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Open House Horror Stories

By Laura Agadoni · May 8, 2016 · Real Estate

Open House Horror Stories

Image courtesy of Flickr, David Long

Open houses are to the real estate world what live TV is to media: you never know what will happen with either.

When an agent conducts a private showing of your home for sale, they have control over most of what happens during said showing. But once you bring in the public in an open house situation, anything can - and does! - go wrong.

Here are some open house horror stories that have really happened to our readers.


"Sadly, my client was ripped off during an open house a few weeks ago," says Philip Mandel, an Oregon real estate broker. Mandel explained that a man came in and identified himself as a potential buyer. The man came with no agent, although he said he had one. This so-called "potential buyer" flew through the house very quickly and then left abruptly, says Mandel.

What happened?

"A few days later, when the [homeowner] came back after some medical recuperating elsewhere, she discovered that two bottles of medicine were missing - Oxycodone and Vicodin, both narcotics." Although the homeowner hid her pain medicine, she apparently didn't hide it well enough.

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh My!

Well, cats really. Jamal Asskoumi, agent and owner of tells the tale of too many tails.

"We once held an open house for a seller who owned several cats. We're talking 10 upwards," says Asskoumi who kindly advised his client to take the cats to the garden during the open house.

If you guessed that the homeowner didn't care for that idea, you'd be right. "The seller did the exact opposite; he put all the cats in the living room," says Asskoumi. His pleas to the homeowner to remove the furry felines were declined. And then the viewers started arriving.

What happened?

Asskoumi summed it up mildly: "The open house did not result in a sale."

Water Water Everywhere

This next story is from a closing, not an open house … but it could just as easily have happened before an open house.

It was Jeffery Saad's first year as a Los Angeles real estate agent, and he was ready to close the sale on a condo. "I walked into the unit to find water raining down from the unit above … literally like a shower," he says, explaining that the washer/dryer hoses burst in the unit above.

The problem?

Besides the obvious setback of a water-drenched home, Saad pointed out that buyers could cancel the sale now if they wanted. But there was a solution.

"I immediately got on the phone and got a company to come out with dryers. They ‘cooked' the unit for three days straight. Because we caught it so fast, nothing was ruined. The ceiling was not stained, and everything was back to normal." Saad did disclose to the buyer what happened, but when the buyer came in, the problem was already solved.

Mansions and Movie Stars

Just as there are horror stories regarding open houses, there are some definite perks that come with the territory, which Saad can attest to.

Keep in mind that Saad is an L.A. agent. "There I am in a Bel Air open house," says Saad who noticed a woman kneeling down to better see the fireplace. "I kneel down next to her and chime in about how the tiles are handcrafted originals." The woman then tells Saad how much she loves them.

"I became almost frozen after hearing her voice. It was a one-of-a-kind voice that could belong to nobody else."

Who was it?

Demi Moore. "I smiled, probably quite awkwardly, and stood up. I turned around, and there is Ashton Kutcher!"

Open House Etiquette

Many agents don't host open houses anymore, and if they do, many do so reluctantly. There are just too many things that can go wrong. If you're a buyer, you can make the open house process go smoother for everyone involved by following some basic manners.

  1. It's a good idea to take photographs at an open house. You can use the photos as reminders of what you like (or don't like) about the home. But before you start snapping away, you should first ask the agent on duty if photographs are allowed. Some sellers don't want people taking pictures of their personal belongings.

  2. You can open drawers of fixtures that will remain in the home, such as kitchen cabinets, to see how roomy (or not) they are or to see whether they work properly. But don't open the bedroom's dresser drawers and, even worse, rummage through the seller's belongings.

  3. Don't feel guilty about being a looky-loo. Many agents welcome all people to an open house. Even if you're not in the market today, you might be someday, or you might know someone who is. But don't pretend to be interested when you're really not. Let the agent know that you're just looking so they don't waste their sales spiel on you.

  4. It's best to not bring very young children to an open house. And if you do, make sure you keep them in your sight and under control at all times. Never let small children run around someone else's home unsupervised. Having a toddler use the seller's couch or bed as a trampoline or flush the toilets continually won't endear you to the seller's agent.

Some more considerations: Don't bring food or drinks inside, don't use the bathroom unless it's an emergency, and make sure your shoes are clean before coming in.

Bottom Line

An open house can be a great way to sell your home. And you never know who'll show up, from a movie star to a looky-loo who could steer the future buyer to the home. Just make sure you make arrangements for your furry friends, and lock up any valuables (or medicines).

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