Not all sales are created equal, and sometimes real estate agents have to move mountains to get a deal done.
It’s Labor Day, and we’re thrilled to share an encore presentation of a previous Walkthrough episode that celebrates the amazing labor real estate agents do for your clients.
HomeLight Elite Agent Raylene Lewis shares the story behind a remarkable sale that she saved in her College Station, TX, market. Get ready to be inspired by the literally heroic lengths Raylene went to in the name of serving her client! This story is a testament to something HomeLight believes in strongly: great agents are a valued and necessary part of the real estate process.
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Links and Show Notes
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(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host) Hi everyone, Happy Labor Day! This is Matt McGee, your host for The Walkthrough. I hope you and your family are having a safe holiday today wherever you are and whatever you might be doing.
If you’re tuning in for part two of “Winning the Listing Appointment” with Aaron Novello — that’s coming next week, on September 14th.
For Labor Day today, I have an amazing story for you that celebrates the labor you do for your clients.
This is an encore presentation of one of my favorite episodes that we have ever done. We published this all the way back in March. In fact, it was episode #2 and went out on the day we that launched The Walkthrough. Considering how much the show has grown since then, I am sure most of you have not heard this episode.
But you should.
It’s a conversation with Raylene Lewis, a HomeLight Elite agent in College Station, Texas. And it’s about a sale that she saved more than once — overcoming incredible odds and obstacles along the way. She even had people telling her “the deal is dead” just days before closing. I am confident when I say it’s one of the most remarkable real estate stories you’ll ever hear.
So as you enjoy Labor Day, enjoy this encore episode as a reminder of the amazing work you all do for your clients.
If you’re in real estate long enough, you’re going to have a difficult transaction at some point. There’s no avoiding it. Eventually, you’re going to have the kind of transaction that tests your skills, your smarts, your determination, and a lot of other things.
So imagine this scenario: You get a call from an older woman whose husband recently died. She’s now the sole owner of an inexpensive investment property in your area. She lives out of town, by the way. She’s calling because she just received notification that there’s an outstanding tax lien on the home and foreclosure is scheduled for 14 days later … 14 days. She’s scared. She can’t afford to pay the lien and she doesn’t want a foreclosure on her name. She wants to know what her options are.
Other agents have already turned her away and told her, “I can’t help you,” but you take her on, nevermind that the home is worth substantially less than $100,000. You find an investor who will buy the home sight unseen. You call on your attorney friends to help because the husband didn’t have a will, so that complicates things. You get everything handled in record time and closing is scheduled three days before foreclosure.
Wait a second. You know what? I’m going to let our guest tell the rest of the story because a lot happened in those last three days.
This is “The Walkthrough.”
Hey, everyone. I’m Matt McGee, and on this show you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents in the country. “The Walkthrough” is part of HomeLight’s agent resource center, which we created to help agents like you grow your business from good to great to amazing. At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents and we believe that by helping agents like you be more productive, more efficient, and more successful, the entire industry improves.
If you’d like to reach me with feedback, ideas or questions about the show, just send an email to walkthrough [at] homelight.com. In fact, we’re going to be reading and sharing some of those incoming emails on future shows. So if you have a question that you want to ask other agents, send us an email. If you have a followup question for today’s guest, send us an email. Again, the address to use is walkthrough [at] homelight.com.
Normally on the show, we focus on expert tips and advice to help you grow your business, but this episode is different. I’m calling this one “The Story Behind the Sale.” Oh, sure, there are lessons to be learned, but it’s more about dedication, persistence, hard work, and doing what’s right even if there’s not a big paycheck waiting at the end. This episode is a celebration of how great real estate agents do their job and hopefully serves as inspiration for all of you listening.
On today’s show, you’re going to hear from Raylene Lewis, one of the top agents in College Station, Texas. Raylene’s story is a testament to something we at HomeLight believe in strongly: that great real estate agents will always be a valued and necessary part of the real estate process.
What you’re about to hear just happened a couple of months ago. When I spoke to Raylene for this podcast, I invited her to tell the story from start to finish. I said I’d stay as quiet as possible and hold my questions until the end. So sit back and enjoy this remarkable “Story Behind the Sale.”
