Buying a Home - "And Then There Were None"
Considering buying a home? Today's residential real estate markets are more often than not highly competitive with few exceptions. You can trade a car in, or take a Smart TV back and exchange, get a refund, trade; basically find a way to improve your end result. Buying a house is much different with devastating consequences if you're not careful.
Agatha Christie's famous best-seller (over 100 million copies sold) "And Then There Were None" comes to mind.
For your reading pleasure, ten people are lured into coming to an island under different pretexts, e.g. offers of employment or to enjoy a late summer holiday or meet with old friends. All have been complicit in the death(s) of other human beings but either escaped justice or committed an act that was not subject to legal sanction. The guests are charged with their respective "crimes" by a gramophone recording after dinner the first night and informed that they have been brought to the island to pay for their actions. They are the only people on the island, and cannot escape due to the distance from the mainland and the inclement weather, yet gradually all ten are killed in turn, in a manner that seems to parallel the ten deaths in the nursery rhyme. Nobody else seems to be left alive on the island by the time of the apparent last death. A confession, in the form of a postscript to the novel, unveils how the killings took place and who was responsible.
Dark Analogies of Guest's Demise and Real Estate Deals:
1. Anthony James Marston killed two young children (John and Lucy Combes) while driving recklessly, for which he felt no real remorse nor did he accept any personal responsibility, complaining only that his driving licence had been suspended as a result. He was the first island victim, poisoned with potassium cyanide slipped into his drink while the guests listened to the gramophone recording. His amorality makes him the first victim.
- This is like the buyer who didn't protect his credit (driving recklessly) at first perhaps pre-approved, but then upon a successful offer, went wild celebrating, buying on credit, lowering his credit score and before closing was told he was no longer qualified.
Before, during and after, buyers need to carefully do this with their credit.
2. Mrs Ethel Rogers, the cook/housekeeper and Thomas Rogers' wife, described as a pale and ghost-like woman who walks in mortal fear. She was dominated by her bullying husband, who withheld the medicine of their former employer (an elderly spinster, Miss Jennifer Brady) to collect an inheritance they knew she had left them in her will. Mrs Rogers was haunted by the crime for the rest of her life, and was Owen's second victim, dying in her sleep peacefully from an overdose of chloral hydrate in her brandy.
- Mrs Rogers is like the buyer who decided to withhold pertinent information about taxes or income, or chose to outright lie on a mortgage application, constituting mortgage fraud and also costing the successful purchase of a home.
3. General John Gordon Macarthur, a retired World War I war hero, who sent his late wife's lover (a younger officer, Arthur Richmond) to his death by assigning him to a mission where it was practically guaranteed he would not survive. Leslie Macarthur had mistakenly put the wrong letters in the envelopes on one occasion when she wrote to both men at the same time. The general fatalistically accepts that no one will leave the island alive, which he tells Vera Claythorne. Shortly thereafter, he is bludgeoned while sitting along the shore.
- General Macarthur is like an investor buyer, buying a home under the pretense of being an "owner-occupant" but who's true goal is to use the property for investment purposes as in a rental, cheating the mortgage lender to avoid slightly higher interest. His wife Leslie's actions would be likened to incompetent real estate agent who improperly discloses and a mortgage officer unexpectedly discovers the deception, legal actions are pursued.
4. Thomas Rogers, the butler and Ethel Rogers' husband. He dominated his weak-willed wife and they killed their former elderly employer by withholding her medicine, causing the woman to die from heart failure and inheriting the money she bequeathed them in her will. He was killed when bludgeoned with an axe as he cut firewood in the woodshed.
- Also a matter of deception, this "buyer" tried to hide the origin of the down payment, which is often later discovered, resulting in a collapse of the purchase.
