Because the mower did not work, the house-buyer was looking to take the realtor to court. He was so unhappy that he wanted her entire commission returned to him – she was a good for nothing x-y-z! Money was what he asked for. A commission of thousands of dollars was in play, because it was a very nice house.
Offers were batted about, but we were going nowhere. The house-buyer had estimates from several mower-fixers. The Realtor thought the price was sky-high. She did not even think she needed to fix it, as she thought the seller was the one not being truthful during the sale. It got murky over how diligently the walk-through and disclosure process had been. Someone could have put the key in the ignition and started the beast. The Realtor was willing to pay to make this go away.
Mediation was stalling because the offers were so far apart. The house-buyer wanted a working mower and was asking so much, because he wanted zero risk that the repair cost would exceed the settlement. As for the Realtor, she was absolutely convinced that the repair would be cheap, so she would not budge either.
I had just come from a landlord-tenant mediation where the landlord had taken the tenant’s truck to secure delinquent rent payments. The tenant needed the truck to move out. The landlord wanted the tenant gone, but the tenant could not move without the truck. Their case had been to small claims court once already, when the judge ordered the return of the truck over of some other dealings between them. The truck was not returned, and they were still starring each other down.
I got to thinking about these two cases. The tenant was a tax accountant to outlaws, and the landlord seemed kind of “off the grid” himself. They were operating back in the dark ages, before contracts were even conceived as exchanges of promises about future behavior. They had zero trust for each other, or anyone else including the courts and the police. By contrast, my house-buyer and Realtor were moderns. They could operate more in the abstract, and could be comfortable in that.
The Realtor could see that the house-buyer wanted an insurer; money was not really the issue. The issue really was a working mower. It surprised me a bit, but she was confident in her knowledge of mowers, and she was a risk-taker where the house-buyer was not. We settled, not on money, but on the Realtor’s promise of a working mower, even if she had to supply a used replacement mower to get the homebuyer where he wanted to be.
Very different people in these two cases: one settled where the other could not. It is not always about the money. It all comes down to the kind of world we live in.