RAYLENE: So here’s what happened. I had an older woman named DJ. She contacted me and she was really, really upset. And what had happened was, her husband had recently passed away and he didn’t have a will. They did not live locally, they lived out of town and they owned an investment property that had a tenant that was occupied, it was actually a long term tenant and the property was currently leased. And the tenant had been there, like I said, for several years, and kind of like in my house, you know, the husband had handled the majority of the finances and the paperwork while they were married and after his passing, she was just absolutely shocked to receive a notice in the mail that said that they had unpaid taxes on this investment piece of property to the tune of over $40,000 and their investment home was going to be foreclosed on in less than 14 days.
And that’s huge. I mean, my heart just broke for her because if the property is foreclosed on in her name, I mean, that destroys this lady’s credit, this widow’s credit for seven years. So they didn’t have a mortgage on the property, which is kind of like, well then okay what was going on there? But the tenant had always paid on time, the tenant didn’t know anything about the situation, this lady is soon gonna be losing her property, you know, receiving the foreclosure on her credit score all because these taxes weren’t paid and you know, you got to pay your taxes.
She had talked to a couple of other real estate agents and they pretty much told her, “Well, I’m so sorry I cannot help you. I mean, you’ve got 14 days until this property is gonna be on the courthouse steps and that’s just not enough time for us to do anything.” And so when she reached out to me, she was like she just told me that she had kind of, I was her last hope and otherwise, she was giving up.
Now, here’s the other thing. When she gave me the address of the property, we’re talking about a property that held a value of under $100,000. So, you know, I’m sitting here and I’m looking at numbers and I’m thinking, okay, you know, how much room do we have? What can we do? Because we would have to get the property under contract right away and jump through a lot of hoops to get it to closing because of some of the other issues that I mentioned before that people who don’t sell homes on a regular basis might not know which I’ll go into like the fact that we didn’t have a will and things like that for the property.
So I told her that I would do everything I could, which I did, to assist her and getting this home sold prior to foreclosure. And the first step was, you know, going and taking a look at the property, which was dealing with the people that were currently managing the property, talking them into getting me a key same day, you know, letting me into the house because tenants typically like quite a bit of notice. But I ran, basically dropped everything and got with the leasing company, went and took a look at the property, took photos of the property and then started making phone calls. And I asked her….the biggest thing was, and this is what agents need to remember to do and clients need to remember to do is tell us right away what your goals are so there’s no assumptions, you know.
And in this case, what DJ said was, “Look Raylene, I just want out. I don’t want this foreclosure on my credit. I don’t want to put the tenants that had been good tenants in a bad position because this bill, this big bill wasn’t paid. All I’m asking you to do is to get me out so that the foreclosure doesn’t happen.” So that was my goal from the start was to do exactly what she said.
So I found an investor after quite a few phone calls who was willing to take look at my photos and because of my previous relationship with them and the fact that I treated him right every single time, he agreed to buy the property sight-unseen, pay cash and close in the required two weeks. So it was like a little score. Yes. Okay, now we’re getting the ball running. Now we’re starting.
So within 24 hours of the call, I submitted a contract to DJ with a close date because there are lots of steps that have to take place in order for the property to actually sell. We can’t just go, “Okay, yeah, here’s your check.” It’s a process. And looking and talking to the title company and kind of figuring out how we were going to work out possible issues on title, we had the close date set for 72 hours prior to the foreclosure. And so next step as everybody knows was, you know, even though I am working for DJ to get her property sold, I also want to make sure with this investor that the house is really in the condition that I think it’s in, that we really are good to go, especially because he was buying it sight unseen.
So made a couple of more phone calls and got a full property inspection done same day. The very, very, very next day. So we had inspections done, sent that over to the investor who was like, “Okay, yep, I’m good.” Got him a copy of the lease, all that, made sure that his numbers were what I had said and what he thought and then we were able to proceed.
So I contacted the title company as well as a local attorney because in this case, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that we needed to have an affidavit of heirship. And what that means is that the person who is selling the property, the widow needed to find three witnesses to help her sign that says, “Yes, this is who DJ is. Yes, she’s got the property and we verified that she is who she says she is and that there are no additional heirs.”
So we got that done and then I’m like, okay, we’re almost there. And 24 hours prior to the closing date, the title company gave me a call and said that they had found an additional unpaid federal tax lien on the property of over $35,000. Now, remember, this whole property is under $100,000. The first thing which we knew about and knew was accurate was over $40,000. So I mean, we are super getting up there to where it’s just not possible. DJ didn’t have any money to bring to closing, you know, so the budget that we were working on and what it costs to sell the home, you know, paying the taxes, paying the title company, there was just a very, very tiny, tiny bit that we had to work with.
