So you're having an open house. It's no big deal -- people do this all the time, right? The only thing you have to worry about is steering clear until everyone is gone and then waiting for the offers to roll in. You've totally got this.
Or do you?
An open house can be a terrifically efficient way to get lots of potential buyers in the door at once. But sometimes things don't go as planned. Sometimes open houses are the stuff of nightmares. Check out these true (and hilarious, because they didn't happen to us) tales from open house hell. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The dead deal
"I was showing an awesome rental in a beautiful building in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, going for a shockingly low price. I had to ask: Why so cheap? My partner pulled me aside and told me the previous resident had died of old age in the apartment, and his body had stayed there for two months. The apartment had been completely gutted, but there still lingered a faint odor. So, when I was showing the apartment, I had planned to gently and tactfully break this information, but that's when a neighbor walks in and says she was curious about the apartment 'because of what happened.' At which point I had to explain on the spot." -- Emile L'Eplattenier, real estate agent and writer with Fit Small Business.
Lesson learned: Sure, you don't want to just blurt out that someone died and rotted in the home on the open house flyer. But if your home has a particularly sordid past, the open house is a good opportunity to come clean. Serious buyers will find out regardless when it comes time for seller's disclosure. And on the chance that nosy neighbors come around asking about it in front of potential buyers, you won't look like you were trying to hide the home's history.
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Curse of the unwanted gift
"I was hosting a busy open house, and the home was vacant, which meant the utilities had been turned off, including the water. About half-way through the open house I hear a mother shriek from the hall bathroom. She had allowed her son to use the restroom, and this 5-year-old laid a load that a buffalo would have been proud of -- in a nonworking toilet! The mother was mortified and they ran off as quickly as they could. Thankfully, the neighbors had a bucket on the side of the house, which I filled with water and used to fill the tank on the toilet. It flushed just fine and all was well." -- Morgan Franklin, Realtor with United Real Estate Lexington.
Lesson learned: Realtors have told us again and again that buyers will use the bathroom during a showing. If you've already moved out, it might be for the best to leave the water on for a while (buyers might want to test the plumbing or shower pressure, after all). Or at least pop up some cautionary signs on your toilets.
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The house of horrors
"Going back a few years to our first year in real estate, we were really pressing for getting listings -- hard. We get a call to list a property, agree to meet the owner, and when we roll up -- well, I wish we could've captured our looks to each other on film. Horrendous. The look, the odor, the whole package. Literally the nastiest house I've seen even to this day. Long story short, we list, immediately hold an open house that weekend. And held our breaths." -- Robert Page, The Realty Cousins with Century 21 Alliance Realty Group in Hudson Valley, NY.
Lesson learned: Sometimes you can get lucky. "Who comes strolling in to make a cash offer? The next-door neighbor!" says Page. "We thought looking at this place was bad for a few days. This woman had been looking at this house from her windows for decades and couldn't take another day of it. She's since fixed the whole place up and it looks great."
No, you may not be quite so lucky. If your house is a blighted mess, we hope you'll take this opportunity to think about your life choices and then, for goodness sake, do some updating before you put it on the market.
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The looky-loo stalker
"Last year I was hosting four open houses in one day which is typically the max. But so was everyone on my team! We had a total of 14 homes for sale ranging from $980,000 to $11,500,000. And the same buyer went to every single one! We have no idea how he did it, but clearly he wasn't a (legitimate) buyer for any of the properties. Over the next several weeks he would continue to show up at our team's open houses and oddly always wore the same outfit and had the same shopping bag from a very well-known retailer." -- Eleonora Srugo, Realtor with the SLS team at Douglas Elliman
Lesson learned: Don't expect everyone who walks through the door to make a serious offer. Some people may just be there out of curiosity or boredom, or because they're a little, well, strange. Thankfully only your Realtor will have to deal with the crazies up close and personal. Just remember to take it on the chin if the number of offers on your home doesn't quite align with the attendance at your open house.