Sellers turn down the highest bid on their Oakville home after deciding couple with four young kids would be the best fit for the community based on a heartfelt letter they attached to their offer.
Joo-Meng and Rosanna Soh and their four kids Nathaniel, from right, Ellie, Abby and Jacob outside their new home in Oakville. (J.P. MOCZULSKI FOR THE TORONTO STAR)
How much is enough when it comes to selling a home in the Toronto area’s scorched-earth real estate market?
For Michelle Croft and her husband, it turned out that enough was about $150,000 less than the highest of the 14 offers on their Oakville house last Thursday.
“Greed is good” was a solid premise for the 1987 movie Wall Street, but it doesn’t make for a great life, Croft said from Colorado, where she and her husband have relocated, about an hour outside Denver.
They wanted to sell to a family that would cherish the neighbours and the community that had been the base for what Croft called their 15-year Canadian adventure.
They found those buyers in an email attached to an offer from Joo-Meng and Rosanna Soh, who had made the unusual decision to downsize with their four children, ages 9 to 14.
After six weeks of missionary work in Uganda last year, “we came home changed. When the nameless faces that we hear about in the news become our friends and when their stories now become a part of our story we find ourselves looking at things differently,” they wrote.
“Our desire is to downsize and live simply so others may simply live,” they told the Crofts.
Part of our goal is not just becoming mortgage free but also allowing us to work less and to have more available time to go on mission trips,” Joo-Meng told the Star.
The couple admit the real estate market conditions were daunting. They even considered starting fresh in another community such as Burlington.
“Coming into a seller’s market, I was really anxious knowing that every house we try to bid on you’re going to go into a bidding war, and you just never know. We didn’t know where we were going to go,” Rosanna said.
The education therapist and her husband, a physician, call their move a journey of faith. They are trading a 3,600-square-foot home for 1,983 square feet.
Their children, who will continue in the same schools, have told their parents that less space will bring the family closer together, says their mother.
“When we were looking at other houses of similar size, that’s where the discouraging part is. There’s no chance with our goal and our budget, it was one of those ‘this is not going to work,’ ” Rosanna said, adding she hopes other families will be encouraged by their story.
Both realtors involved in the transaction say they have been heartened by the experience.
The Crofts’ agent, Tracy Nursall of Sage Real Estate, admits, “my eyes were as big as dinner plates,” when her clients told her that money wasn’t the most important thing to them.
“The highest offer was considerably higher and they didn’t go for it,” she said. “I have faith in humanity again. I can’t believe what happened here. I think it’s amazing and people need to know it isn’t all about milking people,” she said.
Both she and agent Joette Fielding, who represented the Sohs, say any loss in commission is irrelevant.
Fielding points out that her clients still paid a fair price for the four-bedroom house. “We came in very strong, still $200,000 over list,” she said.
The home, in original condition on a pool-sized, pie-shaped lot, was listed for $789,000.
But it was the letter explaining how the family would be a good fit with the neighbourhood that did the trick.
“From a humanitarian point of view, it’s not just about the highest number,” Fielding said.
It’s a happy ending for the American sellers, who bought the place after renting it for a year, deciding to stay on in Canada.
“It’s not the fanciest neighbourhood in Oakville, but it was home,” Croft said.
The idea that kids would fill the home where she raised her daughter, shovelled the neighbour’s drive and let her dogs play in the yard was important to her.
Taking less than they could get for the house was “by no means a loss for us,” Croft said. The couple had a number in mind that would mean a no-stress move in terms of buying another home in Colorado.
“When that number was met, we thought, ‘What’s enough? What’s the point?’” she said.
Other young families and professionals also attached messages to their offers.
“I could just see them leaving the house in a much sooner time frame. They were all very nice and I was so glad they took the time to do that. It did make the choice harder,” she said.
For Croft, who says she and Martha Stewart have long since parted ways, a home isn’t about furnishings and renovations. It’s about memories.
“I remember my neighbours. I’d rather have it with a few dings in the walls and the garden a little bit sloppy because I spent two hours shovelling my neighbour’s driveway,” she said.