With more than 1,000 Inman posts, Bernice Ross is a long-time contributor whose weekly column on real estate trends, luxury, marketing and other best practices publishes every Monday.
Have you ever had a totally bizarre or frightening showing? If you’ve been in business any length of time, you probably have. In my 30-plus years of being in the business, Melanie Hurwitz of Allison James Estates & Homes holds the bragging rights to having been part of the worst showing ever.
Below I’ll explain her story in full and share a few of my own. These are the things you’ll only really fully grasp if you’ve lived them or experienced something close.
My top 5 crazy showings
1. The naked truth
When it comes to outlandish and unreal showings, I’ve had quite a few myself. One of the most shocking happened when I was still a rookie. My buyer was a single woman. I confirmed the showing with the listing agent who advised me to use the lockbox.
When we arrived at the property, I rang the front doorbell repeatedly and knocked several times. When no one answered, I used the lockbox to open the front door, only to be greeted by an irate, nude male tenant.
2. A (ruff!) price reduction
Not too long after that, I sold a 16-unit apartment building. When we did the walkthrough inspection after the offer was accepted, we entered one of the apartments only to discover that the tenant had never let his three dogs out of his apartment.
My buyer was actually delighted about this — he used the situation to negotiate a sizable price reduction.
3. I hate snakes
Then there was the house that was filled with cages of snakes, and to top it off, the multiple snakeskins hanging outside on the clothesline.
4. A barrier to entry — and exit
Speaking of snakes, I remember showing one of my neighbor’s homes at the Summit above Beverly Hills. When we arrived, another family was just leaving the property. As their 10-year-old son walked out, he excitedly shouted to his dad: “Hey dad, look at that! Cool — it’s a rattlesnake!”
That snake was curled up near the front door where it could have easily struck any of us. Given that my buyers and I have an extreme phobia of snakes, that was the end of that showing.
5. A lion-sized near miss
While snakes are disturbing, my in-laws who live in Colorado had an even more harrowing event take place in their shared driveway. The property next door was on the market. As a Realtor turned into the driveway to show the property, a mountain lion jumped over the hood of the Realtor’s car — missing the windshield by mere inches.
The craziest showing I’ve ever heard — for real
Melanie Hurwitz’s showing story is a doozy. Hurwitz listed a million-dollar property that was owned by an 80-year-old woman who is still sharp and active. The house was one of seven properties in a small gated community with 2.5-acre lots.
The mother was living in another property. She let her son move in to the property rent free, provided that he would pay the utilities. Unfortunately, he was in a serious car accident, was permanently disabled and eventually lost everything.
When the son was no longer able to pay the utilities, the woman sold her house and moved back into the property.
The son’s behavior became increasingly odd. He started hoarding as well as deliberately damaging the house. He even ripped the shingles off the roof.
The mother decided he might do better in a different location. She purchased a lakefront property in Oregon where they could live in two separate units. At first the son was excited, but then he became increasingly agitated when his mother listed the house with Hurwitz.
Hurwitz had a request for a showing but had been unable to access the master bedroom where the son was staying. Given how strange the son’s behavior had been, Hurwitz was concerned that he had installed a surveillance system that would alert him if she was there.
The seller informed Hurwitz that she had a dental appointment at that time, and her son had been away for several days. Because the master was locked from the inside, the seller told Hurwitz to go in through the window and that she would take care of any damage.
When Hurwitz went to the window the next day, she saw a metal box with wires coming out of it. It looked like a bomb. The sign on the box said: Warning Explosives! Shrapnel will fly!
Hurwitz immediately called 911. Soon thereafter, multiple police cars, an ambulance, firetrucks, the bomb squad and a SWAT team all showed up. A police helicopter was soon circling overhead as well.
The officer interviewing Hurwitz advised his team member, who was headed toward where the potential bomb was located, to “watch out for tripwires.”
Once the bomb squad finished their initial assessment, they believed the metal box was an active bomb.
In the meantime, the buyers had shown up and were caught in all the police activity surrounding the home as the entire neighborhood was evacuated.
Once they examined the “bomb” more closely, they discovered it was a prank. The son had pulled the design from the web. The authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.
Showing day 2
The next day, the buyers came back to see the property. While Hurwitz was waiting, the son used someone else’s phone to send her a text that said:
Ammo can with wires coming out of it. Bomb Squad and SWAT team called. SWAT cleared the house before the bomb squad used water cannon to blow up the canister. It was a gag gift bought online and was covering outside water valves. No one was home. Big overreaction. No crime committed.
The text message rattled Hurwitz. However, she went ahead with the showing. As she began the showing, the electricity started going off and on every eight seconds. It was also triggering the fire alarms. Hurwitz flipped the breakers, but the problem persisted.
After the showing, Hurwitz learned that the son had contacted the power company and turned off the power. The electricity was going off and on due to the solar panels still generating electricity and the backup batteries burning through their power reserves.
3 weeks later
At this point, the authorities still have been unable to locate the son.
Moreover, because he left his clothing and belongings at the property and there was a tenant agreement in place, the mother was having to formally evict the son before she could remove his things from the property.
What’s odd about this situation is that the son would have inherited the property. Now, his mother has filed a criminal complaint against him, and he will be facing serious consequences when he’s caught.
Nevertheless, until the court makes a ruling, the mother cannot rekey or change the passcodes because he is still legally entitled to access.
Hurwitz’s seller decided to take the property off the market. Once the court issues are resolved, the mother will make the repairs, and at that point, put it back on the market.
When Hurwitz relists the property, there’s another challenge waiting for her and the seller — exactly what do they need to disclose about this bizarre situation to the future buyer?
If you have a crazy or bizarre showing story, we want to hear about it. Please share it in the comments section below.
Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP (brokerageup.com) and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.