My parents have sold a lot of houses. Some were spec-built jobs, others were personal residences. Forty years into the real estate game they again have a personal home on the market.
And there is "no way — no way," according to my mother, that a lockbox will be near her front door. I explained to her the restrictions she can place on lockbox use nowadays to safeguard her privacy. I also explained how, by not having a lockbox, she could be deterring potential buyers from having a good look at the property.
She looked me dead straight in the eye and said, "After a lifetime in this business, do you honestly think I haven’t heard that?"
I stand corrected.
"Then why," I asked, "Are you so vehemently opposed to a lockbox?"
She needn’t point any further than to our local crime beat. Over the past several months an underground ring of robbers have wreaked havoc on the unoccupied for-sale homes market. Their evil genius plan starts with a visit to an open house where they feign lots of interest in the home and take copious pictures of the amazing kitchens, baths and utility rooms.
Their second step? Post all of those nice appliances on Craigslist and find buyers for them.
Third step: Once they have an appliance buyer ready to pick up the item or items, they wait until the witching hour, smash the lockbox to pieces, gently open the front door, and move the sale items into a waiting van. Most of the items are stolen and sold within a very short time frame, and the police are hard-pressed to keep up with such a rapid-moving scheme.
Aside from those criminal activities, it seems mom has lost faith, too, in the general Realtor. Not me, of course, she hastened to say, or the local broker she chose to represent the home, but all the other ones: "the herd."
She might have found her breaking point not long ago, when checking on a spec home after church one Sunday.
"The door isn’t locked!" she exclaimed, pushing the front door open. She motioned for my dad to hurry inside ahead of her. "Hello?" he yelled. No answer. They began their systematic inventory of the house, starting with the kitchen appliances. While walking down the hallway my mother was surprised to see the powder bathroom’s door splayed wide open and a sheepish-looking stranger in a suit occupying the "throne."
"Who are you?!" she cried angrily, having cornered him on the toilet.
It turns out he was a local broker. And why use a dirty public bathroom when you have access to hundreds of nice, new, clean bathrooms all over the city?! With our new smartphone apps, there’s a bathroom on every corner!
Over the decades my parents have found Realtors taking naps, microwaving lunch, and just plain "chilling out" in unoccupied homes. They’ve also encountered Realtors showing their home without giving prior notice and/or tromping through the backyard with their clients to peek in all of the windows. The key, it seems, empowers otherwise kindly people to do really rude things — under the guise, of course, of selling the home.
"So that’s it. If somebody really wants to see this home, they’ll make an appointment," concludes my mother. And when they do come for an appointment in her personal residence, she’ll be there. The whole time.
"The whole time?!" I said. "What if they hate it? What if they clients don’t feel comfortable talking to their Realtor with you around?"
"Oh, I’m pretty thick-skinned. And I think they’ll get over it, Alisha. My home is not a public restroom or a gift shop, right?"
Her home is a product, to be treated with the utmost respect. So attention thieves and small-bladdered Realtors: There will be no lockbox on her home. And I’m warning my fellow brethren to heat up the ramen noodles at your office, to use the potty at Starbucks, and not to touch artwork. Please pass this note on to your clients, too.
My mother is watching.
Alisha Alway Braatz is a buyer’s broker for Coldwell Banker Advantage One Properties in Eugene, Ore., and a real estate humorist.
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