And in this case, when the title company saw the federal unpaid federal tax lien, they were like, “Look, Raylene, the deal is dead. There is no way the property can close, we’re now well beyond the sales price of the property and we’ve already talked to DJ. We know she doesn’t have the money to bring to closing, so we’re just going to let you know, just close it out and let’s move on.”
MATT: They said, “The deal’s dead.”
RAYLENE: Yeah, they said, they said, “Raylene, it’s over. The deal’s dead.” Look, they said that I could just, you know, relax and that if the investor still wanted the property, he could buy it on the courthouse steps, you know, on Tuesday. That was what I was told and I was like, “Okay, yes, that helps half the problem in that you know, then the investor if he still wanted the property could get it because he had spent money on inspections but no, that doesn’t solve my goal at all because the whole point of us going through everything was so that DJ would not have that foreclosure on her credit score.”
To me, no does not always mean no until I have exasperated all possible options and made sure. And that’s just part of, I don’t know just experience I would say for doing this for so long. Mistakes can happen and sometimes I just want to make sure that I have all of the information because like my grandmother always said, “There’s always more than one way.” You know, there’s always more than one way. And sometimes no matter how many ways you try, it’s still not possible but I’ve always lived by my grandmother’s motto, I’m always trying to think outside the box to say, “Okay, well I just got shut down here. Is there any other road, avenue, path I could take that would still meet my client’s goals that’s realistically possible?”
So in this case, what I did was I did not call the deal dead, which is typical Raylene. And this time I called my buyer — sorry, I called the seller. And I said, “Hey DJ, the title company is saying that there is an additional lien.” Now sometimes sellers don’t know, and sometimes they do and they just don’t tell you, but DJ was absolutely insistent with me that there had been another lien, but that it had been paid off and that she was 100% convinced, she was 100% sure that that lien was not there, that there was no other lien on the property.
I mean, I asked her several times and you know, you can hear it in somebody’s voice, the conviction. She did not believe that that lien was real. And then I’m thinking, okay, well let’s just pretend it is and she didn’t know. So then I started asking her a couple other questions and I think of this a good way to think of it, like if you’re just somebody who’s listening to this is like, you know when a buyer wants to buy a property and they say, “I want a four-bedroom, two-bath house,” I don’t just go and run with that because to me the knowledge of okay, you have a four-bedroom, two-bath house or this is what you want isn’t as important to me as how are you going to use the four-bedroom, two-bath? Or when somebody says, you know, “I want a minimum of an acre.” Well do they really want a minimum of an acre or do they just want privacy?
Same thing for a four-bedroom, two-bath. Do you need four full bedrooms? Are you wanting one to be a study, one to be a game room? Because as an agent you could automatically eliminate things that would have been potentially the perfect house for the client. So it’s really important to understand the background and the why.
And that’s kind of the same thing here so I asked a question that some people don’t think of, but that’s really important when we’re dealing with these liens. I asked her, I said, you know, “Ma’am, I don’t mean you any disrespect, but can you tell me anything about your marriage with your late husband just in case something had been overlooked. Have you always been married?” That sort of thing. And believe it or not, DJ and her husband had been divorced. They got a divorce. They remarried again later, but they were divorced for a while, signed by a judge and everything. And of course, my next question was, “Can I have a copy of that decree? That divorce decree?”
So I mean, she was surprised. “Well, yeah, why? We got back married.” I’m like but I knew that that was an investment property and she had never lived in the house so if in the divorce decree the property had been given to her, then that would nullify this federal tax lien. It would not apply to her. So when she told me that she had gotten a divorce, I was just so excited and then she sent me a copy of the decree and it turns out that that property was hers. It was given to her in the divorce, which means that the federal tax lien which was under the husband’s name did not apply for this transaction. So I was like, woohoo!!!
I called the title company back and asked to speak to the general manager and I said, “Look, my client says that that federal tax lien was paid off that that federal tax lien is not in place so I want you to research and confirm. I want you to call me back and tell me yes, Raylene. Yes, I pulled it again. Yes, I double-checked and it’s still there.” And then at the same time, I’m over on the other side now I’ve got an attorney. I hired a really, really good attorney friend of mine who I just needed to do a little bit of paperwork — A, I gave him the copy of the divorce decree to review to make sure because I’m not an attorney so I can’t say for sure. I need somebody who is the professional to say.
