Every real estate agent knows that spooky monster stories aren’t true. They know that the real monsters come out on Sunday mornings, not in the dead of the night. Oh, and they don’t drag chains and moan about the pain of being undead, they sit in the back seat and moan about how high your commission is …
That’s why we asked some of our friends at Compass and a few other brokerages to give us some spooky tales to tell around the office campfire.
So grab some marshmallows, a flashlight, and get ready to hear some actual real estate nightmares.
PS: Have a real estate nightmare story to tell? Send an email to email@example.com and tell us your story, and (hopefully) the lessons learned. You can stay anonymous if you want, all we ask is that the stories are true. See the small print at the end of the article for details.
The Energy Vampires…
“Last year, I was very excited to get a listing where I felt the seller was very collaborative. They seemed very positive upfront, and willing to run with the ideas that I suggested. All that deteriorated quite quickly and I came to find out that my client was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. At first they presented themselves as a certain way, and once we signed on the dotted line and got into the process, they did a complete 180—personality wise. They did not want to take my suggestions, they were hyper critical, and generally speaking, just had a horrible, negative energy.
Nothing I did could please them. Any negative feedback about the property or the price was my fault, and had nothing to do with the challenges that inherently existed with selling their home at their price point. They micromanaged everything, from the marketing, to the showings, to the music that I played. Finally I had had enough, and decided to fire them. This process went on for several months because as most of us do, I wanted to save the listing, make the sale, didn’t want to disappoint.”
“The biggest lesson that I learned after that was that I had given all of my energy to these clients, trying to please their unrealistic expectations, and in turn it was negatively affecting the rest of the book of my business because I did not have enough energy or focus to give to my other clients.
I called this couple that I fired my “energy vampires.” The biggest lesson I learned was never have those types of people in your life, let alone in your business. Stand your ground, lay out your boundaries and stick to them and most importantly learn how to say no! After my experience with them I literally suffered the real estate version of PTSD.”
The “HGTV-esque” Lowballer
“I had a client that was adamant about submitting an offer 40% below ask “to see what happens” and when the seller denied the offer without a counter the client suggested that it was likely “because I didn’t drive a Mercedes or BMW to set the right tone in presenting the offer a la ‘HGTV-esque.”
“You’re my Personal Chauffeur, Right?”
“I had a client who lived close to the area she was shopping in, so I often picked her up, then dropped her off after our tours. It became apparent that she had unrealistic expectations as she kept passing up solid options in hopes of something that just didn’t exist in her price range.
After almost a year of this (and me constantly telling myself to chill out- ‘it’ll come together’), it finally came to a head when I had two tours set up for the day. The first one for this client and the second one for a different client in the opposite direction. She was furious that I wouldn’t pick her up and drop her off. When I asked her why she couldn’t drive her own car, she said that she didn’t want to have to search for parking when she got back. Long story short, she fired me.”
“What I learned from this experience was to be mindful of how I give my time. I now pay attention to clues and if I sense that buyers aren’t consciously participating in the process, I put them on the back-burner while I focus on those who are really ready.”
“Can You Help Me Find a Unicorn Please?”
“When I first started out as an agent even though I was in luxury estates I took any and every client I could to gain experience and knowledge. One client reached out to me on the Nextdoor app. She was looking for a one bedroom, one bathroom rental under $1,800 a month. Where I’m located, that price is unheard of and usually not listed on the MLS. I searched endlessly for her. She had a leg injury so I picked her up drove her to about seven places where I would have to drop her off in front of the apartment, park then go meet her.
Each place she saw she would complain to the other agent about what she didn’t like. At one viewing she made an agent count with his feet how big the main bedroom was to see if she could fit her bed and night stands in. There was one particular unit she loved that was $600 over what she could pay. She wanted me to give her offer and when the agent cordially denied it, she was shocked. Following that five-hour day she started sending me listings she found on Zillow and Craigslist.
She would call, text and email me all day every day. I told her if it’s not listed on the MLS she needs to contact the landlord directly since they aren’t working with agents. She finally found one on her own.”
