How does your Austin lawn look in the 100+ degree drought?

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on July 4, 2009 · 20 comments

We just had 12 16 days of 100+ degree heat in June 2009 in Austin, and we’re in the middle of a severe drought. As I drive around, showing and previewing homes in Austin, I see a lot of brown lawns. Even well watered lawns are suffering with brown spots, fungus, sun burn, thatching, grub worms, etc. This is just how it goes in a hot Austin summer. Most people know and understand this.

So imagine the shock and surprise that Sylvia and I recently experienced when the lawn shown in the slide show below, from one of our recent listings, was declared to be “dead” in numerous spots by an ultra picky buyer who, along with assistance from their Realtor, successfully extracted $650 from me and Sylvia under the threat that our seller would be sued otherwise. The amount demanded was purportedly so they could replace a pallet and a half of what they claimed was “dead” grass. The slideshow below was taken the morning of closing. You be the judge as to the condition of the yard being delivered to the buyers on closing day. If you just bought this home and drove up to move in on a 100 degree day, would you be upset and would you threaten to sue the seller for neglecting the yard?

(Original Slideshow removed upon request. Remaining photos show only the worst areas of the lawn but not the actual home

A pallet of grass covers 400 square feet of lawn, so a pallet and a half is 600 square feet of dead grass that you’d need to observe in these photos in order to agree with the amount of grass in question. That would be roughly ten 6ftx10ft areas of “dead grass”, or six 10ftx10ft areas ( 6 bedroom size areas). Do you see 600 sqft of grass that’s even brown in color, much less dead?

Yes there are some brown areas, but they are not dead. No competent landscaper would claim that this yard suffers from 600 square feet of dead grass. Yet the buyer’s and their agent were able to obtain two bids from landscapers for about $650 each for the replacement of 600 square feet of dead grass. I’m wondering if either of the landscapers actually visited the property. I showed my landscaper these photos and he laughed out loud and said “I wish half my yards looked that good”. Unequivocally he said he would not recommend replacement of any of this yard, that it was all normal for what he is seeing all over Austin and that they are fighting this battle on most of the yards they service.

Why didn’t we just say “no thanks, the grass looks fine and normal. It looks in fact exactly like the other yards in the neighborhood, if not better”.

Well, we did. But the agent and his buyers were relentless, refusing to accept a “meet you halfway” offer of $300. Then refusing an increased amount of $500, even though they had at first provided a bid for $487 (which they later said was a mistake).

Two days prior to closing the agent informed me that the buyers had in fact been in contact with an attorney and were considering their options and would in fact proceed with closing if they don’t get paid but would sue the seller afterward if their demands of a free mowing and $650 were not met.

Our seller, in California, had already signed and mailed back the closing papers, though he knew the buyers had been making a fuss over the yard.

This presented a difficult situation for me and Sylvia. Do we succumb to the ridiculous demands of this agent and his buyers, just to keep the deal moving and protect our seller from having it fall apart, or possibly being sued? Or do we stand on principle and politely refuse.

The latter did not work so Sylvia and I agreed to credit the buyer $650 from our commission at closing.

This is the sort of thing that makes our occupation very frustrating at times. Dealing with unreasonable people, unreasonable agents and unreasonable demands. But sometimes one has to accept unreasonable circumstances and just move forward. It would have been untenable and unacceptable, from our perspective, to drag the seller into a situation like this, from out of state, possibly killing the sale, delaying the closing, or creating legal problems.

So we simply promised the seller we would handle it and not to worry. Then we ultimately made sure the buyers got what they wanted so the matter would be settled. The deal is done, the seller has his funds, and from his standpoint, it’s over.

So what next? Just forget about it and move on, or do we hold the other Realtor accountable for the violations of the Realtor Code of Ethics that he committed? For his incompetence in managing his clients. For his dishonestly and incompetence in falsely representing over 600 square feet of the yard to be dead when in fact there isn’t even 600 square feet of brown area that could be measured. For his failure to ensure that all parties are treated fairly, no matter who he represents. These are requirements of all Realtors in accordance with our Realtor Code of Ethics.

I’m still thinking about it.

Oh, and are you interested in seeing the yard 2 days before closing, prior to being mowed, that the agent claimed was so grossly overgrown that it represented a violation of the HOA rules? (another dishonest and incompetent misrepresentation of fact by the agent)

These were taken with my iPhone so you’ll unfortunately see my finger in some of them. If this was your neighbor’s yard, would you report them to the HOA for neglecting to mow and water? If this was your new home, closing in two days, would you be threatening lawsuit?

Behold! … a yard worthy of HOA violation letter and lawsuit.
(Original Slideshow removed upon request. Remaining photos show only the worst areas of the lawn but not the actual home

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