Lew Sichelman

Not all real estate deals go smoothly. Something almost always happens, whether something funny, sad or completely weird.  

Like the Oklahoma agent whose clients walked into a half-bath that had wallpaper – featuring nude women. Luckily, they laughed about it. Or the Texas agent who showed a house with eight big-screen TVs – all tuned to the same documentary about serial killers. He and his clients left right away and never looked back. 

One Florida agent showed clients a house with a floor made of pennies. Unusual, to be sure. And when one California agent and his clients arrived at a showing, they found a pool party underway – with 10 naked guests. Worse, the agent had called the sellers about the showing ahead of time! 

I’ve been collecting tales like these for years, mostly from Realtor Magazine, but also from other sources. Here are some of the better ones. 

Years ago, Denver property manager Andrew Woodruff was tasked by a client to clean out a foreclosure. When he approached the garage, he noticed a smell “like a sweaty gym,” Woodruff told Realtor. When he opened the doors, he found hundreds of pairs of used sneakers in a pile, all tied together by their laces. Goodwill wanted no part of this treasure, so Woodruff dropped them off at the nearest landfill. 

Woodruff’s story reminds me of one of my own. I’d rented out a room, and went to clean it out when the tenant vacated – only to learn he had left me with hundreds of milk jugs filled with urine. Yuck! I treated them as hazardous waste, pouring the contents into the toilet, then took the empties to the dump. To add injury to insult, on my final trip down the stairs, I missed the last step and broke my ankle. 

I’ve Got a Funny Feeling… 

Florida agent Stephen Falor attended a strange closing when he worked in Ohio. His clients showed up late, the husband dressed in tight shorts and the wife in a miniskirt and a see-through top. Upon arrival, she moved silently around the meeting room with extended arms, then walked out. 

Turns out they wanted to cancel the sale because “the aura in the room wasn’t right,” said Falor. After the couple was told what would happen if they refused to move forward, they closed the next day, “but not before the wife did one last circle around the table.” This time, the aura was just fine. 

Sometimes, the signs of trouble are easier for all to see.  

When Raleigh, North Carolina, agent Doreen Mathis and her clients arrived at one house, they were met by a man with “stringy, unwashed hair” who was excited to see them. So excited, in fact, that Mathis and her buyers felt a tad uneasy. She soon knew why: In the living room was a makeshift doghouse with “Killer” painted on it in drippy red letters, and in the bedroom were enlarged photos of three female heads, circled in red marker. 

Starting to panic, the three quickly left – followed closely by the man, who suddenly shoved the agent to the floor and said, “You have two seconds to get out of here.” 

Slapstick Sales 

Oklahoma agent Norma McKiddy went for the ride of her life at a listing presentation. When she started up the stairs, the sellers’ huge Great Dane bound up behind her, darted through her legs and carried her like a jockey up and away. She yelled “Save me!”, which the owner laughingly did. She eventually nailed the listing. 

When showing a waterfront property, Nancy Freiburger of Ocean Island, North Carolina, and her clients fell off the dock and into the lake. But her clients wanted to continue to look at houses, so they did – soaking wet. 

When Mark McNitt of Houston was leading a final walkthrough of a home with an elevator, his clients brought along their three children. The kids insisted on taking the elevator upstairs, promising they knew how to operate it. But the lift never arrived. When the adults heard the moppets screaming, they discovered that the elevator was stuck between floors: The kids had pushed all the buttons and tripped a safety switch. After a few minutes, the controls reset and the children were safely returned to the first floor. 

Warm Your Yeart 

Every agent has a story or two like these. And some have heartening tales like Suzanne Menendez-Herbst’s. 

About two years ago, the California agent landed a client whose mother had recently passed away. She helped him clean up his mom’s house to get it ready for sale. When her client took sick, Menendez-Herbst took him the hospital; when he needed special food, she’d bring it to him. 

He later moved to another state, yet he continues to keep in touch and send the agent small gifts. Once he even had a pizza delivered to her house. 

“We are not just transactional agents; we are an industry of caring professionals who want to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” Menendez-Herbst told Realtor. “Our clients become like family and remain a part of our lives in so many ways.” 

Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at lsichelman@aol.com. 

Tales from the Realty Trenches

by Lew Sichelman time to read: 4 min