Manage the Process


Every home sale holds its own set of unique trials. For my wife Teresa and me the trial occurred when the buyer’s home inspector came around to perform his inspection. He spent an inordinate amount of time. We soon understood why. Two afternoons later we received a seventeen-page letter from the buyer’s attorney outlining over forty items to be repaired or replaced. Fix these items or the sale is off.

I read the list of items and as I read I began thinking immediately of the motivation behind the letter. To me it was simply a ploy to get a lower sales price. The list was so long and detailed, seemingly impossible to fulfill, and packed with things that no reasonable buyer would expect to have changed or “repaired”, that I focused quickly and solely on how much ransom the buyer intended to hold us for: $30,000? $40,000? More? Within minutes of getting through all seventeen pages, I saw the obvious answer: no dice! We would instruct our attorney to tell the buyer that he could take the house as is at the agreed price or walk away. It was a great house. Someone else more reasonable would buy it at our price.

Teresa listened quietly to my reasoning that we should stand firm. Later that evening she came back to me holding the letter.

“I think we can do all this,” she said

She asked me to hold off a day in responding. She wanted 24 hours to talk to the staff at the local hardware store, visit Home Depot, and call a few contractors who had done work for us in the past. The next evening she informed me that within ten days or so, with both of us pitching in a bit, and some small assistance from a contractor or two, we would be able to complete the list of items. At what cost, I asked. Her answer: “Three to four thousand.”

My attorney informed the buyer that everything would be perfect, and it soon was. I was not there, but our real estate agent told us that the buyer went over and over the list during his pre-closing walk-through, spending an extra hour looking unsuccessfully for some flaw he could claim was not repaired. We closed later that day at our full price.

What Teresa had done, and what I had failed to do, was to see the seventeen-page letter for what it was: one piece of the home sale process. She saw the whole process, understood it, and managed it accordingly. On the other hand I allowed myself to be distracted, seeing motivations and strategies, real or imagined, and rushed to contemplate potential outcomes.

Our work and our lives place us squarely in the midst of the great and small processes all around us. The more we see and comprehend these processes and focus on how they work and function, the less likely we are to be blown off course by distractions, and the better we become at managing our own lives.