Make Showings Less Painful: Do as I Say, Not as I Do

In our line of work, most of us tend toward being control freaks. Even so, it's not possible to anticipate every glitch.

May 1, 1996

The three vignettes that follow, though humorous in retrospect, show that managing listings often ends up as an exercise in damage control. But there's no need to be the cleanup crew if you know how to prepare for a few snafus.

Crime Story

The Setup: "I just showed your listing on Terry Lane," said Monica*when I answered the phone. "There was a bloodstain on the carpet, a knife, and pictures of slaughtered animals! What went on in that house?" she shouted. Apparently, Monica and the prospects had stumbled on a confusing and frightening, but ultimately explainable, situation. The sellers had recently moved out in a haphazard fashion. They left behind gory photographs of a hunting expedition and, in the bathtub, a large knife that was used to open a clogged drain. To make matters worse, the light on the first floor had shorted out, so the dim conditions made a cranberry stain on the living room carpet look fairly macabre.

Once I assured her that my listing wasn't the scene of a brutal crime, I implored her to take her customers back. "Fat chance," she said and then chastised me for not having a handle on my listings.

Lesson: Not only had the buyers been scared off, but my professional integrity and credibility were at stake. Embarrassed, I was forced to admit that I had to be intimately familiar with the condition of the properties I marketed. Now I visit my listings more often---especially after a seller vacates.

Clothes Call

The Setup: Thinking that his sellers were out of town, Tom* met prospective buyers at the sellers' home at 11 a.m. one Sunday. He showed the main floor and proceeded to the upper level. Because the master bedroom was large and beautifully decorated, he dramatically threw open the door and said, "You're gonna love this!"

However, the prospects noticed only the sellers---half nude and still in bed.

Unfortunately for everyone, the sellers had come back a day early from their trip but didn't notify Tom. Although Tom and the sellers had agreed that all salespeople should call before showings, he relied on the sellers' representation that they'd be out of town, so he didn't call ahead.

Lesson: The oversight embarrassed everyone and put the sellers in a defensive position, weakening their relationship with Tom. An understandable mistake? Perhaps. But never make assumptions. Always know where your sellers are and call ahead.

Alarmed and Dangerous

The Setup: While showing one of my listings, Valerie*, a salesperson, inadvertently tripped the burglar alarm. The deafening noise brought the neighbors into the street. Valerie called me for instructions on how to disarm it, and while we were talking, the police arrived. The scene turned into a veritable circus. To top it off, the seller then came home to find a police car in his driveway, strangers in his home, and his neighbors gawking at the scene.

The last salesperson to show the property had put the alarm instructions in his pocket instead of the lockbox. Valerie therefore assumed the alarm wasn't on and opened the door. The buyers were rattled, Valerie inconvenienced, and the seller was both embarrassed and terrified---if only for a moment.

Lesson: Keep alarm codes at the listing office and require co-op salespeople to stop by for the code and leave a business card.

*All names are fictitious.

Laura Roulier is a salesperson with Long & Foster, REALTORS®, Washington, D.C. You can contact her at 202/895-7318.

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