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Saturday, June 26, 2004

One thing you don't learn in seminary.

My fellow divinity school graduates, did you study real estate in seminary? Behold a cautionary tale:

It's called "gazumping" in England, the process by which someone selling a piece of property accepts an offer from one buyer, maybe even going so far as to shake hands on it, then quickly — and often surreptitiously — accepts another, higher, offer from a second buyer, leaving the first buyer with his pockets agape and his heart broken. Gazump is a glorious, full-bodied word, with a lusty feel in the mouth; the behavior it outlines, however, is anything but satisfying. . . .

Jane Praeger, a media trainer, and her husband, Terrence O'Brien, a theater director, made a play for an "as-is" apartment in a former parsonage on lower Park Avenue owned by the Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist.

Theirs was one of multiple bids, but since their bid, of $1.64 million, came with no financial contingency, two of the four representatives of the church (can you see murky waters ahead?) accepted it. A few days later, another offer came from a potential buyer within the building, for $1.7 million. The broker representing the church, Julie Perlin of Stribling & Associates, recommended that the offer from the second buyer be accepted.

At the same time, she allowed Mr. O'Brien and Ms. Praeger continued access into the property for an architect's visit and informed their broker, Ms. Straubinger, that a higher bid had trumped theirs. A day later, they raised their offer to $1.66 million, only to learn that a fully executed contract had been made the previous day. The tale devolves at this point into a case of who said what at which point. Ms. Praeger and Ms. Straubinger state that their offer was rebuffed unfairly, because Ms. Perlin claimed she hadn't received their lawyer's information. Ms. Perlin will tell you that she made each bidder's information available, as she received it, to the church's representatives, who made their own decision to go with the higher bidder. What's confusing is that a number of individuals represented the church: two members of the congregation, the church's general counsel and others.

While the counsel, Paul M. Godlin of Opton, Handler & Feiler, averred that "the church is very happy with the sale," the two congregation members, according to one of them, Jo Ann Corkran, felt very uneasy.

"We had given our word to the first buyers, the Praeger-O'Briens," she said. "I'm not saying the extra $20,000 or $30,000 wasn't useful, but we're a church."

("The Golden Rule is taking a beating," Penelope Green, New York Times 6.27.04, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 26 June 2004 at 2:57 AM

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