I recently escorted a client through a condominium that featured a stacked washer/dryer combination standing in the breakfast room, a floor-to-ceiling living room wall of gold-veined mirrors and the pièce de résistance: a 1980s black, acrylic, jetted bathtub that comfortably seats four.
With all that to ponder, it was my client who said, “Wait. This place doesn’t look like the pictures I saw online.” And she was right.
After the photos had been taken, the living room furniture had been rearranged, one of the stainless appliances had been swapped out for a white one and a colorful étagère had been moved from the cramped kitchen to the dining area.
Most real estate agents see far too many houses in the course of a week to remember them all by their photos. When I’m showing a property, I concentrate on the client, looking to see if her eyes light up with glee or his nose crinkles in a visual expression of “Yuk.”
It used to be that agents had time to preview properties before showing them and eliminate some that might raise the eyebrow of a client who had made it clear which positive or negative features were deal breakers.
With a fast-paced market, we must rely more on the online photos and agent descriptions than ever before. We hope that our colleagues use professional photographs to show the property’s best features and give reasonable descriptions in the 400-character space available, but a visit to the home is still a critical part of the buying process.
I like to think I plan property tours efficiently, reviewing listing information to find those that match the parameters set by my clients, scheduling viewings in close proximity or along a circular route, and building in time for bathroom breaks, stops for water or snacks, traffic logjams and parking challenges.
Still, there are time wasters, dangerous situations and comic interludes inherent in the showing process. Here are some of my most memorable experiences.
• The showing instructions read, “The lockbox is located on the lower railing on the left side of the condo by the garage entry, around the corner and down the alley from the main entrance.” Huh?
• The six keys in the lockbox are all unmarked and the front doorknob requires two hands, 10 minutes of jiggling and a spritz of WD-40 to unlock.
• While you’re going in the owner’s cat gets out and you spend 30 minutes (and at least 50 scratches) trying to get him back into the house, only to be told by the listing agent that a) it’s OK if he goes out or b) the seller doesn’t have a cat.
• The door handle is set to auto lock and you find yourself boosting your client over a back fence to get out or calling the front desk of a condominium for help as you contemplate a dive over the side of the building while stranded on the roof deck.
• The seller has forgotten that you made an appointment and greets you at the door wearing only a towel around his waist and a soap-on-a-rope.
• The buyers lose track of their children and while you are showing them the kitchen, their 12-year-old plummets from the attic through the ceiling and into the breakfast room feet first.
• A framed photograph of the seller and friend at the Mr. Leather Chicago contest, dressed appropriately for the occasion, inspires a lively discussion.
• You find that a mother raccoon has recently given birth in the chimney and that a family of squirrels has made a nest (and a meal) out of the insulation in the attic.
• You refer to the secret “playroom” outfitted with pillows, candles, handcuffs and a riding crop as “The Meditation Room” around your buyers’ children.
• You complete a showing and find that someone has made a T turn-around into the driver’s door of your new car and has left a blank note under the windshield.
Some things you just can’t plan for; you just have to heave a sigh and roll your eyes. But please, sellers, once you have your photos online, don’t change your décor. We need to know we’ve come to the right place.
Valerie M. Blake is with Keller Williams Capital Properties. Reach her at 202-246-8602 or at Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com. Each office is independently owned & operated. Equal Housing Opportunity