The strangest thing that has ever happened to me during a home inspection was actually the result of an open house the previous day. It resulted in teaching me a great lesson in personal safety, but it also taught the Realtors involved something that I don’t think most real estate professionals would have thought about otherwise. Maybe I’m wrong (and if I am, please comment.)
So, I get a text on a Saturday from a Realtor who has a buyer in a tight spot. He was in town with his daughter to buy a house for her to live in while she went to nursing school. Unfortunately, back home, his wife had taken ill and was in intensive care at the hospital. He needed a home inspection before he left the following afternoon.
We agreed to do the inspection for him the following morning on Sunday. Knowing the house was vacant and we wouldn’t be disturbing the owner, we made the arrangements. It seemed simple enough. Right?
When we arrived at the house, everything seemed to be the definition of normal. Then we realized, we had left our ladder at home. You kinda need that for a home inspection. So, we introduced ourselves to the buyers, got the key out of the lock box and opened the door. Rob explained to the buyer about the ladder and leaves to retrieve it while I stay there to get started.
Upon entering the master bedroom/bathroom combo, I admire the barn doors separating the bedroom from the bath. When I slid the doors open, however, I noticed a smell. A bad smell. I immediately wondered if the plumbing had backed up. A quick check of the fixtures dismissed that thought. Then I thought, “dead mouse”? Yikes! I hoped not. If only it had been that simple.
I turned on the light to the walk in closet and opened the door. On the floor were two denim covered legs sticking out from under a blanket. Two legs, the bad smell and no movement at all from the person on the ground. I closed the door. Quietly. I then had the privilege of explaining to the buyers that there was a person in the closet. I can still see the looks on their faces. It was as if I had told them I had found Narnia in there. Blank stares. I assured them I was not joking.
The father went in to investigate while I suggested to the daughter that we wait outside. Then the shouting started. “WHO ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? WHY ARE YOU HERE?” Turned out, the shouting was coming from the father. He had awakened the sleeping young woman on the floor and, in hindsight I realized, was probably trying to use the puffer fish defense method to get her out of the house. It worked. She came running out of the house saying she had gotten lost. Probably true in a metaphorical sense. She turned out to be a meth addict. But that’s only part of the explanation.
The listing agent had an open house at this property the day before the inspection. The young lady from the closet had come to the open house, left the master bathroom window unlocked and returned later with some friends. They broke into the house, stole a number of items that the stager had used to decorate and she, no doubt thinking,”Who’s going to be here on a Sunday?” decided to crash there for the night.
I learned a valuable lesson that day: Just because a house is supposed to be empty, that doesn’t mean you are alone. Since that day, my husband and I check every house (he chceks the closets) as soon as we arrive. And we do it together, believe me! When I opened that closet door I truly believed I had found a dead body.
The Realtors involved learned something, as well. Any Realtor who is securing a home after an open house thinks to check to make sure the doors are locked. Who thinks to check the windows?! A few more after that experience, I can promise you. Stay safe out there, Readers! And please comment with your thoughts or experiences!