Real estate broker Michelle Libby noticed something odd sticking out from under the bed covers in a home she was selling as she took a photographer through the house.
It turned out to be a gun, and she believed it was placed there intentionally.
“It was pointing towards the bedroom door,” said Libby, a broker with Century 21 North East in Portland, “and it wasn’t there the previous time I was at the house.”
The owner had died, and his ex-wife was selling the house. The sale became messy, she said, because not all of his family was happy with how the house and belongings were going to be divided.
Things worsened a week later, when a neighbor called to tell her a truck had backed up to the home and items were being removed. As it turned out, extended family members who knew where the keys were decided to help themselves to some of the home’s contents, Libby said.
“They were looting,” she said. “I told them they needed to disclose what they were taking to the seller.”
Even though this situation happened two years ago, it was not related to the stress of the pandemic nor the hot real estate market, Libby said. Brokers have often run into strange situations in their careers because buying or selling a home is stressful at any time and some people take advantage of an empty home.
One common theme is encountering people who thought they were alone in the for-sale home.
Jeff Meteja, a broker at Keller Williams in Scarborough, knocked on a door several times, and when no one answered he used the key to let himself and a potential buyer inside. They quickly discovered two amorous teenagers.
“They didn’t hear the car in the driveway or the knocking,” he said. “They still were clothed, though.”
That’s not always the case. Run-ins with naked people are common, which is why it is important to always knock, Libby said.
When she took an investor to a multi-unit building in Lewiston that was supposed to be empty, she didn’t think twice about the bicycle outside until she and her client went inside. There was noise on the second floor that quickly subsided.
When she and her client went upstairs, they opened a closet in one of the bedrooms and found a naked man inside who did not belong there. He was still wet from taking a shower.
“My client said ‘let’s go’ and we walked out,” Libby said. “You don’t know what you are going to walk into.”
Another naked man greeted her when she rang the doorbell of a home she was selling in Falmouth. Again, she and her client walked away.
“I called the owner,” Libby said. “She said she was so sorry. It was her boyfriend.”
In a more rural situation, one Realtor took a mother and daughter to a small log home in the woods. They were about an hour late and forgot to call the listing agent to see if it was still okay to visit the home.
As they drove down the gravel drive toward the home, Realtor Jeff Jolicoeur of Century 21 in Waterville spotted a nude man lying on the front porch sunbathing. He didn’t budge as the car approached and parked nearby.
“My client looked over at me, and her face said it all,” Jolicoeur told Maine Realtor magazine. “It was a combination of bewilderment, surprise, disgust and…humor.”
Realtors also have found things left behind by previous owners when the new owners are doing the final walkthrough. Libby said she and her buyer, both dressed in business attire, had to help a Portland homeowner empty a packed basement quickly before the scheduled closing on the house the same day.
For Carmen McPhail, a broker at United County Lifestyle Properties of Maine, it was something the new owners found in a couch left behind.
They asked her to come back soon after they entered their new home in Enfield. It had been vacant for a while except for a few items of furniture, including the couch.
“There was a pet boa constrictor in the couch,” said McPhail, whose first story first appeared in Maine Realtor. “The owner, who had moved overseas, thought it had escaped. My husband and the seller’s agent put the boa into an aquarium and it went to a reptile rescue in Houlton. It has been rehomed.”
But not all the unexpected experiences of brokers are funny. Libby said agents, who often meet prospective buyers in empty homes, can be at risk. In one instance, a man called saying he represented a buyer wanting to see a church she was brokering.
Libby felt something wasn’t quite right about his story, and asked a colleague to check out the person on Forewarn, a real estate safety service. The search said he had several felony convictions.
“I was completely shaken and didn’t meet with him,” she said. “Realtors are very vulnerable. I don’t post open houses online anymore.”