I became a newly-minted real estate professional this year, and when I was attending my first inspection with a buyer, I didn’t yet have access to the electronic lockbox on my phone. My broker came by the listing to open the door for my client and I. “Just lock the door, and put the key back in the Supra box when you’re done,” my broker told me.
After the inspection was complete, I put the key back in the lockbox like my broker advised. But then I realized I forgot to lock the front door of the house. Without the code to the lockbox to retrieve the key again, I’d have to leave the listing unlocked! Everyone else in my office was either out of town or in appointments at the time, so I had to call a friend who works for another real estate brokerage to come open the door for me. I went straight to my local REALTOR® board to get lockbox access immediately.
If you’ve been in the real estate business for more than a day, you’ve probably made a silly mistake or two. Most of the time, they’re harmless and hilarious—and can turn into valuable learning experiences. I shared one of mine; now hear from seven other real estate pros about the insight they gleaned from their embarrassing mishaps in real estate.
What Is This, Doggy Daycare?
Pat Caldwell, a retired real estate broker in Lake City, Fla., found out how important it is to watch out for clients’ pets. “The owner of one of my listings was very concerned about her dog getting out,” she says. “She’d tell me repeatedly not to let the dog out during showings.” But one day, as she was leaving the home, Caldwell saw a dog running in the yard outside. Hoping not to alarm her client, she brought the dog into the house and left. “Well, imagine my surprise when I got a call later that day from my client, asking me why a strange dog was in her house, in addition to her actual pet. It turns out, it wasn’t her dog I had seen in the yard earlier; it was someone else’s—and I’d put the wrong dog back in her house!”
In a demonstration of a unique home feature, Bob Gordon, ABR, GRI, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Boulder, Colo., learned to be cautious. “I showed off a pullout cabinet feature to a potential buyer,” Gordon explains. “While we were in the kitchen, I picked a random shelf and tugged it out. The shelf came flying all the way out of the cabinet and hung in midair for a moment like Wile E. Coyote before plummeting to the floor.” The shelf Gordon pulled was the spice rack—which was not a pullout—and all the spices crashed to the floor, creating a huge mess. “In my embarrassment, I uttered something to the buyers like, ‘Quick, help me clean this up. The seller will never notice.’ We cleaned it up as best as we could and left a note for the seller.” Gordon says he’s learned that “you can’t know whether a seller’s home is as perfect as it looks.”
The View From the Balcony
Some lessons are “locked” in your memory. Brad Pauly, broker-owner of Pauly Presley Realty in Austin, Texas, has one such unforgettable experience: “Once while showing a home—luckily on a particularly mild Austin day—I locked my client and myself outside on a second-story balcony. After a few minutes of panic, a cold sweat started, and I knew I had to do something. My only option seemed to be jumping from the balcony to the ground. It was really more of a dangle and fall of about 5 feet, so the only injury I sustained was a sprained ego. After hitting the ground, I let myself back in through the front door, then ran upstairs and let my client back inside the house. I think the client was impressed with my skills, so luckily we continued to work together.”
Nice Day for a Dip
You could say Brett Pavel, broker-owner of Brett Pavel Group, Inc., in Fort Collins, Colo., is drenched in experience. “In the middle of the summer, wearing a suit, I was showing a home with a backyard swimming pool to some clients and I stepped backward right into the pool,” Pavel recalls. “I didn’t have a change of clothes so I had to finish the showing in a wet suit, but luckily the Buyers had arrived in their own car to meet me so I could go home and change afterwards. The Buyers didn’t buy the house, and the folks that did immediately filled in the pool with dirt.
As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, Pavel remembers another mishap with clients—this one a bit more cheeky. “A college town has its quirks,” Pavel says of Fort Collins, home of Colorado State University. He was showing a retired couple a home near the school around 3 p.m. when a young man—completely naked—stumbled out of one of the bedrooms. He apparently hadn’t heard the doorbell ringing or the phone calls when Pavel and his clients arrived. “The couple did not buy the house, but the wife’s immediate response was, ‘Ain’t nothing I haven’t already seen.’”
This Showing’s a Wash
As Elizabeth Convery, founder of Very Real Estate in Philadelphia, can attest: Get as many details as you can ahead of time about the home you’re showing. She once took a client to view a condo in a two-unit building. “The listing agent’s instructions were to use the keys in the lockbox for the main door. According to the agent, the unit we’d be viewing would be open.” When Convery and her client arrives, she retrieved the keys and found the first unit unlocked. “When we entered, we were surprised to hear someone in the shower. Suddenly, a woman appeared in the doorway, horrified. ‘This keeps happening,’ she said. ‘The unit you’re looking for is upstairs.’”
You’ve ‘Goat’ to Be Kidding Me
West Costa, an agent with Bee Realty Corp in DeLand, Fla., was met with some unexpected guests at a showing. “I had a walk-in [buyer] who was looking for a home with plenty of acreage, so I ran a search on the MLS and found a bank-owned property that fit her description,” Costa says. “As we entered the property gates, we were greeted by various farm animals who moseyed over from the neighbor’s farm. It all seemed pretty normal until we stepped foot into the home and happened upon two goats in the kitchen, staring at us as if we’d interrupted their supper.” Unfazed, the buyer continued to look at the property while the goats stood in the kitchen. “I’m not sure if it was the goats or not, but my buyer ultimately decided that the property wasn’t for her. We’re still looking for her dream home.”