5. Emily Caroline Brent, a rigid, repressed elderly spinster holding harsh moralistic principles. She accepted the vacation on Soldier Island largely due to financial constraints. Years earlier, she had dismissed her young maid, Beatrice Taylor, for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Beatrice, who had already been rejected by her parents for the same reason, drowned herself in a river, which Miss Brent considered an even worse sin. She refuses to discuss the matter with the gentlemen, but later confides what happened to Vera Claythorne, who tells the others shortly before Miss Brent is found dead herself.
Having been sedated with chloral hydrate in her coffee, leaving her disoriented, she was left alone in the kitchen and injected in the neck with potassium cyanide with one of Dr Armstrong's hypodermic syringes (the "bee sting"). Right before her own murder, due to the chloral hydrate she has ingested, she has a lurid daydream about Beatrice and imagines hearing the girl's footsteps (they are actually the footsteps of the murderer).
- Poor Emily, she would be the buyer that asked too much of the seller, demanding perfection and making unreasonable demands. No house is perfect, though a house may have perfect potential. The art of negotiation, and letting a pro negotiate after forming reasonable expectations would have served her well, but instead cost her the home. If you're buying a home, keep in mind, if you call the listing agent (the name and number on the sign) you're speaking to the agent who promised to net the most money for the seller; use a professional buyers agent with a great reputation for protecting buyer's best interests and client satisfaction.
Buying or selling, look for these traits for obtaining a good Realtor.
6. Dr Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street doctor, responsible for the death of a patient, Louisa Mary Clees, after he operated on her while drunk, many years earlier. Armstrong trusts Wargrave, and helps the judge fake his death. Later, while rendezvousing with the judge on a rocky cliff, is pushed into the sea and drowns. His body goes missing for a while, leading the others to believe he is the killer, but his corpse washes ashore expeditiously at the end of the novel, leading to the climax.
- Poor Dr Armstrong, operating on his patient while drunk, is like the buyer who doesn't have his ducks in a row, intoxicated with dreams of home ownership, ears deaf to guidance from a good Realtor and mortgage loan officer, convinced in the moment of his own prowess, while listening to a "Judge Wargrave", perhaps a friend or neighbor that knows very little about the large topic of real estate and in the end the deal takes a fatal fall over the cliff. Work with a good, reputable Realtor and mortgage loan officer.
7. William Henry Blore, a former police inspector and now a private investigator, accused of falsifying his testimony in court for a bribe from a dangerous criminal gang, which resulted in an innocent man, James Landor, being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.Landor, who had a wife and young child, died in prison. Blore and a drunken old salt are travelling on the same train carriage at the beginning of the novel. The old sailor leaves the train before Blore, and accurately predicts a coming storm, adding that the day of judgement is close at hand. The comment is dismissed by Blore but will later prove prophetic. Using the alias "Davis" and claiming to have arrived from South Africa, as he was instructed to do by Isaac Morris, who hired him for "security" work, he is confronted about his true name which was revealed on the gramophone recording, and acknowledges his true identity. He denies the accusation against him from the gramophone recording but later privately admits the truth to Lombard. His skull was crushed by a bear-shaped clock dropped from Vera's bedroom window onto the terrace below.
- Landor's example is a perfect analogy of mortgage fraud victim, with Issac Morris being a "straw" buyer in cahoots with charlatan, William Henry Blore. Again, these deal falls through and at least one fraudster got a comeuppance.
Again, don't be a victim, know the red flags of mortgage fraud, buying or refinancing, look twice.
8. Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver, as suggested by Isaac Morris. Lombard is accused of causing the deaths of a number of East African tribesmen, after stealing their food and leaving them to starve. He, along with Marston, are the only guests to openly and immediately confirm that the accusations against them are true; neither feels remorse. Lombard fulfilled the ninth referenced verse of the rhyme, shot to death on the beach by Vera, who believed him to be the murderer. Of all the "guests" he is the only one to theorize that "U.N. Owen" might be Wargrave, but the others reject this and it does him no good. Lombard died in a standoff with Vera, both -- despite their cool, calculating, efficient natures -- overlooking in their panic (at discovering Armstrong's body) that neither of them could have killed Blore.
