In the Trenches: What’s That Smell?

A collection of stories from real estate professionals detailing funny, scary, or surprising experiences on the job.
old gym shoes

© Steve Musgrave

No Market Value

In 2008, I started working with a mortgage company to clean out and sell foreclosures. I got a new listing, a ranch-style home with a detached garage, and went to check it out. Everything had been stripped from the home—including the kitchen sink. But that’s not the weird part. When I walked up the hill to the garage, it smelled like a sweaty gym. I opened the garage door, turned on my flashlight, and found hundreds of pairs of used sneakers in a pile, tied together with their laces. Goodwill didn’t want them, so I took them to a landfill.—J. Andrew Woodruff, Woodruff Real Estate and Property Management, Denver

Cat-astrophe Avoided

When I was a rookie real estate agent, a colleague offered to pay me a fee to show his listing. “Be very careful not to let the cat out because it’s like the sellers’ child,” he said as he handed me the keys. This was my first showing, so I was nervous. Everything went well, but I never saw a cat in the house. After the buyers left, I called for the cat but got no response. I was horrified to think it might have slipped by me when I wasn’t looking. Sure enough, when I went outside, I spotted the cat in a tree. “Here kitty, kitty. Please come down off that branch,” I said. The cat glared at me and didn’t budge. I came up with a plan to buy some premium fish to lure the cat inside. After about 20 minutes of failed coaxing with salmon, I gave up and prepared to make the hard call to my colleague. I imagined being fired and escorted out of the office in shame. When I told him what happened, he laughed and said, “Gosh, Barb, I’m sorry. I gave you the wrong information. That house has an outside cat!” I might’ve been annoyed if I weren’t so relieved! —Barbara Suiter, GRI, Ferrari-Lund Real Estate, Reno, Nev.

No Harm, No Foul

I listed a charming $650,000 waterfront home in Hollywood, Fla., and was showing it to an agent and her buyer, who brought her two daughters, both under the age of 5. The house was empty, and the girls were running around while I led the agent and buyer on the tour. I thought, “How much trouble could two little girls get into in an empty house?” When she was ready to leave, the buyer called for her kids and realized one was missing a shoe. As we searched the house for it, I noticed an odd smell. In the master bedroom, we found the source. One of the girls had pooped on the tile floor. Without hesitating, the mother got toilet paper from the bathroom and cleaned up the mess. The family then left promptly without a word of apology. I thought I should tell the seller in case she caught wind of the awkward incident, and I was nervous about how she might react. Luckily, my client wasn’t mad—in fact, she laughed and referred to the prospective buyer as “the pooper.” The buyer never called for a second showing.—Lilli Schipper, CRS, GRI, Island and Resort Realty, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.