By Bob Aaron

What happens if a sales rep finds out that some visitors were having sex during an open house? Or worse, what happens if the sales rep is personally involved in some hanky panky during an open house?

Real estate lawyers get asked all kinds of oddball questions. One of my colleagues asked me recently how to respond to his client’s query. She returned home after an open house only to find the neatly made bed in her daughter’s bedroom in complete disarray.



Obviously, the bed and the bedroom were used either by the real estate agent or some visitors for a purpose that had nothing to do with marketing the house.

What should a Realtor do if she discovers evidence of an escapade like this in the bedroom, or the bathroom, or even the broom closet?

And how should a lawyer advise the client in this situation? My initial reaction was to suggest confronting the agent to find out what happened. If the agent knew about the incident – or was a participant in it – it might be time to get a new agent and consider a complaint to the brokerage or the provincial industry regulator.

If the agent did not know, it might be a good time to investigate how the event could have taken place and take steps to prevent a recurrence.

To my surprise, I discovered that the internet is full of apparently real stories of people having sex at open houses.

In March 2006, when the real estate bubble was at its peak, GQ magazine ran a story entitled Does Real Estate Make You Horny? It reported on a trend called “house humping,” in which thrill-seeking couples secretively have sex in a closet or bathroom or other quiet corner of the house, without the agent or other potential buyers noticing.

But in his 2016 book The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Film Making, author Dan Mirvish claims that the GQ story, whether it was fact-based or not, and the “trend” of house humping, were the fruit of a viral stealth campaign unleashed to promote a Weinstein Company real estate musical called Open House.

Having sex at open houses has even gone mainstream.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is an HBO comedy television series created by Larry David starring as a fictionalized version of himself. In a season 9 episode last year, the character played by actor Jeff Garlin confides in the character played by David that he had sex with his real estate agent at an open house.

Garlin: “Remember the Realtor from the art gallery?”

David: “Ya.”

Garlin: “Well, she had an open house. And let’s just say it stayed open a little longer for me. Oh ya. Oh ya.”

David: “You had sex with her at an open house?”

Garlin: “At an open house.”

David: “That’s unbelievable.”

Garlin: “Unbelievable. And you know they have cookies at the open house. I brought the cookies up with me. We had sex, I had some cookies, took a nap…

David: “On what?”

Garlin: “Well, they have the staging furniture.”

David: “Wow.”

Marjorie Garber is an English professor at Harvard University. In her 2000 book Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses she says that the real estate open house is a socially sanctioned license to daydream about what goes on behind other people’s closed doors.

“The idea of illicit sex in illicit places,” she writes, “has its own allure in the world of sex and real estate.”

Take the kitchen, she muses, and consider the hidden meaning of the words in the folk song I’ve Been Working on the Railroad: “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin’ on the old banjo.”

I’ll never think of the song, or open houses, the same way again.

All of this serves as a reminder to sellers who have agreed to permit open houses to establish with their Realtors clear terms to monitor visitors and their activities. It’s also a reminder to agents to carefully monitor visitors to their open houses to prevent the possibility of illicit activities taking place right under their noses.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. I belong to several Realtor groups on social media each with tens of thousands of members, mostly in the U.S. These stories are not uncommon and quite often the perpetrators are caught in the act.

    • Hi PED:

      Do you mean with their pants down? Not vey good with the quickies, eh? Just because one is a fast talker does not mean…oh hell, if I say it Jim the-editor-guy will stuff it in his special drawer of flammable materials again :-)

  2. Brian Martindale – If this is your real name – regarding your reply to Rita above; You set out to destroy another’s personal opinions that differed from your own & then continued your critical comments by pointing out grammar errors, as tho you needed to give one last kick while you had the person down. So, whatever point you were trying to make, it paled in comparison to discovering the heart of the writer, between the lines.

    • Penn, there is always someone around who likes to hear his own voice and knows more that the rest of us. Their sad insecurities manifest as arrogance and require them to lash out at others and try to feel like they’ve risen above everyone else when in reality they are less than. They are more to be pitied than scorned, as the hate they feel for themselves and others is more than enough to make them unhappy people. Move on positively and be glad you’re you, and not them.

      • C’mon Owen, ya lazy sot; at least take the time to write two separate missives—instead of lazily submitting a quicky two-fer—when defending others’ opinions herein, or did you run out of steam that quickly?

        This is becoming very interesting indeed. Rita trashes the very medium that she uses to trash same; I trash Rita’s opinion as well as her laziness regarding not taking the time to at least ‘try’ to express herself in a professional manner (which I have a sneaking suspicion that she is indeed capable of). After all, she is likely a professional Realtor who has passed all of the tests required to become a professional. If Rita is indeed a professional Realtor, then I doubt that she is a shrinking violet or a snow flake, and therefore that she is quite able to defend herself and her opinions against the likes of me. Then (so far) two super heroes who go by the monikers Pen Thought and OWEN CRAMPSIE trash me for trashing Rita who trashed REM. Someone call the garbage collectors! Then get hold of the fire department because we now have a flame war going on.

