I recently wrote a post about protecting our privacy while using digital devices. And at the end of that post, I cautioned to be particularly careful when viewing properties while house hunting because I had encountered a weird situation with a spy camera in one of the properties we ‘almost’ purchased. A few people indicated to me they were curious to know what happened. So today, I’m going to share that incident.
We had just sold our big ranch bungalow and weren’t quite sure yet where we wanted to move – buy another single detached home, rent somewhere for awhile until we decided, or perhaps a townhouse bungalow not far from our home, which was part of a condo development, meaning there’d be monthly maintenance fees for care of the properties (also known as HOA fees in the U.S.).
We decided to take a look at the semi-detached bungalow development.
At the time our real estate agent was a friend of ours, her name was Ro. Ro was a go-getter agent, unabashed, and knew her business well. She never held back from what she wanted to say or ask of a client or a potential seller. Ro was a loud and boisterous person and when she spoke, there was no volume control.
Ro drove us over to have a look at the bungalow. It really was a beautiful development for the ‘over 50 crowd’ – a number I was soon approaching but still not comfortable with the idea of moving into a quiet lifestyle. Ro mentioned that many of the residents chose this development because the properties were looked after by the corporation, which left no worries for many of the snowbirds to fly away for the winter knowing their homes would be looked after on the outside. This was appealing to my husband who was getting ready for his first retirement.
Ro fumbled with the lockbox for a bit, then finally we were in. The first thing I noticed in that rather nice layout of a home was its untidyness as dishes were in the sink and lingerie was sprawled out, hanging to dry in the laundry room and beyond. I remarked to Ro how someone could have a showing in their home and keep it in disarray. Ro loved to talk and I’m no sloucher when it comes to conversation, so I shudder to think about all we talked and laughed about during that tour, besides what we later discovered we did talk about.
I know for sure, we freely discussed selling price, possible offer prices, definite changes needed to update to the house, and most likely, shared a couple of snarky comments about some of things we saw that were in bad taste. Then we went down to the games room and bar in the basement.
Ro and I were both thorough gals. We didn’t leave too much unturned when visiting homes. I was a seasoned house shopper and wasn’t shy about opening cupboards and such to check out all the space of nooks and crannies. Then Ro and I walked into the downstairs bathroom. It was fairly dark as we both had trouble finding the newfangled light switch. But we proceeded to walk into the bathroom, guided by the hallway light. Then Ro pulled back the shower curtain and we both screamed in terror.
In the dark, we both instantaneously screamed at the sight of a leg. Ro let go of the curtain and we bolted out still screaming. We were sure there was a dead body in the shower!
Hubby came down to the basement from wherever he was inspecting once he heard our primal screams. The three of us searched for the bathroom light, turned it on, and hubby braved us both and ripped back the shower curtain. It was a prosthetic full leg leaning against a corner of the shower wall. Holy crap!
My heart was still beating at what felt 100 times its pace from the initial horror we’d thought we’d encountered when I shouted “Who the #$#$ does that? Leaving a lone leg stashed in a shower in a dark basement when they’re showing their home? There was plenty more conversation, talk of asking price way too much, and a few nasty remarks made by all three of us before we’d left the home.
Despite the madness we encountered, and the disarray of the home, the house held potential for us and we’d gone back for another two looksees before we’d decided that we should really put an offer on that home. After lots of negotiating on price and terms, including – always, the escape clause – we had one week to get the house inspected, and if we’d found anything we didn’t like from the report, we could bail.
We had the house inspection done a day later, two days before we were scheduled to leave for a week to Las Vegas. We were relieved to know we could go away without worrying about where we were going to live. That was until I got a text message from my real estate lawyer to give her a call on our second day in Vegas.
Back then – ten years ago, a Canadian hardly used their cell phone to make calls while out of country because of the exorbitant phone bill, so I ran over to the pay phone section just adjacent to the casino floor in the Paris hotel to call my lawyer. She wanted to advise us about some of the condo corporation guidelines she’d gone through and wanted to point out some possible additional costs that would come with purchasing the property. Turns out, expensive lawyer did all the necessary homework.
Apparently, there was going to be more involved moving into that development. Besides the purchase price and the stated monthly maintenance fees, it was discovered that when something goes wrong outside any of the homes, the money came from the monthly fees, but if a project was bigger and there weren’t enough funds, every household would be dinged for extra money. That development was due for new roofs at the cost to each homeowner to pay an additional $20,000 as well as an agenda coming due for all new windows. I gulped.
Hub and I discussed the fact that it was impossible to budget for old age not knowing when the corporation would hit us up for more money, and ultimately, we decided to bail. I called Ro and we discussed the days we still had left to back out after the inspection. I told her to make up some excuse we didn’t like about the inspection findings and to break the deal.
Later, after Ro broke the news to the owners, she mentioned that the husband went a bit off the walls in anger about what kind of crazy people we all were, while making idle threats we should watch our backs if we didn’t follow through.
A few days later, we were back home and hubby was outside on the driveway standing on a ladder, replacing a surprisingly broken light bulb over the garage door. I was puttering in my flowerbeds when I noticed a black SUV driving slowly past our house, and driving around the cul de sac to pass by a few more times. After about the 3rd pass, the man stopped his car, rolled down his window and shouted, “You wouldn’t want to be falling off that ladder now, and you should keep your eye out for more broken lights to come.” He continued ranting on about our ‘dirty trick’, putting an offer on his house that we asked to visit three times before putting an offer on, wasting his time and repeated some of the comments I shared with Ro while in his house. He then laughed eerily and loud, and added the ‘leg’ shenanigans in the shower was priceless to him.
I darted into the house and called Ro to let her know what just transpired and asked her to call his agent and to let him know if there was to be one more threatening visit we’d be calling the police.
Nothing more ever came from the man, but needless to say, I remained leery for quite some time whenever a black SUV drove down our street. We ended up buying a single detached home a few weeks later.
The scary man and house adventure taught us a few things. First and foremost, we’d learned that with the advent of digital technology, to never lose our guard with future home purchases and to keep our house comments, questions and price conversations for once outside any home we viewed, and to never forego a house inspection because it affords us time for buyer’s remorse. Buyer beware!
Do you have any house hunting horror stories you’d like to share?