Active Rain August 29, 2010

“You Can’t Be Alone in the House With My Kids”

Our babies

“I can’t let you go inside my house with my kids home alone.” 

Those were the words of a newer listing client when I asked to swing by the house to do something that would take under a minute. The kids were teenagers, a 13-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. 

Some background: When the home was listed 2 weeks prior, it was, to be kind, not in showing shape. However, with smart angles and minimal work the photos I took with my digital camera flattered. The only exception was the dining room, which would have to be done at a later time. We agreed that the house would go on the market immediately due to the circumstances and that the dining room would be tidied up as soon as possible. 

I did get a call from Mrs Seller that the dining room was ready for photos, and we agreed I’d come by on an agreed upon day at 3:30pm. This would be to take, at most, two photographs. Late that morning, something came up that required my attention. I called the owner to see if I could come by earlier, since the house had a lockbox. 

“No. That wouldn’t work, because the kids are home alone.” 

Oooh-kaay. I didn’t know what to say. This is a rarity. 

“I can’t let you in the house when the kids are home. They are 13 and 14. You can’t go to my house with my kids alone there.”

It is just as well that I was at a loss for words, because when words came later they would not have been good to say. We agreed to reschedule. But I felt terrible. Obviously, the guy doesn’t trust me with his teen aged kids. Or, there is something going on in that house prior to my 3:30 scheduled arrival I can’t see. Either way, I’m not liking my liability prospects here. 

Putting aside a little bit of respect for the value of my time, as a father of four I often relate to the concerns of other parents. Ann and I are incredibly risk averse with our children. But this I don’t get, and I really don’t even want to deconstruct it. I had spent hours with these people, who are a short sale, going over their finances, airing their emotions over their financial issues, and holding their hand. While they were a new listing to me, they were already on the market for a year. Nothing here is new. 

12 years ago, as a 3rd-year agent, a seller client inexplicably yelled at me in his front yard. We were having a conversation and he just got angry and berated me as if I were an insubordinate adolescent. I was 31. My initial reaction was to pull my sign (it was 10 feet away) out of the ground and sack him. But I went against my gut out of fear of losing a commission and it expired unsold. I always regretted letting that guy run his kook script on me. I have that same feeling in my gut. 

The lockbox has come off the door and I am releasing the sellers. My wife agrees, and the occurrence has raised questions about these people we do not want really want to find answers for. We have given this quite a bit of thought and discussion. Ann, like me, wondered aloud if they are really this suspicious of me for a dining room photo, how will the short sale go? When I list a home, I try and cover as many possible contingencies as possible. Teenagers have to be able to accommodate showings, and you really ought to be able to trust your agent with teenagers. I respect the insecurity of others and there might be people who think their concern is perfectly reasonable. Perhaps it is. They can have the listing.