Awkward Moments in Real Estate

In honor of National Humor Month, we’re sharing some of the hilariously awkward moments that can happen when you’re buying or selling a home. Better than that, we’re sharing tips for how to avoid them in the first place!

Avoid surprises. Surprises are great—for your birthday. They’re less wonderful when it comes to being caught off-guard in terms of not being prepared for your home to be shown. Ideally, there’s great communication between sellers, buyers, and their respective agents regarding any appointment times. But life happens. Sometimes a prospective buyer has a very small window of availability and a last-minute showing happens. Sometimes people sleep through alarm clocks and aren’t ready when an agent is due to show the home. The best remedy for these kinds of mishaps is to be as prepared as possible and ready at a moment’s notice for guests. That means keeping things neat and tidy. It means being mindful when you’re hopping out of the shower or walking around in your robe during optimal house-showing hours. It means, to the greatest extent possible, to be in a perpetual state of “company ready.” That may take a lot of effort. But it’s short-term effort with long-term gains—the successful sale of your home.

Mitigate pet problems. A pet is a beloved family member. A pet is also a potential problem during the sale of a house. Nobody wants to walk into a home that smells like a giant litter box or deal with a friendly pet who, it turns out, is less friendly to strangers in their territory. But imagine walking into a home with a bird who says fresh things to a prospective buyer, or a dog with a flatulence problem, or a kamikaze cat that likes to leap from high places onto unsuspecting visitors.

House showings are already stressful enough without adding in an animal’s unpredictable behavior. And while years from now it might be entertaining to recall that time you were looking at a house and ended up held hostage by a guinea pig that wouldn’t stop squealing every time you walked by, it’s not going to leave the best present-time impression of a property. To the extent possible, sellers should ensure that all animals are out of the home at the time of a showing, whether that means you take them for a walk while there are interested buyers visiting or arrange for pet-sitting during appointments. When that is not possible, animals should be contained and guests warned of what to expect in terms of pets-in-residence.

As for you buyers who would prefer to remain off an upcoming episode of I Was Prey, heed any posted warnings regarding doors that should remain closed and such. You can always request a follow-up visit to see any rooms you may have missed if it turns out you’re interested in the home.

Like your mama used to say, make sure you use the bathroom before you leave the house. You might think that using the toilet in a stranger’s house would not be a common problem. You might be mistaken. You might also be mistaken if you are the type of person who would use the bathroom in a stranger’s house and assume they haven’t turned the water off. Do you want to be that person? The person with an upset stomach at a stranger’s open house who uses a toilet and then learns it won’t flush and finds himself flailing around the room trying to MacGyver a remedy to the problem he’s just created?

Don’t be that person. And if you are a seller who has a listed property that is not still your primary residence (talking to you, military family who has already PCSed ahead of a house sale), you might want to consider keeping the water on if the house is actively being shown. Of course, if you’ve had the house on the market for a long time and that’s not feasible financially, then make sure you and your agent have a backup plan, like a note on the bathroom door alerting visitors to the fact that there’s no running water that would make flushing possible.

Hide your crazy. Do you have interesting hobbies or less-than-mainstream activities that are important to you but might be misconstrued by a potential buyer? Like your weapons of mass destruction room that holds every interesting knife, sword, and gun your service member has accumulated over years of service? You are absolutely entitled to the activities and decor of your choosing in your own home. But remember that as a seller you are hoping for your own home to soon be someone else’s. The key to that happening is prospective buyers seeing themselves making a home of the house they buy. Be mindful of this as you prepare your house to be shown. Store items away or make a room off limits. Maybe the same room you stash the kamikaze cat…as long as she doesn’t know how to use knives, swords, or guns.