And that’s part two of what being a good agent is. Even if I can’t solve the problem, even if I can’t answer it, an agent who knows their job and knows how it works and has been in business can get you in touch with the right people to help get the job accomplished. So that’s what we did in this case. I contacted the attorney, I sent him the divorce decree and he was like, “Yep, it doesn’t apply. It’s owned by her. It’s not community property.” So then I was like, “Great, can you send a nice little letter to the title company for me to provide documentation that it was… that the federal tax thing was with her deceased husband and did not run with the rental property?” So in addition to, I remember I had already asked him to help me do the affidavit of heirship, he just threw that in, too, and sent a letter.
Surprise, surprise. It wasn’t really too long after that I get a phone call back from the title company and she confirmed that they had received the documentation from the attorney that confirmed that the tax lien did not apply to the seller, in this case to DJ, and that the property could close but she also apologized because it turns out that when they went back and reviewed that second lien, the one that had called the deal was dead, that lien had expired in July of 2019 and had never been refiled.
Now that could have either been because he was passed and it was noted that he was passed or that it really was paid off but the point is — my client was right, there was no lien in place and because I believed her and I pushed the issue, you know, now we could close either way. We could have closed because I proved that the tax lien wasn’t there anymore or because it didn’t even matter even if it was still there because since they had been divorced previously and since the property was hers, it didn’t even apply.
So thus my ability to brag at this very interview because that property closed on time. The tenant was allowed to stay in their rental home, they never even knew that they came so close to having to find another place to stay. The seller, she was able to sell her property, and she was so sweet. She was just so, so happy. That was like the best thing ever was for me to tell her, “You’re all done. There’s nothing on your credit. You’re all set, the property has closed, you know, and congratulations.” And then you know what, even the investor was happy because he got a fully occupied rental property. So, yay!
MATT: It’s the most amazing story! I think like all this happened in a span of what, just a couple of weeks?
RAYLENE: Oh yeah. It was like, it was less than two weeks because and you have to think about that that includes weekends. So it was, you know, 10 working days and I don’t even think I found out on a Monday. I think she had called me like on a Tuesday or Wednesday. So it was super stress because now it was like, “Oh yay,” but at the time I’m just sitting there going, okay, what are we going to do? How can we get there? Who will jump and run with me to help make this happen, because it just wasn’t an easy thing.
MATT: Oh my gosh, that’s just the most remarkable story. Now I know that real estate agents, you know — there’s other agents that have had difficult sales or you know, strange stories, stuff like this. How does this compare over your real estate career — is this the most unique, most difficult, most challenging sale that you’ve been involved in? Has anything remotely similar to this happened to you before?
RAYLENE: I would say probably not. When you do… when you do as many transactions I would say that this one was uniquely challenging in its own way. And this was the first time that the title company had told me, you know, that the deal was absolutely dead and then I was able to provide two ways where it wasn’t. That’s just what’s so fun about being a Realtor and why knowing what I know now, I would never ever sell a house for sale by owner because the craziest things can happen and you just never know and so you need an advocate on your side.
And just because, I mean, my goal typically is to make sure that my client does not know about all the crazy hoops that we had to jump through to make the transaction happen because the more that they know if there are any problems, then that worries and that upsets them. So it’s our job to get with the other agent to figure out how to negotiate the deal to get our clients what they want. So as far as they were concerned, it was just a smooth transaction and we were just fine. And you know, here’s your check or you know, here’s your keys to your house at the end of the day. But yeah, Realtors should write books I’m sure because there’s all sorts of fun things that happen.
MATT: So let me ask you a question just based exactly on what you just said right there, because obviously as you said, it’s important to communicate with your clients regularly, let them know what’s going on. But as you said, this was, you know, an older female and there’s a lot of…she’s under a lot of stress just by the nature of the situation. Were there times when you were sort of debating with yourself how much I should share with her what’s going on?
RAYLENE: I mean, yes, absolutely. I’m always debating how much to share and usually I’ll tell my clients what happened once I’ve already got the solution. So, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know this came up, but don’t worry because this is what we did and so you’re all good.” And so in staying in constant contact with DJ, I mean, it really is a team effort and particularly, in this case, to actually get the goals reached. If DJ hadn’t answered my calls regularly, you know, if she hadn’t taken the time to go to her records and pull up the paperwork from the judge or didn’t have it with her, then I would not have been as successful as I was. It’s just, you always want to be upfront and honest with your client, but you want to let them know that you have their best interest at heart and that you are doing everything you can to meet their goals and then you let them know what you need so that you can reach the finish line.
