When people are buying and selling homes, things can get weird. Even brokers who think they’ve seen and heard it all can still be amazed by some of the questions that come out of their clients’ mouths. The experience can be eye-opening, amusing, and even a little frightening.
Here are four stories of strange questions brokers have been asked and how they responded to their inquisitive clients.
Everybody has their quirks, and some clients are a little more paranoid than others, says Jeff Miller, cofounder of AE Home Group in Baltimore. The strangest question he’s ever received came from a seller who didn’t trust having buyers in her home. She would camp out in her car during showings and spy on the potential buyers as they came in and out. After the first few showings, she asked Miller if it was possible for her to set up surveillance cameras in her home so she could keep an eye on the buyers.
“It’s my home, after all,” she said to him.
“I was first surprised by the request. But then I took a moment to stand in her shoes,” he says.
Miller told her he understood her concern and asked if she had particular items in the home she was worried about. The seller mentioned that she had her late mother’s jewelry collection and her grandfather’s military heirlooms that were irreplaceable. Miller promptly offered to cover the cost of a safety deposit box at a local bank, which she accepted. The extra security helped put her mind at ease.
As Mark Steward, broker-owner of the Mark Steward Team, LLC, in Raleigh, N.C., showed his clients an 11,000-square-foot house, they asked if there was enough space to build a home gym on the property. Steward explained that the home was already equipped with a 1,000-square-foot gym on the bottom floor. “How big a gym do you want?” he asked. His clients said they wanted to build a 10,000-square-foot gym and an outdoor pool. Luckily, there was enough space on the lot to accommodate those extra items. So, they bought the home and built the additions. Those type of requests aren’t the norm in Steward’s world, but unexpected questions part of the reason he enjoys his job.
Brian Perry, broker-associate at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Roseville, Calif., was asked by a prospect whether he could handle selling the home of a divorcing couple who was not on speaking terms with each other. Additionally, the prospect said, one of the parties sometimes behaved in a volatile manner. Perry said he could handle it.
Perry decided to forgo conference calls with both parties because issues and disagreements outside of the transaction can cloud and interfere with rational decisionmaking and derail the conversation. Instead, Perry did individual phone conversations asking each party the same questions. Once he had both parties agreeing separately, he’d send a group text getting confirmation so everyone can move forward. Perry would take a final step of sending an email regarding the conversations and agreements. When emotions did flare, Perry would wait a day or two and talk to each person separately. He’d get directions from both parties via email or text to document all communications. Perry found this approach crucial to gaining and maintaining the trust of both clients. “Redundant communication is key during difficult sales because often you will find one or both parties are distracted and need to hear the same information multiple times,” Perry says.
Above all else, Perry practiced patience and empathy. “Rather than playing referee, which really isn’t my place, I give the parties a little space and time to calm their emotions before making big decisions,” he says. “I always made sure all parties were comfortable with the decision at hand, and everything is in writing and signed.”
Showings and Specters
Allison Bethell, associate broker at Keller Williams Eagle Realty in Miami and real estate analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com, previously lived and worked in Philadelphia, where one of her clients wanted some help far beyond the regular real estate professional’s duties. After touring a creaky historical house, he asked her if it was haunted. “He wanted to know who the ghosts were and what their story was,” Bethell says. He then asked her to call a spiritual medium to cleanse the house of spirits. And once the spirits were released from the home, he wanted her to find a pastor to bless the house.
“He asked me these questions in the basement of the house, and it was definitely nerve-wracking because it was dark down there,” Bethell says. She assured him that they could discuss everything upstairs in the well-lit kitchen. He ended up purchasing the house, and Bethell gave the client names of a few mediums and pastors to choose from. He renovated the home and later threw Halloween parties. His neighbors enjoyed hearing the haunted stories the medium had revealed to the client about the house.
“When it comes to strange questions and requests, each client is unique,” Bethell says. “As long as the questions aren’t illegal or too crazy, I try to oblige and give the client a positive homebuying experience.”