“What I learned from that experience is to set boundaries with clients on business hours. The less money they have to put into a home or rental the more challenging the client will be. I now strictly work with buyers and sellers in the market that I chose. I never reject clients but I definitely learned the hard way.”
“Too Many Spirits Here… “
“I sold my client’s home for above her dream price in one week. She was upset that I sold it so quickly. For the next home she wanted to buy, she called me telling me “I absolutely have to have this home, it’s my dream home.” We got an accepted offer (in a nine-offer bidding war). Ten minutes after we accepted the offer, she said she didn’t want the home anymore. Then I found her another “Dream Home that she must have” and her family member told me there’s ‘too many busy spirits in the home,’ so we had to move on.”
“I learned that you have to screen your clients with more detail so you’re prepared for abnormal behavior.”
—Anonymous Agent, Compass
A Narrow Escape…
“A few summers ago, I went on a listing appointment without Googling my potential seller first. When I arrived, I found the house was a horrible, three-story home, painted an awful shade of salmon and reeked of cigarette smoke, with an equally creepy owner who offered me drinks and insisted that I give myself a tour of his home while he sat in his “home bar.” After over an hour of trying to make a polite exit, I finally left.
When I got home, a quick internet search informed me that this man was wanted in another country for molesting over 70 female students. I relayed this creepy story to a colleague of mine, and a couple of days later she called me and said, “Turn on the news!” As it turns out, that morning, the U.S. Marshall showed up to the man’s home to extradite him back to the county where he was wanted. Instead of being arrested, the man shot and killed himself.”
From this experience, I learned to follow my gut, and if something does not feel right, I do not have to be polite!
The Tenant From Hell
“I leased a modest home to a man separated from his wife. He apparently was living in a fairly nice home and this was a multiple step down. After moving in, he began complaining. The cleaning job was not good enough. It turns out his wife owned a cleaning company. Then his kids didn’t want to stay at the home because of bugs. Multiple trips from the exterminator found no bugs.
About 45 days into the lease, he wanted out of the lease because he was reconciling with his wife. We quoted him the termination fee outlined in the lease and he refused to pay that to terminate the lease. That began the daily calls with maintenance items. Contractors going out to a no show, being refused in, complaints they did not show up and threats. He then did not make a rent payment for December, about three months into the lease. It takes about 45 days to evict. We had a hearing date of Jan. 8.
On or about Jan. 2 or Jan. 3 we learned from a neighbor that water was flowing out of the garage. The tenant had moved 90% of his stuff out, left the home vacant during a hard freeze and had even been back to the house while the pipes were leaking without turning the water off or contacting us. There was $27,000 worth of damage.
“We learned why his wife was divorcing him.”
—Bruce Ailion ESQ, RE/Max
Drinking & Complaining Don’t Mix
“By far the worst client I ever had was a doctor and his wife. These two said they wanted to sell their home and retire in Florida. They couldn’t agree on what price to start at—that was the first sign. After signing papers, and getting professional photos taken, the wife called me to cancel the listing as the photos don’t represent her property accurately. The fact I got the house in Newsday, promoting the property and their largest financial undertaking was unimpressive to them.
After four months and no offers I suggested lowering—one said yes, the other said no. We did get an offer, but the wife had a drinking problem and after 2 p.m. in the afternoon she was unapproachable. She called me derogatory names and said they don’t want to pay anything to my agency or me. Soon, they withdrew the listing after speaking with my manager to complain about my work.
Then, the piece de resistance. The manager heard from her—this time the owner screamed at her why was there a clause in the contract for six months after withdrawing it? The manager explained this was a normal part of the contract. The agency was subject to a commission if there was an accepted offer after the contract ended if it was with a customer we showed it to and who previously made an offer.
The owners then called the prospective buyer we had presented to them and they first declined. The buyer was offered the home for less, but they had to wait six months until our clause in the contract expired so we would not receive a commission. The buyer called her agent, who was also with my agency and chaos ensued. My manager never called the couple back as she felt it wouldn’t gain any positive results. The breach of contract was blatant, and two years later, two different agencies later, they now list their home well below what the offer price was, and still have no buyers in contract. Karma.”
