By Toby Welch
Those who work in real estate either love open houses or hate them. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, they make for some hilarious happenings. Take the agent who caught a neighbour stealing bottles of wine from the wine cellar when the neighbour ran out of alcohol during a party he was hosting down the street. Or the agent who had to deal with a family of five who brought their swimsuits and jumped in the pool during an open house.
His first open house gave Kim Louie, a real estate consultant and broker with Coldwell Banker Peter Benninger Realty in Kitchener, Ont., a horrifying-at-the-time but now hilarious story.
“It was a pretty busy open house, considering it was November. It was snowing and I tried hard to impress people with my knowledge and professionalism. (It was another agent’s bank power of sale listing of an old dilapidated home.) I was determined to make the best of it so I was dressed up in my best suit and tie. It wasn’t until I was leaving and I squatted down outside to pick up a sign I had dropped that I felt a cold breeze in my crotch area. Horrified, I looked down to find my zipper was open and realized I had hosted the entire open house, my very first one, with my fly down.” Yikes!
Bodily functions make for (unfortunately) popular fodder for open house stories. An Alberta-based real estate agent shared the story of an open house she held at a townhouse. It was a presale home so no plumbing was hooked up yet. The toilets were all sealed since there was no flushing ability. After days of the unit stinking badly, the agent discovered that someone had gone #2 in the toilet and then wrapped it back up tightly.
No matter how well you prepare for open houses, the neighbours can be a tricky, uncontrollable factor. Take the open house that was next door to a couple who were exhibitionists. For about 30 minutes, the potential buyers at the open house got a view of the neighbours thoroughly enjoying one another’s company. Another home for sale had a neighbour who liked to sunbathe in the nude. Despite the real estate agent asking nicely, the neighbour wouldn’t keep his clothes on when an open house was underway.
One unwritten rule of open house etiquette is to not snoop through the private belongings of the home’s owners. Sure, open a kitchen cupboard to check the storage ability but don’t open a dresser drawer. Someone should have told this to the boy who rooted through the owner’s nightstand and then ran around the house pretending to fly the rocket ship he found (a personal pleasure device.)
Angela Langtry, a real estate broker with Century 21 Immo-Plus in Montreal, held an open house at a home she had for sale in Montreal. “I had asked the owners to depersonalize prior to the open house and remove the family photos from view. They did not. Potential buyers were treated to a first impression of walking into the living room and seeing the ‘honour wall’ of about two dozen pictures of the family’s deceased dog. Then, I watched jaws drop when people saw the semi-nude pregnancy photos of the wife in the master bedroom! Needless to say, buyers were a little distracted when visiting the house.”
An agent who asked to remain nameless so his past clients won’t send him hate mail was hosting an open house in the suburbs. Things were going great until the sellers showed up at the open house when over a half dozen potential buyers were touring the home. The sellers proceeded to harass the other people, pestering them with questions about themselves. This continued for over an hour before the agent could convince them to leave.
Another agent who asked that she not be named shared a story about an open house she was hosting for an owner that had a renter in the property. The agent showed up to start the open house and found the renter was hanging around. He refused to leave when people started showing up to tour the home. He followed potential buyers around claiming that the house was haunted, that it had been a drug house, that it leaked every spring, and anything else he could think up to reduce the chances of a sale happening.
After 36 years in real estate in the Greater Moncton area in New Brunswick, Shirley Powell, a sales representative with Royal LePage Atlantic, has an impressive collection of funny open house stories. My favourite involves an open house held in a large, beautifully furnished older home in the country.
“A man and woman came to the open house with five kids, all of a young age. Of course, there was no parental control there. As the agent, I was super busy greeting people and doing my best to answer questions. Somehow this sweet little girl around three-years-old slipped away from her parents to jump on beds. Later, when the open house was finished and I was turning off the lights, I glanced at a bed and thought, “Wow, that doll is so real looking.” The doll pops up and asks, ‘Where is my mother?’
“I did my best to stay calm and not laugh. But my stress level rose as it was just the two of us in the house and I had no idea how to contact her parents. We ended up staying in the house chatting for another hour before her parents returned once they remembered where they’d left her. I am still shocked at that experience!”
Some agents predict that open house will become obsolete as digital marketing becomes more prevalent. Until that happens, let’s embrace the laughable moments that open houses can deliver.
Do you have an open house story to share? Send it to REM! Email [email protected]
Correction: This story was corrected from the original version, which spelled Kim Louie’s name incorrectly.