surprised man holding his glasses on his forehead looking and laptop

5 Real Estate Horror Stories And How To Handle Them

Holly Shuffett4 minute-read
October 08, 2021

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As Halloween approaches, social media is rife with imagery of our favorite horror movie villains: from Ghostface to Jason to Michael Meyers, spooky tales have long dominated the minds of many – especially in the fall.

With the air becoming crisper and the nights growing longer, in the spirit of the season we’re going to explore some real-life real estate horror stories and what you can learn from these particularly spooky situations.

These tales are straight from the agents’ mouths, with some names omitted to protect the innocent. Read on to learn more ways that you can gracefully tackle real estate adversity, even in the face of some scream-worthy situations.

It’s Coming From Inside The House: Experiences With Unexpected Guests

The Secret Napper

MARK C. — “My clients and I walked into a house for a showing and it appeared someone was still in the house. Protocol dictates that the client should not be in the home for a variety of reasons during the showing, but my client immediately said to me, ‘I feel like someone is here.’ I assured them that the owners knew they should not be home for the showing and we proceeded.

As we made our way to the bedroom, I noticed what appeared to be someone hiding under the sheets in their bed. I knew it wasn’t a bunch of pillows because I saw a toe sticking out of the covers. I quickly redirected my clients to another room and while we were in there, I saw the owner sneak out the back door. Surprise encounter averted. Huge sigh of relief.”

TAKEAWAYS – Always be aware who has access to the home you’ll be showing – though you may reach an agreement or understanding, something as innocent as forgetting a personal item or a simple lapse in memory could result in an awkward or even spooky showing. It’s also best practice to walk behind your clients during a showing to avoid being taken by surprise, or in this instance, so that you can quickly usher your clients out of the room before giving them a fright.

Run For The Hills

SETH WILLIAMS (Ledge & Young Real Estate) — “July of 2019 I received a call from a home seller. I drove to the vacant house and noticed that the seller was not there yet. I wandered around and found out that the back door is not locked.

“So, I went inside and noticed a smell of a cigarette. It was dark inside and I can see that there is a light coming upstairs. After a while, I heard some footsteps coming from upstairs. I walked toward the door when I heard a ringtone in front of me. From there, I can see that there is someone watching me, and he is just about 1 meter away. He ran toward me, but I already got out, and I immediately called 911 and drove home. I am thankful that I got out quickly because the authorities found out that there are drug dealers that stayed in the vacant house.”

TAKEAWAYS — Being a real estate agent can put you in some scary situations, especially if you don’t know what you’re walking into. Remember to stay alert and be on the lookout for any loiterers or poorly lit areas. Investing in some self-defense gear isn’t a bad idea – better safe than sorry! – and make sure you have reliable cell phone reception. You should also let friends or family know exactly where your open house is and about how long it should take to ensure your safety should things go south.

The Black Cat

DAVID NORTH (Realtrua) – “Several years ago a home inspector was inspecting a log home in rural Washington state for my buyers. Near the end of the inspection the inspector had not yet found the water heater. The only remaining place where it might be was in the far back corner of a narrow L-shaped bedroom closet, which was also over-stuffed with clothing and other items.

“On his hands and knees, he slowly crawled his way to that far back corner of the closet, where indeed he found the water heater. At the moment he reached it, he let out a yell, and proceeded to shoot back out of the closet much more quickly than he had entered it, followed by a big black cat that had jumped out from behind the water heater and startled him in the confined space.”

TAKEAWAYS – There’s no way to know how everything will go during a home inspection, but situations like this show just how important it is to have one before taking a client around the house. Build up some connections with trusted inspectors in your area who you can face unexpected situations with and always be wary of small spaces!

They’re Here: Experiences With Alarming Situations

A Loud Entrance

MACY J. – “I went to show a house and forgot to ask if there was an alarm. There was! It was so piercing my client ran out screaming and was super mad. Then the listing agent wanted me to run back in to turn it off while he walked me through the instructions. I had him on speaker phone, so he felt my pain, and we had to yell over it. I eventually gathered myself and got it turned off so my client could see the house.”

TAKEAWAYS – While a security system can certainly help give you some peace of mind when viewing or showing a home, it’s best to be familiar with how it works and the features it has. Does the alarm notify the authorities? Who knows the system and has access to the home? Can the password be easily changed?

When The Police Got Involved

ROBERT A. – “I had a showing recently where the agent didn’t tell me there was an alarm … and when it went off, the cops showed up. I had to calmly explain that we were not trying to rob the house, we were trying to buy it!”

TAKEAWAYS – If you’re ever caught in a situation like this, it’s best to be prepared. Always keep your real estate license or REALTOR® ID on your person should you ever have to show identification, whether it’s to the police or even just to some concerned neighbors. It can also be smart to get a decal or badge identifying your business on your vehicle – not only will it advertise your business, but it further proves that you’re a serious real estate agent.

We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes: Rough Days In Real Estate

The Fender Bender

LISA LACEY (Lisa Buys Austin Homes) – “I showed up to a showing and pulled into the driveway. My client had gotten there early, and I realized I was parking her car in, so I backed up to park on the street. Shortly thereafter, I impaled the side of my car on a fire hydrant. The sound of metal crunching as I struggled to get it free was horrific. I managed to get the car loose, jump out of the door, gather myself and stand in front of the gash in the side of my vehicle to block it from view, as I smiled and waved to my client. I was a bit shaken for the rest of the showing, but my client was none the wiser and it didn’t put a damper on showing her the home.”

TAKEAWAYS – Cars and parking are a big part of real estate safety that frequently goes overlooked. Parking in front of the property, not in the driveway, is an easy solution to avoid blocking in your client while still having easy access to your vehicle in case of an emergency.

An Unhappy Accident

TODD B. – “I pride myself on being organized and on top of my game, but a few years ago when I was a new agent unfamiliar with the area, I showed up at the wrong house for a showing. I toured the whole home alone, waiting for my clients and feeling so good that I would be fully prepared when they arrived.

“Obviously, they didn’t show, and I was more than a little late for the showing at the right house. I calmly apologized and then told them all about the house I’d seen, which they eventually set up a different showing for!”

TAKEAWAYS – Having a good understanding of where you’re headed and being familiar with a property prior to a showing can be immensely helpful when it comes to your personal safety and giving your clients an efficient home tour. You should also be sure to securely lock up when you’re done for the day and ensure that no one can wander in without your knowledge.

The Bottom Line

The role of a real estate agent has its ups and downs, but the key to success is adaptation. Just like the protagonists in your favorite spooky flicks, remaining calm and communicating effectively are great tools which will help you come out on top.

Holly Shuffett

Holly Shuffett is a staff writer who writes with a focus on homeownership and personal finance. She has a B.A. in public relations from Oakland University and enjoys creative writing and reading in her free time.