        To the issue at hand: Rita has put to print (for all the world to see) that this story has been used as an excuse to put Realtors—across the board—in a bad light. That is simply a load of hogwash, or as I like to say, bullshit. Bob Aaron’s piece is simply legal advice (as offered up by a real professional) that if acted upon might improve upon the unprofessionalism that exists within the ranks of the real estate sales business. Bob’s column comes across as much more professional, in tone and content, than does Rita’s, Penn’s and your opinions. Rita, Penn and you come across as defenders of whatever your compatriots do, no matter what. You all do not like criticism. (Me, I’m used to it; doesn’t bother me a bit. in fact, I relish it.) That is why I take exception to your blind adherence to your tribalism as displayed by a one-sided look at a two-sided problem. Attacking my person seems to be the only way that Penn (the Thoughts-police guy) and you can deal with my arguments. It seems that your and Thoughts’ biggest problem is that you both take exception to ‘how’ I deliver my message vs what the message is. Tough nuggies.

        Bring it on my pretties; I am quite accustomed to dealing with the likes of CRAMPSIES, Thoughts (WTF?) and anyone else who thinks that a gang attack will win the day. I quite enjoy this stuff.

        Yours truly,

        Brian Francis Martindale

        P.S.: Here is my one last kick (as the Thoughts-police guy describes it) for you…

        You should have said “…who ‘thinks’ ‘he’ knows more than the rest of us.”

        Also, “Their” should be “His”, “them” should be “his”, “they’ve should be “he’s”, “…they are less than.” should be “…he is less than.” (all in one sentence no less!) Same goes for the last two sentences.

        As I said before, you all are on display for the non-Realtor world to pass judgement upon by way of how you express yourselves herein. It’s your loss, not mine. If you think that taking the time to get everything right, as far as possible, is a mark of arrogance, so be it. In your world I suppose I am arrogant, but I don’t give a damn about what you think. I have no skin in the game any more, but you do. Maybe that is why the Thoughts-police guy is too timid to reveal his thoughts under his real name. I call that cowardice.

        In conclusion: Your super-hero cape is all twisted up and shredded in knots, methinks.

        BTW: How the hell do you all deal with clients with whom you disagree and who remind you of someone like me (at least by way of how I reflect what I think by way of how I write herein)?

        Oh wait, I know…there might be a big fat commission on the line with those clients. That says it all, don’t’ch’a think, my pretties?

    • Well now Penn Thoughts…we know that you write under other than your real name, from the safety of anonymity, from the sidelines, possibly from beneath mommy’s skirt. Therefore, you are a nobody, and nobodies deserve no response to their opinions. Put your name to your opinion (as Rita did) and I will be pleased to debate any issue at all with you. Until then, try to grow a back bone.

  3. This conduct is nothing new. A few of years ago the RECO website did report about a Realtor & his lady colleague ( in the GTA) was caught in the act, by the Seller, not at an open house but at a booked showing. Unfortunately for the couple they lost count of the time and the Seller walked in on them! Ouch! Yes, I believe RECO fined them $ 4500/- and ordered them to take ethics courses – tap on the wrist?

    I was nearly assaulted at an open house a couple of years ago (905 area code) and now take precautions. Fortunately, I was able to defend myself (black belt, 2nd Dan) -one of the guys lost a tooth & I ended up with torn blazer, bruised knuckles and a sprained ankle! I did not report it to the authorities for fear of being arrested for assault! :) I was very lucky that day. Thank GOD!~

    Precautions after the incident: I get all visitors to sign in. If they refuse, I refuse to show them the property. Accompany them on the tour. If there are many, I have a sign that says, showing in progress. Always have a 2nd person on the premise. Install portable cameras (investment under 300/-) and have signs stating surveillance – for legal purposes. In addition, I am on high alert! :) Are my open houses successful? Absolutely and I love them, as most people are decent!

    • Hi Radha:

      I am glad that you bruised your knuckles…on the other guy’s mouth. Yes, there is more that goes on in other peoples’ houses than we might want to admit to. Glad that you were able to defend yourself against those bozos and deliver a few haymakers and well placed kicks in the process.

  4. I thought the article was quite entertaining. Something to be aware of to make sure it doesn’t happen to one of your or my listings. Always something new, I have been a Realtor for 49 years and never heard of this happening to anyone.

    • Hi Mel:

      No one ever heard that the earth was not the center of the universe until a guy named Galileo came along and pronounced—and proved—that the sun was the center of our universe. We don’t know what we don’t know…until we find out about it all.

