If there is one thing that’s for certain in real estate, it’s that you should always plan for the unexpected—especially when it comes to property showings. Unpleasant surprises abound when it comes to entering another person’s home turf. But as a real estate professional, it’s important you plan ahead and react in a positive manner when something goes awry.
Chances are, as an agent, you’ve encountered a few awkward property showings yourself. Here are six common situations you may face—and tips on how to navigate through the drama.
Awkward situation #1: The homeowners are home
Tracy Hampson, a real estate agent with Great Santa Clarita Homes in Santa Clarita, California, scheduled an appointment to show a home to her buyers. She used her Supra key to get in and as she opened the door shouted, “Hello! Is anyone home?” There was no reply, so she and her buyers went in to view the property. They took their time and chatted about the home. But as they started to make their way upstairs, they heard water running. They entered the master bedroom only to find the owner was taking a shower in the master bath. Shocked, Hampson and her clients tiptoed downstairs and left the house with the owner never knowing three strangers were walking around his home.
Oh, the awkwardness. Sometimes homeowners forget about the property showing appointment and you find them home. Or, sometimes they want to be in their home to answers any questions the potential buyer may have. Speak with the head of the household and explain the buyers would like privacy when you show them every room. Ask them to step outside or take a quick jaunt around the block during the showing. If it’s not possible for the homeowner to leave the premises, ask your client if they would like to come back another time when no one is home. If the buyer decides they would like to have the seller present to ask questions about the home, you can always schedule a second showing or have the homeowner join you at the end of the private showing.
Awkward situation #2: Second amendment rules
You get the key from the lockbox and open the front door to find yourself face-to-face with an angry homeowner with a pistol. Don’t run. Don’t hurriedly stick your hand inside your pocket trying to pull out your business card. Just slowly raise your hands and reassure him by saying, “I am a real estate agent showing your house to a buyer.” Unbelievably, this happens to many real estate agents. This is why you should always ring the doorbell and announce you are a real estate agent when entering the home.
Awkward situation #3: Bad smells
Kitchens, bathrooms, and pet areas can emit unpleasant odors and turn buyers off. If you walk into a smelly room during a showing, take out a bottle of Febreze or another aerosol spray strong enough to mask the odor. You will also want to help the homeowner determine what remedies will be needed to take the smell away permanently. For example, will they need to simply clean the carpet and have the space repainted? Or will it take more effort to completely remove the smells?
Awkward situation #4: Pets on the premises
Most sellers’ agents ask that pets be removed from the premises during a showing. If that doesn’t happen, you may find them in a crate—or not. Pets left in a crate can pose a distraction if they make noise throughout the showing. Uncrated pets can pose a danger if they are scared and see a stranger in their home. If you sense it’s a dangerous situation, or you don’t feel safe showing a home with pets, reschedule the showing.
Awkward situation #5: Dirt, clutter, and messes
Some homeowners are always messy. Others are pack rats and hoarders, while others may leave home forgetting to pick up the clutter. Walking into cluttered or messy rooms with a buyer often calls for an apology. What more can be said other than, “I’m sorry, but I guess the owners forgot we were coming and didn’t clean up.”
Awkward situation #6: Keys missing from lockboxes
It happens all too often: agents arrive at a listing appointment with their clients only to find they have no way to get into the house. If possible, arrive at the home before your client gets there to ensure you can get in. If the key is missing, you may still have time to call the listing agent to help you enter the home. If arriving early isn’t possible, simply contact the listing agent to notify them of the missing key and reschedule the appointment.
In the end, both Hampson and Thomas Miller, a REALTOR® with Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington D.C., agree that sometimes all it takes to get through tricky property showings is a little bit of humor. “I think the best thing you can do when you encounter a weird situation is to just remain calm and professional. Getting upset or angry in front of your clients won’t help the situation. If possible, I try to make a joke out of the situation once it’s resolved,” says Miller.
How to avoid tricky property showings
“The best thing an agent can do to avoid these awkward moments during a property showing is to prepare well ahead of the showing,” says Miller. “I always make it a point to call the listing agent and ask if there is anything unique about the property, for example an alarm, a special access code, a dog, or anything that could throw a wrench in our plans.”
Remember to be prepared, show up early if possible, and—above all—remain calm and professional during all property showings, no matter how awkward the situation.
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About the author
Steven Rich, MBA has over three years of experience as a successful real estate agent. He was awarded the Top Condo Salesperson for two of those years by his real estate company. Steven has served as Associate Editor for a real estate magazine and is the author of a 104-page e-book on How to Buy, Develop, Lease, and Sell Real Estate.