Rookie-Year Flubs

Moments you wish you could forget.

May 1, 2001

Flubs. These shining moments reduce you to a flushed face and a string of mumbled apologies. You feel about an inch tall and can practically taste the shoe leather from the foot you wedged in your mouth. Although you can’t take back your embarrassing moments, you can learn to laugh at them. Recently, REALTOR® Magazine Online asked readers to relate their most flustering rookie errors. Your comrades obliged with stories of awkward moments, mistaken identities, and romantically frustrated geese. Isn’t it nice to know you’re not the only one to err?

Nightmare on X Street

An attorney friend asked me to look at a client's rental house on X Street to determine its value. He said that the tenant had been notified that I would stop by, so there was no need to call in advance. I found the address and knocked on the door, which was answered by an elderly gentleman.

I presented my card, and told him I had been asked to determine the home’s value. He was very nice and proceeded to show me through the house. We chatted amiably for some time. As I was about to leave, he asked, "Who did you say wanted you to come look at the house?" I told him, whereupon he said, "That's odd. I own this house."

My confusion turned to chagrin when I discovered that I was on X Avenue, rather than X Street: right address, wrong house. I apologized, said I had enjoyed the time, and told the owner, "Well, since we've had a chance to get to know one another a bit, and I'm familiar with your home, why not let me handle your sale when the time comes?" He agreed.
Douglas H. Barber, CRB®, GRI
The Rawhide Company, REALTORS
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Frisky Flocks and Sleepy Shocks

I had many flubs as a new salesperson in New York during the late 1980s.

I was showing my first rural property. We had toured the home (the owners were inside) and were finishing up with an exterior tour. I pointed out the serenity of the country to the prospects, when a flock of frisky geese appeared around the corner of an outbuilding. I thought, “how bucolic” until they chased us around the property with their wings extended like 747s. I later learned that it was mating season.

We started running, but they were gaining so fast we all hopped onto the hood of the car. I called the property owner from my cell phone to rescue us. I didn’t sell the property.

But that wasn’t even my worst experience. As I new salesperson, I was eager to host any open house I could. One sub-zero Sunday, I struggled to an open house at noon after staying up all Saturday night with a virus. I couldn’t find anyone to take my place.

The house looked great--a wonderful fire flaming in fireplace, and hot cider and doughnuts for visitors. No one showed up for the first two hours, and I paced the entire time to stay awake. Finally, at 3 o'clock, I sat down for a few minutes. The next thing I knew, two customers were gently shaking me awake. I didn’t know where I was, whose house I was in, or why two strangers were tapping me on the shoulder.
Jo Ladd Zarnoch
River Run Country Club
Davidson, N.C.

Color Me . . . Embarrassed

When I was just starting out 30 years ago, one of my first prospects came from an ad call. I felt good, having converted the call into a showing.

As the buyer and I drove to the property, I made conversation by saying, "You will love this charming bungalow. It comes with an acre of land, it’s wooded, private, and it has all the amenities. There's only one thing wrong with this property."

"Oh, what's that?" the prospect asked. "It's pink; Yuck!" I said.

After a long silence, my client said, "Pink is my favorite color!" Open mouth, insert foot. “I don’t imagine you’ll be buying me,” I said.

“Take me back to my car,” was all I received in reply.

And to think, I’m totally color blind . . .
Thomas J. Wickenheiser, CRS
Coldwell Banker Burnet Realty
Eden Prairie, Minn.

Leave Things as You Find Them

In the mid-70s, I worked for a well-recognized broker with several offices around San Jose, Calif. I was helping two friends find a house. We spotted a great one and rushed over, even though it was already getting dark. As we were leaving, I turned off all the lights but one, thinking that would be more convenient for the sellers when they got home.

My clients made an offer that night, and the next morning I went to the sellers’ house to present it. Although the offer was a good one, the husband was very rude to me. For instance, he offered refreshments to the listing salesperson but not me, and wouldn’t acknowledge any of my questions. Finally, the offer was signed and I left.

About an hour later, the listing salesperson called my office and told me why the seller was so “cool” to me. It seems he was a San Jose police officer. Upon returning home the night before, he had seen a light on where he knew he hadn’t left one lit. He drew his revolver and radioed for back-up help to apprehend the burglars. Of course, there wasn’t anyone in the home, and he was the laughingstock of the department the next morning.

