How many times have you had to clean up after a pet prior to a showing or open house? Have you ever had to skip a showing due to a potentially unrestrained animal such as a pit bull or Rottweiler? While domestic animals pose their own issues in terms of showings, what happens when the animal you’re dealing with is a wild one rather than a pet?
Unwanted critters can appear almost anywhere at any time, no matter where a property is located. If this happens while you’re on a showing, once you have a property under contract or after it closes, what steps can you take to resolve the issue in the most expeditious way possible? Even more importantly, how do you go about making the appropriate disclosures?
1. Snakes on showings
I have a snake phobia the size of Texas and, of course, everywhere I’ve lived for the last three decades has had snakes. My neighbors have found poisonous snakes curled up under their dining room table, in their dryer, basking on the diving board to their pool and in numerous other places.
The first time I encountered a snake on a showing was in Bel Air. As we were walking up the street to house, a rattlesnake crawled directly in front of us. I actually screamed, threw my hands in the air, and my purse went flying. My buyers, who had no concerns about snakes, laughed their socks off.
The second time, another family had just finished viewing the property. As I was walking in with my buyers, one of the little boys who was leaving the property spotted what was curled up next to the front door. He shouted, “Hey, mom! Cool! A rattlesnake!”
At that moment, my buyers were just as eager to get back to the car as I was.
Best practice: If you have snakes in your area, determine if animal control, the fire department or some other agency will remove them. Be sure to have those numbers in your phone. If there are gardeners in your subdivision, they may be willing to take care of the problem as well.
2. ‘Drats — we’ve got rats!’
I remember showing a house in Bel Air and my buyers were ready to write an offer. When they walked out the front door, however, they saw a big, fat rat standing on its hind legs in the middle of the walkway staring back at them. Goodbye offer.
Rats can be a problem almost anywhere. Dealing with them can be difficult, even when you hire a professional exterminator. Nevertheless, I came across an effective solution that really worked for a townhouse I was renting a number of years ago.
After I had been living in the property for several months, I started hearing loud noises coming from inside the bedroom wall next to my bed at night. It was quiet during the daytime. It seemed that the rats and I were on different sleeping schedules. I tried pounding on the wall and whole variety of other ways to make them go somewhere else.
By chance, I came across a study that looked at rat preferences in music. Apparently, rats like Mozart, but I’ve heard they don’t like rap music. Because the rats were sleeping during the day, I decided tune into LA’s most popular rap station, cranked the volume up on high, and let it play during the day while I was working. Rat problem solved.
Best practice: For hundreds of years, farmers have used “barn cats” to control rat problems. If you live in a city, and the rats are inside the walls, the rap music idea has worked for several other people I know. A third option is hiring a professional exterminator.
3. ‘Did you try Juicy Fruit chewing gum?’
Anyone who has had to deal with gophers knows how difficult it is to get rid of them. The tunnels gophers dig can create sinkholes. They also carry lice, fleas and ticks that can transfer to your pets and can also attract skunks and snakes to visit your yard looking for a quick meal.
When one of Greg McDaniel’s clients had gophers completely destroy all the new sod and most of the vegetation in her new home. They tried traps, smoke bombs, gopher repellants, sonic pulses and running water down the gopher holes (a bad idea — when the ground is wet a gopher can tunnel at 16 feet per hour.)
They even tried a solution some Midwest farmer suggested — putting piece of Juicy Fruit gum in their gopher holes. The gum supposedly kills the gophers. What finally did work was digging up the entire yard, installing a wire mesh screen and replacing the sod above the mesh.
Best practice: The wire mesh is a both a humane and permanent solution to the issue.
4. ‘What was that???’
My brother-in-law’s family owns a mountain home situated down a long, shared driveway. When a neighbor listed their home, an agent who was turning down the driveway to show the property had a mountain lion leap over the hood of her car. After the shock wore off, the buyers decided to search elsewhere.
Best practice: If you live in an area that has large predators such as mountain lions, bears, bobcats or wolves, have a contingency plan in place for coping with these animals if one of them wanders on to the property, the patio, or even possibly inside the property.
Generally, these animals do not want to confront humans. If you’re out in the open, experts suggest talking loudly and making lots of noise so the animals can avoid you and your clients.
5. Dealing with masked bandits
While my mother-in-law was out of town, a raccoon climbed down the chimney and destroyed almost everything in the primary bedroom. Fortunately, she had left the door to the master closed so the raccoon didn’t destroy other parts of the house.
McDaniel had a client who tried almost everything to get rid of the racoons in her backyard. When his client rescued a dog and it happily marked its territory in the backyard, the racoons moved elsewhere.
Best practice: Keep all potential access points to the interior of the home closed. If a raccoon is inside a home, call for a professional removal. If the raccoons are outside and you don’t own a dog, McDaniel suggests offering to dog sit for a few days.
6. ‘Who’s been eating my sushi?’
I had a $4 million listing on an acre flat lot in Brentwood Park. The sellers had a beautiful pond across from the tennis court that was stocked with rare koi fish. Not too long after we listed the property, the fish started disappearing. The sellers were concerned someone was stealing their fish.
Since I personally accompanied every buyer on every showing, there was no way anyone had stolen any of the fish. About a month later, one of their gardeners spotted the real culprit — a large blue heron was regularly enjoying fresh sushi from their koi pond.
Best practice: If something odd is going on that may be caused by an animal, set up a camera to identify the culprit. Also, most nocturnal animals don’t like bright lights. Setting up motion detectors that shine a bright light where the motion occurred can be a deterrent.
7. ‘My cat is missing!’
For many years, I had a black cat who enjoyed bringing me little gifts of the things he caught. When I purchased my first house in the hills, I didn’t realize the threat coyotes posed to small animals.
A few months after I moved, I heard a yip, yip, yip outside my house followed by an eerie silence. I didn’t know that yip, yip, yip was pack of coyotes hunting their prey. When they catch their prey, the yipping stops.
After that night, I never saw my cat again.
Best practice: If you work in an area where there are bobcats, coyotes, hawks, owls or other birds of prey, warn your buyers to keep their cats indoors. If someone owns a small dog, only let them outside when they are on a leash with a human nearby. Otherwise, they could end up on the menu for the local wildlife.
Making the appropriate disclosures
If you’re working in an area where there are snakes, large or small predators, birds of prey, etc., make sure you make the appropriate disclosures as required by law in your state. This is especially important if you, the sellers or their neighbors have personally observed any of these animals in the area or on their property.
Also, be sure to have the name of a good exterminator, animal control, fire department or other service that can remove unwanted animals from a property or area.
Finally, if you find an injured animal or a baby that has been abandoned by its mother, reach out to local animal rescue or rehabilitation group. That’s the best way to make sure the animal receives the care it needs as well as possibly relocating it to a new area.
Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP 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.