When Donovan and Laura Bachtell put their luxury three-bedroom town home up for sale in 2008, they had no idea of the bargain-basement fever the recession was causing.
“We just thought it would sell. I don’t think we thought about how long it might take,” Donovan Bachtell said last week.
The property, in the Arborgate development north of Hagerstown, didn’t sell until this spring, but that isn’t what angers Bachtell.
“Honestly, the worst was the first offer from (one Realtor). It was ridiculous,” he said. “Say it was listed at $340,000 and she offered us $250,000, which was ridiculous.”
“That was the absolute worst part of it and we had other offers like that. The worst thing was the Realtors being insulting. It was insulting. It was insulting,” Bachtell said.
Yet such low offers became common during the recession, especially for properties on the market much longer than others, according to Realtor Frannie Parks, who was the Bachtells’ listing agent.
Such offers have been bruising to many homeowners, Parks said.
She said she understands the other side, too. She said she has represented would-be buyers in making such low-ball offers.
“When you’re working with a buyer, you have to do what they ask,” Parks said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t tell them, ‘It’s (the offer) too low and you might offend the sellers, and they won’t counter. And you’ll lose the property altogether.’”
But in a recession, as in boom times, the price that sellers get is what buyers are willing to pay — no matter how much the sellers paid for the property, how much they spent improving it, how much it’s appraised for or how much money the sellers need to move elsewhere, Parks said.
“I think one of the important things that a lot of us (Realtors) say is, ultimately, it’s the buyer that puts the value on the house, and if this is where the offers are coming in, that’s what your house is worth,” she said.
The recession, which officially began in late 2007 and ended in mid-2009, but continues to be felt on Main Streets throughout America, walloped the nation’s housing market.
In Washington County, as in most other areas, home sales and prices plummeted. By last year, the county’s median price had fallen to $138,000 — the lowest it has been since 2002, when it was at $126,450.
For better or worse
As the owner of Bachtell & Co., a Hagerstown accounting firm, Donovan Bachtell had more basis than most people to understand the economic conditions he and his wife faced when they listed their house in September 2008.
When they bought it about 10 years before, Bachtell remembers paying about $360,000.
At the time, “it was appraised for maybe $330,000, so we paid more,” he said. “But it didn’t matter” because they didn’t think they would move for a long time.
Plus, the house seemed well worth it, Bachtell said.
So when the couple decided to move to North Carolina for the warmer weather and to be closer to their grandsons, the house was one of the best in its neighborhood, Parks said.
Amid recession, offers for home 'insulting'
Washington County home sales (August 4, 2012)