Long before home buyers decide a certain place must be theirs, it behooves them to ask a lot of questions. For example: “How’s the neighborhood?” or “How old is that water heater, anyway?” Ask away! Such queries help you pare down your options, so don’t be bashful; real estate agents have heard them all.
However, the adage “There’s no such thing as a stupid question” isn’t always true. As proof, just check out this list of the strangest questions real estate agents have ever heard about a house. Cue the “Twilight Zone” music—things are about to get very, very weird.
- ‘How do you keep alligators from coming up into the toilet?’
Michael Lyons, a real estate broker with Lyons Realty Group in Hollywood, FL, has certainly heard his share of concerns about alligators lurking in yards, ponds, and swimming pools. But sneaking into the house? Through a toilet? That left him stumped.
“I couldn’t answer that question seriously,” he said. “So I made up some weird solution. I told them, ‘pour vinegar down the toilet once a month, they hate it.'”
This seemed to appease the buyers, who ended up purchasing the house. No word on whether or not the vinegar trick worked.
- ‘Do any swingers live in the neighborhood?’
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
While home buyers often have questions about the neighbors, this one was a first for Kate Julian, a real estate agent with City Chic Real Estate, in Washington, DC.
“They said they were swingers and that’s something they were looking for,” she said.
Unsure what to say, she countered with, “drive around the neighborhood and see.” After all, aren’t swingers very friendly?
- ‘Does the car in the driveway come with the house?’
Chike Uzoka, a real estate agent with Weichert in Newark, NJ, has heard of buyers asking whether many things “come with the house,” from chandeliers and furniture to appliances and pool equipment. But a car?
The only way he could answer such a question was with sarcasm: “If the attorney doesn’t catch it in attorney review, then yes it does!”
- ‘Is anyone buried in the backyard?’
Larry Prigal, a real estate agent with Re/Max in Gaithersburg, MD, had no reason to believe the house he was selling had any corpses stashed 6 feet under. “So I joked, ‘I’m not aware of anyone buried here, but you can dig it up after you’ve settled on the property.’”
Who knows? Maybe the buyers were worried about our next point…
- ‘Are there any ghosts in the house?’
When Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 in Indianapolis, holds open houses at older homes, it’s not uncommon to hear creaks or creepy noises. That prompts a superstitious few to pop the ghost question.
“I usually respond jokingly at first that there are ghosts but that they’re friendly, but then immediately follow with ‘just kidding,’ because people can be really weird about those things,” Dossman said. “Cellars and basements can be especially freaky, even to me.”
Nonetheless, a haunted house is, in fact, a selling point for some home buyers. Go figure.
- ‘I really like this house, but I need to pray about it. Is that OK?’
Kimberly Sands, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage, in Wilmington, NC, said she gets this question (or some variation of it) a fair amount, so she wasn’t alarmed, at first.
“I thought the would-be buyer would go home and pray about it and then decide, so I said ‘sure.'” That’s when things got weird.
“All of the sudden she drops to her knees and starts flailing her arms and yelling at the top of her lungs: ‘Dear Jesus, please send me a sign, Jesus, a sign that I should buy this house!’ Meanwhile, I slowly started inching toward the door planning a hasty escape. I ended up waiting outside on the curb for her to come out for about 15 minutes. When she came out, she was cool, composed, and had her answer: no.”
- ‘Do you think the homeowner would give me the house without a down payment?’
Taken aback, Julie McDonough, a real estate agent with AmeriSell, in Southern California, told the buyer, “I can’t imagine they would.”
The buyer went on to explain that he’d taken a seminar on how to get the seller to deed the buyer the property without any credit or money.
“So I asked him, ‘How is that going? Has anyone deeded you a property yet?’” McDonough recalled. “He said, ‘No, but it’s a numbers game.’”
- ‘Can I come back at midnight to see how the moon here affects my soul?’
The question threw Pate Stevens for a loop, but then he figured there was no harm.
“Although a strange request, I drove over to the home at midnight to let him in,” said Stevens, a real estate agent with Nourmand & Associates, in Beverly Hills, CA.
The outcome? “He didn’t buy the house because the moon ‘didn’t feel right’ to him.”
- ‘Why is the garage unfurnished?’
Um. “Because the sellers use it for their cars, not as a living space,” replied Benny Kang, a real estate agent with Uniti Realty, in Irvine, CA, to which the buyer said, “Oh, you’re right.”
“When I heard that question, I thought, ‘This is going to be a long tour,'” Kang said.
- ‘Can we close all the blinds and doors and turn off the lights? I just need to see the space at its darkest.’
“I was pretty sure this was the end for me,” said a Brooklyn real estate agent who was holding an open house. “After I said OK, I stood by the front door with my hand on the doorknob.”
Fortunately, the agent, who asked not to be identified, made it out unscathed. “[The buyer] was this eccentric guy who I later found out was the CEO of a big startup.”
Daniel Bortz is a Realtor in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, who has written for Money magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, CNNMoney, and more.