      To wit: Whilst working as a conciliator with the Ontario New Home Warranty Program (now TARION) I was finally made aware of rampant sexual shenanigans going on between the manager and his personal secretary that resulted in warfare between lover girl and the other women in the office who were being negatively affected by the manager’s favoritism as directed toward his lover. I use the words “finally made aware” because I was the last one in the office—of over twenty people—to hear about what was going on due to my propensity to avoid office politics. I had never heard of such stuff going on for well over a year (whilst everyone else knew) until I was made aware of it. I didn’t know what I didn’t know…until I knew. Just because we haven’t heard of something does not mean that it does not exist.

      It is my opinion that real estate sales is a fertile environment allowing for sexual shenanigans to be practiced amongst more Realtors than one might imagine. Opportunities abound around every corner. Horny is as horny does.

      Footnote: I gathered evidence of the aforesaid manager’s wrongdoings as they occurred within office hours, presented said evidence to the president of the program at Head Office, and the scumbag—and lover-girl—were both fired before I returned to my office an hour later…for something that I had never heard of happening…until I became educated. Not to be outdone, the new manager engaged in the same behavior with his newly hired secretary within a few months of taking over our office, and they too were summarily fired. The manager in charge of our office prior to the one I had fired had also engaged in sexual harassment, and he was fired. When I finally presented evidence (as noted above) of the same thing happening again, the president stated that “This can’t be happening twice in a row!” It happened three times in a row. This kind of stuff goes on everywhere my friend, even though we might naively choose not to see it.

      I believe that many get into this business precisely for the hoped-for realization of the experience of the excitement of the sex games. It’s what makes the world go ’round after all.

  5. Unbelievable any excuse to give Realtors a bad reputation! There are isolated incidents & take place in all professions, police, doctors, dentists, lawyers, executives etc…however in other professions the media does not portray
    this as the norm! Why when Realtors pay dues to the toon of 17.5million a year do these same organization do they continually badger us …enough already! All other industries like teachers, lawyers etc… have unions that stand by them rather than OREA & RECO that do the exact opposite.
    Most Realtors in industry are decent people, and do not deserve this kind of negative media slandering. Change in this industry is over due & change from the top starting with OREA & RECO.

    • Rita:

      First of all, Bob Aaron is not the media; he is a lawyer. He is dispensing advice that ought to be followed by Realtors if they want to limit and/or eliminate liability regarding the potential negative effects of open houses gone wrong. Are you therefore accusing REM of being a media outlet that is slandering Realtors across the board? All that REM has done is give voice to a respected real estate lawyer’s words of wisdom regarding an obvious problem that exists within the ranks of the business, be it a small problem or a large problem. A problem is a problem, period.

      Secondly, How do you know that the incidents that Bob is talking about are only isolated incidents? You don’t know that; you can’t know that. You may not partake in shenanigans like those mentioned, but others most surely do. The only unknown factor is the raw number attached to those kinds of incidents. Roadway speeders are only found out and documented if they are caught by the police, and those numbers are the ‘only’ numbers that are documented, not the numbers of speeders who are not caught. The practice of taking advantage of unguarded residences by sleazy Realtors might be more prevalent than we think. Who knows? I certainly don’t know the degree of prevalence that exists, and neither do you. Thus, we should not make uninformed pronouncements on the unknown. What we do know is that these incidents ‘do’ occur. I have been privy to these occurrences myself, although I never participated therein, so I know for a fact that this type of behavior exists, and that those who engage in this type of behavior are prone to doing it again and again. They get good at it…until they are caught. The only unknown is the degree of prevalence.

      Regarding your union comment: Unions tend to defend their members no matter what the accusation is or what proof of guilt exists. Is that what you want OREA and RECO to do? Are you an adherent to the “Blood is thicker than water” belief system where blood is not a factor? Hopefully not.

      Are you arguing that just because Realtors “…pay dues to the (toon?) of 17.5 million a year…” that “…these same organizations should…” ‘not’ badger you all? What has paying dues got to do with it all? Your argument sounds like Mafioso rationale: “Hey… Rita! Ya wanna stay out’a trouble and in business? Pay up or Eddie da Torch’ll be around ta light yer fire baby.” Because you pay up do you think that you should be made immune to oversight and penalties by (what you want them to be) your protectors?

      I tend to agree that most Realtors (fifty-one percent or more) are likely decent people from the standpoint of sexual shenanigans (whatever that means), but the industry as a whole ‘does’ deserve whatever it gets by way of negative publicity when the seemingly never-ending stream of negative stories goes public, if only in local spheres. The problem is that there is a mountain of local spheres out there, and nearly every Realtor within those spheres knows what goes on behind closed doors, even if the public is privy to only a sliver of that information. Realtors talk…amongst themselves; it is a closed society after all. By the way, reporting on an incident that has been proven to be true is not slanderous.

