Real Estate

What happened to our cat?

By From page C3 | January 18, 2013

Despite using my GPS, finding rural properties can be challenging. My appointment was tucked far back from the road, accessed only by a narrow dirt drive, blocked by a field livestock gate and obscured by trees and brush. I had to stop and exit my car in order to read the faded numbers on the partially hidden mailbox. I was a bit apprehensive as I opened the rusty old gate blocking the drive, thinking ahead as to how to best market this property hidden in the woods.

The rutted drive ended at the back of an old farm house where I was greeted by two large barking German Shepherds and a white Pygmy goat. OK, now what? Do I sit here waiting to be rescued by the owners or get out and risk having my new leather jacket nibbled and scratched by the four-legged residents. While reaching in my glove box for some dog biscuits that I carry for these emergencies, I spotted Martha dashing off her front porch weaving a broom and yelling “Get!” For a second, I didn’t know if she was yelling at me or the pets.

“Don’t pay any attention to Fred,” she said, pointing to the white Pygmy. “He’s just curious but the dogs are a little protective. They won’t bother you as long as we’re around. Now come on in and have some coffee.”

The owners, Bob and Martha, had lived there for the last 25 years. They were both in their 70s and 10 acres and a big house were now too much for them to keep up. It was time to move closer to town and their grandkids who lived in Folsom. Bob called me earlier in the week about selling his home. Marketing homes in the more rural areas of the county isn’t for every agent. They take longer to sell and have a greater chance of “falling out of escrow” when they do. Financing can be more difficult since lenders and their appraisers prefer financing more conventionally located homes. Then, there is the concern about showing the home to prospective buyers with pets and farm animals running around.

Pets are issues that agents commonly deal with. Often when showing homes, the owners are away at work and the pets are home to greet intruding guests. That’s usually not a problem when encountering a house cat but dogs can be protective or their enthusiasm for the company can be distracting with their barking and jumping. If dogs are confined to the backyard or the garage, it may eliminate that important area from being accessed by prospective buyers. Every situation is unique, requiring listings agent to have a frank discussion with the sellers about their pets and showings, prior to placing their home on the market.

When a seller says “Don’t worry about the dogs” or “It won’t be a problem we are always at home,” I get concerned. The seller’s intentions are good but on the very day that the best buyer for that home wants to preview it, the sellers won’t be home and two overly protective snarling fangs will prevent that from happening. Yes, there are exceptions but even the cute Yorkie will think he is a fierce Rottweiler when confronted by strangers entering his domain.

I would rather face a Rottweiler than some reptiles. The listing said “Be careful around the terrariums.” OK, some kid had a turtle. No big deal. Upon entry, I noticed a distinct odor and the air was humid. The house was full of glass cages containing an assortment of reptiles, including a variety of snakes and lizards. There were exotic Pythons and Boa Constrictors along with King, Gofer and Northern rattlers. Many cages looked empty and that’s when my clients and I decided to make a hasty exit. I later discovered the seller was a Herpetologist (studies reptiles) at UC Davis. The house didn’t sell until she and her pets vacated the property.

Cats are pretty docile creatures. Some will meet you at the front door and then disappear. Other will ignore you while resting peacefully. A litter box, not recently cleaned, will be a turnoff for some buyers. About 10 percent of the population has pet allergies. Cat allergies are twice as common as dog and I have had clients that refused to preview homes with a cat.

The showing instructions on the listing said the home was accessed by a lock box and “Don’t let the cat out.” I didn’t, blocking a Calico with my foot as I cautiously opened the front door. “Be careful” I cautioned everyone. “Let’s not let the cat out.” Somehow my warning didn’t register with the 6-year-old trailing behind his parents. The cat skirted out the door. While my clients were previewing the home, I was frantically searching the bushes … “Here kitty, kitty.”  Then I spotted him across the street at another house. After a brief chase, I scoped him up in my arms and as my clients exited the front door, I gently tossed him in the living room and shut the door. Later that evening, I got a call from the listing agent who had a call from her irate seller, surprised when she returned home from work, to discover the neighbor’s cat in her home and her cat missing.

Ken Calhoon is a real estate broker in El Dorado County. He can be reached through his website

Ken Calhoon

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