We were 48 hours away from closing on the deal when our real estate agent called and said “The seller is asking for some compensation for the oil in the oil tank.”
When I asked how much oil was in there, my agent didn’t know. She said the seller had indicated the tank had been filled recently and had quite a bit of oil in it.
I said that it was not in the contract and I was not prepared to arbitrarily choose an amount of money to give her for oil that might not actually be there when we take possession in a few days. My agent agreed and said that the seller should have included this in the contract before she accepted the offer.
Later that day our lawyer called. One of the adjustments that had come through from the sellers lawyer included a $600 charge for oil in the oil tank.
My husband Dave lost it. He said “What if we show up on Friday and there’s only a little bit of oil in the tank? We aren’t paying it.”
Apparently it costs about $1,200 to fill the tank of oil so I understand why the seller was feeling a bit slighted but this should have been negotiated earlier in the deal. She hadn’t brought it up at any point during the negotiation and we hadn’t even thought about it.
Dave was on the phone with the lawyer for nearly 30 minutes trying to settle this issue when finally our lawyer said:
“Dave, it’s better to make friends, not enemies.”
This actually frustrated Dave because he was thinking “Yea – why isn’t someone saying that to the seller who has picked some price out of the air to charge me for oil that might not even be there?”
But the lawyer went on to propose a fair solution. He said “Let’s agree to have the oil measured by Columbia fuels and you pay the cost of half of whatever is left.”
The lawyer went on the remind him that it’s a small world and we’re very active investors. We don’t need somebody out there saying bad things about us or our company over this.
Dave relaxed and realized our lawyer was right. In the grand scheme of things, even if we paid the $600, is it really that big of a deal if it makes this elderly lady happy and settles this deal quickly and painlessly? Besides, if we carried on much longer we’d end up spending $600 in legal fees anyway.
The seller agreed to have the oil tank measured before we closed a day and a bit later, and off we went.
We’re not sure if there was a massive amount of oil or very little in the tank, because the seller opted to drain the tank instead. When we arrived on Friday there was no oil in the tank and we didn’t owe the seller any money. It was a big hooplah for nothing but we did gain a very important reminder from the experience:
It’s better to make friends not enemies. Remember the bigger picture in your dealings even when something is not fair to you.
Warren Buffet put it best when he said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”