- Phillip and Vera die in a standoff, guided by misinformation and hidden information, despite the fact that one of the dead in this scenario (Phillip) had actually come clean about his situation, and his guilty past much like bad credit history. This brings lease purchase and land contracts to mind. These transactions can be dangerous if not devastating due to two factors;
First, bad credit history which our analogical Philip "came clean" about, wanting to buy a home. Secondly, the "seller" had something to hide. It's not all that uncommon for a lease purchase, land contract seller to hide the fact their facing foreclosure while accepting your down payment and monthly payments at typically higher interest rates. The seller often knows full well what's going to happen and planned the crime from the beginning.
Learn more about the dangers of lease purchase and land contracts.
You need a morbid sense of real estate humor for this next;
9. Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a cool, efficient, resourceful former governess who has taken mostly summer secretarial jobs since her last job as a governess ended in the death of her charge, Cyril Hamilton, whom she intentionally allowed to swim out to sea – as the child had wanted to do but had theretofore been denied as too dangerous – and drown. She did this so her lover, Cyril's uncle Hugo Hamilton, could become the family heir, inherit the estate and marry her, which had been their original plan before Cyril's birth changed things. She swam out to sea to "save" Cyril to make it seem he had disobeyed her – as she had consistently told him it was too dangerous – but knowing she would not arrive in time.
Her plan backfired when Hugo, however, who loved his nephew, abandoned her after he somehow sensed what she had done. Ironically, he inherited the family wealth due to Vera's actions but became a miserable drunkard and unwitting catalyst in bringing Vera to Indian Island, due to a fateful conversation he had aboard a ship while traveling, in which one night he and a fellow traveler — Wargrave — were alone in a drawing room and Hugo, inebriated, recounted the details of what had happened. This was sufficient information for the judge to manage to trace Vera, who has regretted her decision ever since but feels little or no remorse, recalling Cyril as "spoilt" and "whiny".
After managing to lift Lombard's gun and shooting him in what she believed was self-defense, she returns to the house, relieved she has survived. When she goes to her room, she finds a readied noose, complete with chair beneath it, suspended from a hook hanging from the ceiling. In what Wargrave describes as a post-traumatic state, she sees and hears Hugo, her former lover, encouraging her and adjusts the noose round her neck and kicks the chair away, fulfilling the rhyme's final verse ("One little Soldier Boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none").
If you're a Realtor, (with a morbid sense of humor) you're going to laugh when I say I equate Vera with the FSBO. So convinced they will come out on top for not using a Realtor, they have a plan which fails miserably losing "the fortune" they were going to save; unable to sell, taking very long to sell for much less and feeling like hanging themselves in the end.
They didn't realize the years Realtors have spent building a social media audience, their reach to the masses, and all the phone calls, emails and texts to answer in a timely manner, or the number of different finance methods available, the time spent screening buyers for qualification and intent. In the middle of it all having a life, career and kids to manage and wondering why some lookee-loos came by, but the property still sits empty and un-staged or cluttered and dirty.
If you've never read the book, the grand culprit is Justice Lawrence John Wargrave, a retired judge, known as a "hanging judge" for liberally awarding the death penalty in different murder cases, and revealed at the end to be the killer on the island. Having a hidden desire of a sadistic urge of causing death only on guilty persons and finding himself with only a short time to live, he creates a game in which, as island owner "U. N. Owen" (a homonym of "Unknown") he entices various people who have been responsible for the death(s) of other people, but escaped justice, to a secret location, to be a murderer himself, and kill his "guests" in a way that would leave a presumably unsolvable mystery.
All I can say is, do your homework, if you're buying, use a professional buyer's agent and don't call the listing agent. Watch for fraud, protect your credit and if you're selling you should know that you net much more with a great Realtor, as we can cast a much bigger and more effective net.
I have an article I like to share with other agents and those new to buying or selling a home: Are you a Good Realtor or a Bad Realtor? Conversely, you may want to read: Creepy, Costly Agents to Avoid.