MATT: Gotcha. Now let me let’s go back to the beginning real quick because you mentioned that she had contacted some other agents to explain the situation. The other agents had said there was nothing that could be done. It was a helpless situation. Then she contacts you. What about the situation makes you think that it’s not helpless?
RAYLENE: I mean, I don’t know. I don’t ever really find a helpless situation. And it’s not helpless until I’ve tried it and exasperated all my resources. I just don’t believe anything is helpless. I don’t think there is such a situation. Typically there’s a straightforward way to solve the problem, but the straightforward way isn’t always the best way or isn’t the way that’s going to end up in the closing.
So you kind of have to think of it from a true salesperson standpoint on how can I get from point A to point B. And maybe that’s why the other agents couldn’t. I mean, I’m sure she told them, you know, “Well, there’s no will and we’ve only got 14 days.” And as soon as you say the address of the property, you know about how much the property is going to be. And so, you know, it’s just, it’s easier for some people I guess, not to try, especially when there’s not that much money involved. I mean, this was a cheap deal and it took a lot of time but for me, a large part of the fun is solving the problem, reaching the goal and helping the client. So, you know, some agents go the extra mile and others don’t and so it’s making sure you find an agent who will every time.
MATT: Yeah. And I mean since it was sort of a less expensive home, clearly the paycheck you get at the end was not your motivation here.
RAYLENE: No, no, no. There’s quite a few times where the paycheck isn’t the end. I do it because I want to help people and I like solving the problems. You want an agent who loves their job for what it is, not just to get the paycheck at the end of the day.
MATT: Another thing that I want to make sure that we make the point of, too — you mentioned a couple times just now when we were chatting that, you know, it’s a team effort here. You clearly had investors that you could reach out to at the beginning, and it sounds like you also have a good relationship with the attorney or perhaps more than one attorney that you were able to reach out to. Because I know locally here in our area, if we were to call an attorney and ask for them to help with something, it might be two or three days before we get a reply. But you needed everybody to be on their game and just like go into, you know, take action right away. So I think is the lesson there the value of having a good network of people that you can rely on?
RAYLENE: Oh, yes. Yeah. So the network is super, super important. So even if my investors, you know, had said no, I still wouldn’t have stopped. I’ve been a Realtor here, like I said, for 19 years now. I know which other agents in town and with what other companies also tend to have investors that would look for this type of property. So if plan A had not gone forward exactly like I had wanted to and I hadn’t found anybody, then I’d start calling around and start shooting out the information to other agents to see if they had somebody who is willing to do the deal.
MATT: I just think this story is so wonderful as proof of how necessary agents are, and I’m so grateful that you shared this with us on Facebook and that you’re coming on the podcast to share it as well. And I hope that’s the big — or at least one of the big takeaways that listeners have, too, is just to … don’t listen, don’t believe … whenever you hear that agents aren’t needed, don’t ever believe that sort of stuff because stories like this happen. And Raylene, I’ll give you the last word. Like what do you think, what would you want listeners to take away from this incredible story that you told?
RAYLENE: Gosh, I mean thank you for coming… thank you for contacting me and for listening to my story today and just know that a really good real estate agent works so hard, literally 24/7 to help their clients meet their goals and will do everything possible to make sure that, you know, be it, buyer or seller, they are treated fairly, they are treated with respect and that their absolutely best interest is at heart.
(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host) How great is that, gang? What a story. I said at the beginning that it’s about dedication and persistence and all that, which is all true, but I think it’s also about knowing your business inside and out, thinking quickly to overcome obstacles, having a great network of associates around you, knowing who the investors are, having access to attorneys who can help in a pinch and maybe most of all it’s about not taking no for answer and always fighting for your client no matter what gets in the way.
I hope you’ll remember Raylene’s story next time you hear someone talk about the end of the real estate agent or how agents aren’t needed anymore. We certainly don’t believe that here at HomeLight. In fact, we’d love to tell more stories like this. If you’ve had a transaction that fits this idea of “The Story Behind the Sale,” tell us about it. Send an email to walkthrough [at] homelight.com and hopefully we’ll do more like this in the future. You can also use that email address if you have questions for Raylene, questions for me or HomeLight or just want to share some feedback like what’s going through your mind now that you’ve heard the full story behind that remarkable transaction. Email us, let us know, walkthrough [at] homelight.com.
That’s all for this week. Raylene, thank you again for sharing your story behind the sale and thank you for listening. Go out and sell some homes and we’ll talk to you again next week. Bye-bye.
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