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The Dead Listing

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Posted 10-28-2011 at 08:25 AM by Roy Sanborn

When I answered the phone, I could barely make out the faint voice on the other end of the line. The woman, almost whispering, said her name was Liz and that she’d like to see my new listing on Elm Street. It’s a charming, older Victorian that has been drawing lots of attention because of the low price. I asked her if she could come into the office to talk about exactly what she was looking for as this home really needs work. She whispered again that she would meet me at the home at 6:00 that night. I started to ask if she had a pre-approval letter, but she was gone. I didn’t even get her cell phone number. That’s the way it goes with buyers today. They're always in a rush and never want to give anyone any information! It’s the new way of home buying in this internet age. Real estate agents are used to this, but it doesn’t make our job any easier.

I pulled into the driveway of the home slightly before six. I like to get to showings early to turn on all the lights, open the curtains, and make sure everything is OK before the buyer arrives. But it's getting dark earlier now and the windows were pretty dirty so I left the curtains shut. I entered the front door and went into the living room and started clicking light switches. This home has been vacant for a while but is still full of old dusty, ragged furniture. The place doesn’t really show that well, but it is an estate sale so people understand. In fact, some people get excited about buying the furniture, more so than the home. It’s amazing how the mixture of clutter and nice old antiques can distract buyers from what they are really there to look at. That musty, moldy smell doesn’t help much either.

As I flicked on the kitchen light there was a loud pop and all the lights went out. The electrical system in this place must need some work. Even though the house has been upgraded with circuit breakers it still has old knob and tube wiring so this is definitely not a home for FHA financing.

I went out to the shed that connects to the large barn at the rear of the home. Luckily, the breaker box is in there instead of down in the dark and dungy wet basement. I didn’t think to bring a flashlight. It was still pretty dark though and I stepped through the door and got a face full of cob webs. Something scurried off across the ceiling. Probably squirrels? They probably have been eating the wiring. Just something else for the home inspector to pick up on. I reached out to where I remembered the breaker box to be, fumbled with the door, and started flicking breakers in hopes of finding the right one. I got lucky about the ninth try as I could see the kitchen light up beyond the shed door.

I pulled the door open to go back into the kitchen and immediately jumped backward. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, startled by the sight of the old woman standing there not two feet from the door. “You surprised me,” I said, “I didn’t hear you come in.” She didn’t respond and just looked at me blankly. Kind of sadly. She was dressed in a flowing nightgown. She took several steps backward, slowly into the light, and I could see her clearer now. Actually, I could see right through her. Real estate agents, over time, learn to see which buyers are real and which ones are not. This buyer was clearly not a real buyer, not real at all. She was clearly an apparition. A ghost of buyers past? “Are you Liz?” I asked, “Are you looking to buy this house?” She raised her right hand and in it was a piece of paper which she tossed at me. Picking it up, I could see it was an old deed from 1927. “Look at the name,” she whispered in the voice I recognized from the phone call. The name of the deed was Elizabeth Borden which I quickly recognized at the name of our dearly departed former owner. “Get out now!” she whispered, “Get out now!” I did, quickly. Could she be THAT Lizzy Borden? She can turn the lights off herself.

That’s it, I’m done with this one. Not only do I have to disclose that this place has bad wiring, a wet basement, peeling paint, and that it is infested with rodents, I also find it my duty to tell the buyers that I have seen my deceased client! This home is one of those dreaded “Dead Listings!” That’s a real Nightmare on Elm Street. Boo-tiful, just plain boo-tiful! Happy Halloween…

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