“Why do you yell out “Hello” when entering a vacant house?”
It was a sensible question from my clients. There are 1,300 homes currently listed for sale in El Dorado County and 500 are unoccupied. There are another 300 homes listed as “pending sales” and 200 of them are vacant. Just because the owners have moved out doesn’t mean that nobody is there.
One of the many responsibilities an agent has when showing properties is to protect their clients from the unexpected. That’s why, after unlocking the front door, I will enter the property first, yell out something and begin my sweep of the home by opening doors, turning on lights and opening window coverings and scanning the back yard. My clients don’t need me to point out the fireplace in the living room or the dishwasher in the kitchen but they do rely on their agent to discover any situation that may be a threat to their safety.
Years ago, when I was a rookie agent showing houses, I would politely open the front door for clients and stand aside while my clients entered the property before me. One day, I opened the door for a lady, stepped aside to allow her to proceed me and just as she had stepped into the front entry, two giant barking Dobermans charged us. Her scream frightened me and the dogs. The dogs stopped in their tracks while I attempted to extract myself from my client’s frightened embrace. The situation taught me a valuable lesson when showing homes, yell and lead.
On more than one occasion, I have entered a vacant house only to surprise vandals in the process of their destruction. A loud announcement of my arrival will usually send them scampering out the back door. Kids smoking dope, making out and spray painting the walls are easily dispatched by a voice of authority but some crooks are getting pretty sophisticated.
Bob, an agent in El Dorado Hills, shared with me his story about his experience showing a bank REO to his clients. When he drove up to the home with his clients, parked in the driveway, was what appeared to be a contractor’s truck and crew of workers loading the truck with kitchen cabinets, appliances, plumbing and lighting fixtures. Bob located the person in charge, who said the bank had hired them to do a complete remodel on the home and proceeded to point out the work they were contracted to perform. Upon returning to the office, Bob called the listing agent to inquire further about the property. The listing agent knew of no scheduled work authorized by the bank and immediately left to inspect her listing. By the time she arrived the construction crew had disappeared along with $30,000 in missing fixtures.
A few months ago I showed a vacant home in Folsom that included a beautiful hot tub and gazebo. The buyers were interested and so we returned to preview the home again a few days later. The spa was gone along with all the plantation shutters in the house. The listing agent later located the hot tub for sale on E-Bay.
According to RealtyTrac, the average time required to foreclose on a delinquent borrower in California is 427 days. Although many homeowners may be attempting a loan modification or short sale during all that time, many simply abandon their home.
An agent in Georgetown shared with me a bizarre incident. She had listed the occupied home as a short sale and sometime during the listing the seller disappeared. The agent became concerned when the seller did not return the her calls or e-mails. Finally, she made a personal visit to the home. The owner wasn’t there and another family had moved in. The new occupants had paid the seller $2,500 to stay in the property until the bank threw them out. Six months after the foreclosure the tenants still remained in the property.
While showing a home in Placerville this summer, I discovered a homeless person sleeping in the garage. Another time I was startled to find the previous owner of a foreclosed home was camped out in the back yard in his RV.
Large dogs can also be an unexpected problem. When showing rural properties, I will often be greeted by some big friendly barking dog with tail wagging. Their job is to protect their territory from strangers and let the owners know when company has arrived. This arrangement usually works out well unless the seller isn’t at home and forgot to contain their four legged security alarm. A few smoothing words and a dog biscuit will usually get us into the house.
Every agent has had the misfortune to walk into a compromising situation with a home’s occupants which is another good reason to loudly announce your arrival.
I once had sellers ask me from under their bed covers “Why didn’t you call?” Another time while unlocking the front door to a listing, I heard a woman screaming from the back of the house. I yelled out “Hello,” and the screams got louder. Thinking the worst, I ran into the house and down the hallway where I could hear the sounds of a struggle. The opened bedroom door revealed rapture rather than rape and I promptly left unnoticed with my clients in tow. It was the one house where I did not leave a business card to let the owners know that I had stopped by.
Ken Calhoon is a real estate broker in El Dorado County. He can be reached through his Website at HYPERLINK “http://www.kencalhoon.com”