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How The Steeles Restored A Teacher's Faith In Real Estate Agents

Denise Paquin had sworn off real estate agents. The teacher had had several disappointing relationships with agents, and she’d finally decided to take on navigating the homebuying process by herself.

In December 2015, Denise was eyeing an opportunity: an off-market, under-construction property that was owned by an investor who’d offered her a deal if they could work together. The La Mesa house was on a quiet street in the perfect neighborhood. Once construction ended, it would have everything Denise and her partner wanted, including space for a chicken coop in the back.

That’s when Denise met John and Melissa Steele. They started talking at an open house, and the Steeles offered to serve as a resource while Denise explored buying the La Mesa property. They could answer her questions, even if she decided not to hire them as her realtors.

Denise told the Steeles that the owner of the house -- who was already the investor and contractor on the property -- was also acting as its listing agent and wanted to represent Denise as the buyer too.

The Steeles warned Denise that such an arrangement could put her at risk. While she had done hours of research, she’d never bought an under-construction property before, and she couldn’t be sure if everything had been done correctly. What incentive did the seller have to keep her interests in mind?

Related: In The Era of Zillow and Redfin, Are Real Estate Agents Still Relevant?

Soon, the investor was putting pressure on Denise to accept a deal on the house. So, she hired the Steele team.

The property was listed at $415,000, and the Steeles advised Denise to offer $400,000 as soon as the home hit the market. The same amount that the investor was willing to sell it to her when representing both sides. The investor accepted.

During escrow and while conducting inspections, the Steeles helped Denise find issues with the construction, including an unsecured structrual beam in the attic and a shower without working hot water -- issues Denise may not have discovered on her own or that the seller/ listing agent may have tried to downplay. The Steeles delayed escrow and negotiated repairs while the seller was Australia.

A few days later, after the seller/ agent said the repairs were complete. The Steeles advised getting another walk-through inspection.

It was the right call: Neither of the problems had been fixed. Finally the investor made the promised repairs, the sale closed, and Denise and Jen moved in.

They’re delighted with their new home, Denise said, but they’re already thinking about selling and buying a house with the Steeles again. The team had looked out for her best interests. Other real estate agents had never done this for her before.

Denise’s opinion about the Steeles was confirmed when their helpfulness went well beyond closing the sale. As move-in day approached, she asked the Steeles to recommend a place to buy a refrigerator. The Steeles called a friend who was in the middle of a remodel, collected the fridge he was replacing, and gave it to Denise and Jen as a closing gift.

“I have worked with a half dozen other realtors, but none exceed their unique combination of talents, honesty, integrity, kindness, persistence and generosity,” Denise said. “(John and Melissa) worked long hours, diligently attending to every detail to keep us informed of all the options at each step of the way.”

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