      Note: I have noticed a decided improvement in the grammatical quality of most of the comments that have been submitted herein over that last few months. I would respectfully advise you to take notice of same and that you try to emulate same, because the way that one expresses one’s self herein is a direct reflection of one’s education level, or at least it is a reflection of one’s adherence to same prior to clicking on the SEND icon. A poor argument is a poor argument based upon on its own lack of merit, but it is a doubly poor argument when delivered in an amateurish manner for all the world to see. (Members of the public ‘do’ read REM) Your hastily chosen words and their organization thereof do not put Realtors at large in a good light my friend. You are doing the very thing that you accuse others of doing…casting a negative shadow over the decent Realtors. Ranting will get you nowhere unless delivered in a cogent and organized manner in conjunction with the offering of credible back-up evidence. Said evidence ought to be delivered in a professional manner as evidenced by one’s obvious payment of attention to the details of expressing one’s points via the English language in its written form. Talking to another in the other’s lingo is a whole ‘nuther thing when trying to establish phony rapport in a mercenary manner.

      Next time, take your time; your mentality is on display here…for ever.

      Kudos to you for submitting your thoughts under your real name.

      • Correction: Not to be accused of hypocrisy, “Secondly, How…” should read “Secondly: How…”.

        Perfection continues to escape me.

    • Rita, there is always someone around who likes to hear his own voice and knows more that the rest of us. Their sad insecurities manifest as arrogance and require them to lash out at others and try to feel like they’ve risen above everyone else when in reality they are less than. They are more to be pitied than scorned, as the hate they feel for themselves and others is more than enough to make them unhappy people. Move on positively and be glad you’re you, and not them.

  6. As humerous as this subject may be, instances like this should be fuel for the elimination of opens. The world is much different now and people who are looking for a home now have choices with a plethora of pics, videos and virtual tours at their fingertips unlike in my early days when 1 black and white pixelated pic was available. Unlike the nosey neighbors and the like of yesteryear that still exist, their intentions were, and still are benign in contrast to medicine cabinet pirates who visit with the sole purpose to steal drugs, the thieves who scope a property steal or to later break in or the all to real risk of personal safety of real estate agent whom are targets. This also does not bode well for our industry that is under the scrutiny of public perception of professionalism. Today’s buyers in large part have an agent (in a number of cases, under a Buyer Representation Agreement) and buyers just entering the market have friends, family and co-workers referring their “awesome agent” not to mention google searching. Isn’t it time we rethink our marketing strategies and put our efforts both where we reap exposure to serious buyers and protect the clients home who entrusted us with their personal space.

  7. 30 years in the biz and this is truly the most insulting article I’ve read so far! To insinuate to Sellers and the public that this is a rampant problem as opposed to rare or isolated incidents is inappropriate. Theft is the most legitimate concern for most of us because we hear about it going on firsthand yet nothing about that is mentioned. I’ve NEVER heard of a case of house humping and believe me, if there was, we would all be hearing about it. I googled the term as mentioned in the article and did not find any rampant reports of sex at open houses. An HBO comedy skit last year does not make this a real issue. So sensationalized!

    • Perfectly stated, NP, couldn’t have said it better myself. Often these columnists jut look for scintillating stories to make up and share to appear relevant and keep their jobs, and then look far and wide to support their printed garbage. Shame on Aaron for stooping so low.

      • Hey, O. Crampsie:

        Looks like Jim the-editor-guy decided that my response to this, your reply to NP, was a little too harsh for snowflakes’ eyes, and thus, he stuffed it into his special drawer of flammable materials. So I will just say this:

        Jim does not engage with columnists who “…jut look for scintillating stories to make up and share to appear relevant and keep their jobs.” Seriously? Bob is a real estate lawyer who writes for the Toronto Star as well as for REM. Bob Aaron is an actual professional who very likely has to deal with a lot more unseemly goings-on than you would like to admit to.

        Bob writes garbage, you say?

        Garbage n. 1, waste matter from a kitchen; refuse. 2, a worthless assortment; nonsense. (Websters)

        I opt for number two, because you are full of it. (Can you just imagine what I said first time around?)

        There are thousands of Realtors who have read this article and our comments thereto over the last, almost, six days, and yet as of now, Monday, November 26 @ 2:30 P.M., there have only been you guys and gal who have disagreed herein with Bob’s position, and thence only PENN and you who have disagreed herein with my opinions. Either everyone else who read this article is in agreement with it and/or my position, or, they couldn’t be bothered to reply even if they didn’t agree with either the article or with me. That leaves just you all, less than a handful, who occupy the tiny island of discontent. Looks like you all are in the minority on this one…big time.

        So where the hell is the industry-wide Realtor outrage against Bob’s article? Maybe there are simply many Realtors who are clucking their tongues, nodding their heads and thinking to themselves “Uh huh, yup.”

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