Open houses can be a mixed bag of dangers and delights

Most agents will admit that the likelihood of finding a buyer for your home through an open house is quite small. For the most part, agents conduct open houses with another objective in mind; coming into contact with prospective buyers and sellers who might work with them, now or in the future. Sure, I know of people who found their dream home by attending an open house but I also know of people who won the lottery. It happens, but it’s a long shot.

I got a bit of a kick out of this story about a recent study of open houses which found that almost half of the people who attended them weren’t even in the market to buy a home. Fifty-seven percent admitted to getting some kicks out of the opportunity to “check out the seller’s personal property” from opening closets to reading notes on the fridge. I'm guessing it's more than fifty-seven percent.

I suppose having your fridge notes read or your medicine cabinet raided by total strangers and neighbours is fairly harmless, at least compared to some of the other possibilities. It seems that there’s no end to the dangers and delights that can occur between 2 and 4 on a Sunday afternoon.

Just a few years ago, a very strange idea crept into the mind of one Saskatoon dude. Over the course of couple of weekends he made a number of open house appearances, all of which were hosted by women. After entering and greeting his host, he would take the first opportunity to sneak away to a private spot and undress to his underwear, underwear which was selected to accentuate his feminine side. Then, to the horror of the attendant REALTOR®, he would parade through the living room to make himself seen. Perhaps I have a keenly sharp sense as to what the average woman may find sexy, or perhaps it was just a lucky guess, but it came as no surprise to me that this was not a real turn on for the women who happened to be there. I was surprised to learn, however, that this is not actually an illegal activity. Fortunately, police were able to convince the man that no good could come of such exhibitions and after one firm talking to, he stopped.

Being cornered or assaulted by a kook is probably the worst case scenario for an agent at an open house but theft of the seller’s personal property is always a concern, and rightly so. Over the course of my career I’ve heard several stories of items gone missing, but frankly, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often than it does. It seems that open houses can be a pretty easy and lucrative target. Here’s a news storyabout an Oshawa couple in their 50’s who were recently charged with stealing over $500,000 worth of property from a number of open houses. It’s quite a way to be making a living after 50. Sad but true.

Open houses can be more than fun and surprises for agents and home sellers. It seems that buyers find their fair share of delights as well. In this interesting blog post, New York Times readers share their fondest open house memories, from tales of intimate boudoir photos proudly displayed, to people fast asleep in bed. One of the stories reminded me of an open house I hosted early in my career, before I had a good sense of what staging a home really means. The seller was a hunter, and not just a regular hunter. He had visited Africa on numerous occasions and quite a collection of trophies had accumulated on the walls of “his room” as it was affectionately labeled by her. There are few things uglier that a warthog. Gazelle’s, water buffalo and zebras are all quite magnificent, but when you chop their heads off and attach them to the walls of a sixteen by twelve foot room they have a tendency to dominate. They can also send people fleeing. One woman literally ran down the stairs and out the front door without so much as a goodbye.

Perhaps the most shocking and sad open house story I’ve ever heard was this one. It seems that the home owner, distraught and grieving the recent death of his beloved spouse, hanged himself in the closet of the master bedroom. His lifeless body was discovered by a “prospective buyer” who just had to open the closet at an open house. Some fifty-seven perent of you might like to keep this story in mind the next time you have the urge to sneak a quick peek inside a closet at an open house.

Do you have any fun or scary open house stories? Please share it with us by leaving a comment.

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Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

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