—“Kathy,” A Realtor in New York
“This guy gets in my car with a spreadsheet with 40 questions to ask about each property we are going to see. All the questions are already on the MLS listings I gave them. When we arrive at one house his wife says she does not like the neighborhood as we are walking up to the house. I told them we could move on to the next property, and he starts asking me his 40 questions. I told him to just scratch it off the list, but he insists. I took them back to their home, and fired them. By the way, he spilled his coffee in my car, and did not even apologize.”
“I Promise Not to Screw You Over This Time…”
“An attorney, who thought he knew it all, used me to look all over downtown for a pied-a-terre. Then one weekend he went looking without me on the Upper West Side—my home turf, no less. He tells me he has found something he likes in a Central Park West Co-op just a few blocks from my office, and has the notion that he will strike a better deal if he goes into negotiate without a broker.
I’m shaking my head because: A) I’m not sure that building will allow pieds-a-terre and B) we have been over his financials, and I am familiar with the building in question, which is pretty conservative financially, and I have doubts about whether they would approve him, based on the way his other housing debt and business debt were structured. I wished him good luck.
Several months later, we run into one another, and I learn that the board rejected his application. He asked if I wanted to help him again. I thanked him for the opportunity, but politely declined.”
“Do You Take Pennies?”
“I met with a young couple who was interested in purchasing a home. The seller was willing to finance with a $10,000 down payment. The young man called me, and I gave him the terms (down payment, interest rate, monthly payment, and the price 150,000). He said they would meet me there to see the home. So, I meet them there, and they loved the house.
The young woman said, “We will take it.” I said, “Great, and since it is in the middle of the month, we will prorate your first payment. She said, ‘Oh no, we have the $10,000.’ I said “OK, that’s good, your first payment will be due a month after the close of escrow.” Again she looked at me weird and said, ‘Payment?’ I said, “Yes, to pay off the remaining $140,000.” She said, ‘You told us the price was $10,000!’ I said that is the down payment. She then got furious, told her husband I was trying to rip them off.
She left the house slamming the front door on her way out, yelling at him ‘I will be waiting in the car.’ I asked the guy how she could have thought a three bedroom two bathhouse on a quarter-acre could be $10,000? He apologized and said he might have explained it to her wrong. I said, Let me know if you find a house for $10,000, and I will offer them $12,000. LOL. He then left.”
—Benjamin Ross, Mission Real Estate Group
Nice Place, But is it Zombie Proof?
“She was looking to buy a house with a basement, so I put together a list of homes with a basement, sent it to her and she agreed to look at them. While showing her the homes, I noticed that she paid more attention to the basement than to any other part of the house. I asked her what the basement will be used for and her reply absolutely floored me, she said ‘I want to turn a basement into a shelter, in case zombies attack.’ I thought she was kidding, but no, she was absolutely serious.
Over the next few weeks, every discussion I had with her, quickly turned into a zombie-focused conversation. She was asking me to research information about zombies and various topics related to housing and zombies. It got to a point where it just got weird and she got weird, so I had to end it and I walked away. But this homebuyer has seriously made me rethink my choice of a career.”
The Balcony Incident…
“My client’s husband threatened to throw the listing (seller’s) agent business partner off the ninth floor balcony of a condo on the Wilshire Corridor because he was speaking rudely to his wife.
The agent’s business partner removed himself from the situation and was never heard from again 😂
My client is now having to take the seller to small claims court because they sent us a receipt saying that the moldy kitchen countertop was replaced, but the handyman admitted it was not replaced, only refurbished. Sketchy people all-around.”
—Heather A. Bogenhagen, Berkshire Hathaway
Want to Add Your Own Real Estate Nightmare?
We’re looking for more scary stories from real estate agents, brokers, and teams. You can stay anonymous or we can attribute the story to you. Your choice. All we ask is that the story is true. We have pretty strong BS meters, but to make sure, please only email from your work account. We’ll never tell, but we want to make sure we’re only getting true stories!