After that I learned to leave things as I found them . . . and I never forgot it.
Donna Ratcliff
Plantation Realty Inc.
Crystal River, Fla.

Telling It Like It Is

My first year in real estate was a real eye opener, and a real mouth closer. My broker suggested that cold calling expired listings was a good start for rookies and I was eager. I complied my list, dug around for phone numbers, and began calling.

My first call went well and after about an hour I was breezing through my script when I cam across a really stubborn individual. I explained that his home hadn’t sold because it was “overpriced.” He asked to speak to my broker, and I obliged. Several minutes later my broker came to my office. He said thank goodness someone finally had the nerve to tell the city’s No. 1 appraiser that his home was overpriced. But my broker told me not to count on getting the listing.
Denise Brophy, ABR, e-PRO®
Re/Max Realty Specialists Ltd.
St. John's, Newfoundland (Canada)

Walking the Plank

Several years ago, I was showing a house that was under construction. Only the house’s framing had been erected. And the carpenters had placed a wooden plank across the blocks that formed the front porch foundation. The hole underneath the plank was filled with debris.

My client was game, so we decided to venture into the structure. I offered to “walk the plank” before her. I was concentrating so hard to keep my balance that I didn’t see a support beam. I struck my head, lost my footing, and fell backwards into the hole flat on my back with my feet straight up in the air.

I was stunned, but I quickly ascertained that I was OK, which was surprising. A very large pointed piece of debris was right behind my head. It's a miracle that my noggin’ didn't get smashed open. I was, to say the least, embarrassed by my misstep, but my client was very understanding and happy that I wasn't hurt. She helped my up we proceeded to review the structure while I rubbed the lump on my head. We eventually returned to the house with her husband. The couple purchased the home.

Naturally, after this incident, I’m a little leery of new construction.
Carolyn Roan
Coldwell Banker-Kinard Realty
Dalton, Ga.

Listing Expired, but Not Lost

In the mid-80's I was sitting in my office reading the local paper, when I spotted a FSBO ad with large print and bold border: “Great News, Broker Gone. Save Money.” I laughed out loud and called out to my colleagues, "Wow, some salesperson must have really ticked off this guy."

After a good chuckle, I recognized the telephone number and realized that these were my sellers. The laugh was on me, but not the last laugh. Although, the listing had expired, there wasn’t any bad blood between us. (The seller was just looking for a catchy ad.) I called the seller after I saw the ad and re-listed shortly thereafter, eventually selling the property.
Mike Dignan
Today Real Estate-Cape Cod
South Yarmouth, Mass.

The Honeymoon’s Over

Early in my career, my local church council asked me to assist the community’s new minister and his wife find a home. The reverend, who was relocating from Iowa, had been selected for the post after exhausting interviews and background checks. The church council assured the couple that I was very professional and a hard worker. I scheduled a half day’s worth of showings so that they could see as much as possible before they returned home.

With two houses left to see, we were on schedule, but getting tired. No houses had yet tickled their fancy. At the second to last house, I knocked, received no answer, and used the lock-box key as I had been instructed. As I entered the house, I hollered that we were coming in.

All of a sudden, a young man came hurrying out of the bedroom, pulling up his pants. He asked me who I was and said he knew nothing of our appointment. He and his wife had just returned from their honeymoon and no one had notified them about a showing. I apologized profusely and hustled the reverend and his wife back to the car. When we got into the car and quit laughing, I realized that the property I was supposed to show was next door.

The listing salesperson had also just listed the honeymooners’ house, so there were identical FOR SALE signs at each house, adding to my confusion. I later sent letter of apology to the listing salesperson and homeowners. I was terribly embarrassed, but, luckily, the reverend and his lovely wife had a very good sense of humor.
Julie Nelms, GRI
American Realty & Development Inc.
Port Orange, Fla.

Chris Leporini is a former REALTOR® Magazine assistant editor.

Notice: The information on this page may not be current. The archive is a collection of content previously published on one or more NAR web properties. Archive pages are not updated and may no longer be accurate. Users must independently verify the accuracy and currency of the information found here. The National Association of REALTORS® disclaims all liability for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information or data found on this page.