A Primer: How Not To Become a New Mammoth Second-Homeowner
This little story is fiction, but if my readers want to believe it is true, so be it.
One of my life lessons (and God knows I need them) is that there are two sides to every story, and many times three or four. Having been a public official for both Mammoth Lakes and Mono County, one who has had to make decisions, has helped me learn. Formal mediation training that ultimately got applied to more than a couple decades of everyday real estate business has helped too. But like most people I still catch myself not getting both sides of the story (who has the time sometimes?). So onto the story.
This last week I was dragged into a small conflict by a brand new second-homeowner in Mammoth. I’ve seen this pattern of behavior before. My company wasn’t involved in his purchase at all (thank you). But before Mr. New Mammoth Homeowner (NMH) closed on his transaction, he did rent a property my company had listed for sale. He had struck a nightly rental deal directly with the owner for the holidays. Things didn’t work out perfectly and a dispute arose over a refund of several hundred dollars. Ultimately, both parties had their point of view and the owner (our client) refused to refund the money. Lacking satisfaction, soon-to-be NMH decided to find blame somewhere else, which in this case was the agent in my office who had the listing, and me the broker.
Soon enough came demands from NMH for payment from us as well as accusations of wrongdoing. And you guessed it, Mr. NMH is an attorney and he certainly lets you know it. But the agent said no to his demands. And that’s where I get dragged into it. Now he wants me to write the check and insists upon its immediate “delivery”–––first via mail to his home, then his office, and then to his new home here in Mammoth. Now I didn’t go to law school, but he (the plaintiff?) seems to think he gets to play judge and jury too, and of course he’s already proven himself right, damaged, and has awarded himself a judgment. He even tells me I’m “stupid” because I can’t see clearly why I need to write him a check immediately. But then he starts telling me all the other things he’s going to do if I don’t get to cutting this check muy pronto–––he’s going to sue me, the agent, and the owner, he’s also going to file complaints with the Department of Real Estate and the local Board (yawn), and he’s going to put ads in the local paper telling the world how incompetent I am. Furthermore, (and this one really hurts), he’s not going to refer me to “all of his friends that are planning to buy in Mammoth.”
A little research reveals to me that NMH bought (closed) one of those homes that I warn all of you about. But of course, that is just my incompetence and inexperience shining through. And well, sometimes I just can’t help myself when people threaten me. So I email NMH about his purchase (after all he’s the one who started emailing me with his demands and legal positions). He gets very defensive about his purchase, and clearly, he’s brilliant in his mind and has made a cunning purchase. But letting him second guess himself after spending a million bucks is always fun. And then I forget about him for a day or two. Then I get another demand via email––he expects a check from me at his house when he arrives in Mammoth or else he’s going to stop in Independence on his way up and get the lawsuit going. (He doesn’t even know what county his new acquisition is in.) Well, like I said, I just can’t help my self, and now I really have something to get off my chest. So I email him, “People (like you) that come into a small community and threaten, and attempt to extort long time residents over petty and frivolous matters typically end up having BIG problems. Maybe you should consider installing a video surveillance system inside, outside, and all around your new home.”
I know I’m stupid. I’m trying to make this guy have sleepless nights when in fact he probably doesn’t sleep anyway. But here’s the message I’m trying to send him (and I’ve seen this movie before); if he thinks he’s going to come into this town and start using his fast tongue and his knowledge of the law to intimidate and grind people AND own a second home here, he should think again. I’m basically trying to let him know that the people of Mammoth aren’t going to be the patsies at his poker table. But no, he immediately calls me to tell me he is calling the police because I’ve “thrown bricks through his windows” already. Oh, dear Lord.
So here’s the skinny. If you own a second home, Guess what?, you’re not there all the time. (In NMH’s case he is 400 miles away.) You are going to rely on lots of strangers providing service to your home, especially if you’re the “high maintenance” type. And if you grind, threaten, accuse (and you talk like an attorney on steroids), you’re not likely to get very good service, if at all. Word travels fast in a small town.
I can see his snow removal operator being asked to repair the scratches in his driveway, the spa service being sued for hospital bills because they put too much chemical in his spa, the housekeepers will be accused of stealing everything (lock up the scotch!), and God knows the new carpet won’t be laid “perfectly.” The multitude of future servicemen that are likely––appliances, heating, cable, telephone, windows, garage door, and on and on are all destined for accusation and intimidation. Just ask me. I’ll even wager he (or his wife) will need a tow truck to pull them out of a snowbank sooner than later and that poor driver will be blamed for the dents. So, the more I think about it, I really wouldn’t recommend anybody do any service in his house until he does in fact install that video surveillance––you’ll need the proof you didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t ever blame me for not warning you.
I did recommend that to NMH that all of this belonged in Small Claims Court. But because he thinks I’m so ignorant, he impressed upon me that I better personally call my company’s client about the dispute, and then I would see how right he was and why his check should be at the house upon his arrival. So I followed through. (We have sold and closed this client’s home in the last three weeks––there is real estate selling in Mammoth, and that is not fiction.) Our client’s story to me was exactly how it was presented to me originally by his agent (in writing). Somehow, after hearing his side of the story, directly from him, I got a good idea of where the problem might lay. But he told me to “just ignore him” (NMH). All real estate agents need to learn to follow the instructions of their clients. So look in future issues of the local papers for some scathing comments about me, the ignoramus. But then again, he’ll have to identify himself if he does. And if he does sue, well that’s public information too. I’m sure I’ll be following up. Maybe I’ll post some photos of his surveillance cameras on the outside of his house.
So congratulations Mr. New Mammoth Homeowner on your acquisition here in Mammoth. Hopefully it all works out for you and provides you and your family years of enjoyment. But do us all a favor, leave your job stress and hubris somewhere in the desert, preferably buried deeply in the sand. And I’ll try to remember what my mom says about giving advice; wise men don’t need it, and fools won’t heed it.