may even lose the house altogether. If we didn’t sign these papers, we’d be royally fucked.

What our finance guy did to us was so brilliantly evil that I couldn’t even be mad at the chump. He probably assumed we’d let our fear get the better of us and sign the papers despite the increase.

Instead, I said, “I’d rather be royally fucked for a couple of months than be royally fucked for the next 30 years.” Then, I hung up on him.

That day I learned that there is a time and place to play nice. I play nice with my family. I play nice with my friends. Hell, I sometimes even play nice with polite company. But when the time comes for me to make a financial decision that is detrimental to the wellbeing of myself and my family, then no. I don’t play nice.

I play to win.

*What happened after I hung up on the finance guy, looked at my husband, and announced, “Looks like we’re homeless!” is a story I tell here.

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