Spying beware
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Spying – The Story about House Hunting While Being Watched

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!

Oh no!

 

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?

 

©DGKaye2020

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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.

78 Comments

  • Jane Sturgeon

    Oh my goodness (this was not the first exclamation that came to mind reading this), I wouldn’t have thought about being videoed when viewing. Is that even legal? Nasty energy from the occupants and I wonder if that was another thing you were picking up on as you viewed their home? It wouldn’t surprise me given your natural intuition, my buddy. I think you dodged a bullet here and I totally agree with you, the last thing you needed was site expenses that could hit out of the blue. Lovely friends of mine, here, have bought a flat in a listed building (1865) and the ‘shared’ and unexpected expenses are crippling them. I am glad it all worked out for you both. Hugest hugs and much love, always. <3 xXx <3

    • dgkaye

      Hi Jane! Thanks my Lovely for the kudos. Oh yes, my energy alerts were feeling very strange from the first time I went in the house. I’ve seen 100s of homes in my house hunting days and never saw a house for viewing in such disarray. It wasn’t meant to be and I’m glad the universe kept letting us know, and we got out of the deal in the nick of time! I’m sorry about your friends. It happens way too often – hidden fees! Hugs received and sending back via unicorn! <3 xoxo

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Norah. Sadly, I can only imagine the technology is much more advanced now. Also, with so many people having the ‘Ring’ doorbell app allows people now to see inside their homes while away. Spies everywhere! 🙂 x

  • Marian Beaman

    No horror stories here, but yours counts for double. Wow! In fact, since when do sellers feel entitled to be stalkers, I ask? I’m glad you had an ally in your agent.

    When we sold our home four years ago, we had trouble with potential buyers (or maybe their agents) being sloppy with not closing doors and even leaving the front door unlocked. Never would I dream of leaving dirty dishes in the sink or lingerie drying. Scary!

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for adding to the convo Marian. Oh yes, how many times my house was for sale, and after showings, quite evident of where anyone has been snooping. My agent’s husband (they’re a tag team), he’d be the one manning the open house showings and she’d take us to look for homes and hammer out good deals, lol. I had strict rules about open houses and Ro’s hubby following around the perspective shoppers, lol. 🙂 x

  • sally cronin

    Wow.. did you ever dodge a bullet on that one for a number of reasons Debby and the shared cost of new roofs was not the main one.. If he was dodgy who knows who might have come knocking after your purchase and what a disgusting man to leave a home in that state when it is about to be viewed. And breaking light bulbs is just juvenile..Conidering it was ten years ago it was way before all the current surveillance and he was probably in the ‘business’ possibly law enforcement! Any way.. lucky escape and well out of it.. I will reblog on Thursday… those who miss here will love it..♥♥

    • dgkaye

      Hi Sal. Ya, it was quite intimidating to say the least. And as you said, technology wasn’t as ripe yet, no spyware yet for doorbells, but he definitely had some cameras set up somewhere. A valuable lesson though in holding our opinions to ourselves when viewing. This is certainly not the world you and I grew up in! Hugs for sharing. <3 <3

  • Pete Springer

    That’s quite the story, Debby. The prosthetic leg would unnerve anyone. Much of the seller’s behavior was strange, especially not having the place looking its best. I’m glad laws privacy laws are in place for situations just like yours.

    Our first time house-hunting was probably the worst experience we’ve had. We didn’t have a sense as to what type of place our budget could afford until the agent took us to a series of pathetic houses. Each one seemed to get progressively worse—the last one we viewed that day we also didn’t like. We weren’t interested at all, but then she sheepishly told us that somebody murdered the previous homeowner. Talk about getting the creeps. We raised our budget considerably after that experience.

    • dgkaye

      Omg Pete, talk about scary! I think I read somewhere – here? US? but, if there was a murder scene in the home, potential buyers must be made aware of. I know this is a fact here in Canada if a house has been found to previously used as a grow op for drugs! 🙂

  • Alex Craigie

    The lightbulb and ladder comments were really disturbing, but the fact that they’d been recording you all the time you were in the house is downright creepy and unpleasant. I’d have been twitchy for a very, very long time after that – and felt vulnerable, to boot.

  • Colleen

    Holy crap! That’s freaking scary! We’ve bought and sold numerous times and not had any creepy experiences like that. We did have a crappy RE agent in Albuquerque, NM, I told you about. Geez…

    • dgkaye

      Yes, you sure did have a crappy agent in NM. At least you made it to AZ lol. Ya, I should just write a book about my life on a daily basis, lol, probably would be a best seller! 🙂 <3

  • Jim Borden

    that is a crazy story; it’s just as good you didn’t buy from that guy. who knows what else may have surfaced. and the fact that they were recording things just seems so sleazy…

  • Sean P Carlin

    Oh, my God, Debby — what a horror story! You lived through what was almost the plot of a bad Lifetime movie! There’s so much to be aware of, these days, in a world of endless surveillance and digital footprints. This post is a great — if unsettling — reminder of that.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Sean. Thanks for popping by. And after my previous post and a few asking what happened, I thought it was good to share to warn others. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when viewing new homes, but essential to keep quiet on thoughts and opinions till we’re out. The new world order. And I don’t like it. 🙂

  • Toni Pike

    What a dreadful and terrifying experience, Debby – in every way. That is a truly evil person, and if anything like that happens again be sure to call the police as well as the agent. Thank goodness you walked away from that property. Toni x

  • John Maberry

    Oh what fun–NOT! Never liked HOAs. Wouldn’t live in one if they paid me. And I was the public official member of the Washington DC Chapter of the Community Association Institute for three years (because of my job at the time for Fairfax County dealing with HOA issues. Be happy to have my own surveillance, but not tied into a larger entity. Don’t really need it now, where we live. An odd story though of your experience.

  • Valentina Cirasola

    Oh my, what an experience, Debby! This is a valuable lesson you shared, I will tell it to my girlfriend who is looking to buy a house and makes all kinds of comments while she in the homes she visits.

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    Now you have me thinking of when we looked at homes in Spokane last Thanksgiving! OMG, how scary to go through that. But that owner deserved all of your snarky comments, who wouldn’t comment on a messy house and a prosthetic leg in the shower? We are about to list our house by the end of October. More realtors are doing 3-D video, but I don’t think we’ll have a camera rolling, except for Ring at the front door. THAT should be interesting, LOL! I suppose I could have Zoom going on my desktop in our master bedroom and scare them on Halloween? Nah…I’m not that techie, not so I have the energy! What a story, Debbie, and told with your unique hilarious style!

    • dgkaye

      Lol thanks Terri. And no doubts, this article got you thinking about the homes you visited. And just as you mention, you have Ring, so yes, that’s how easy it is to spy who walks into your front door! 🙂 x

  • Olga Núñez Miret

    Scary, Debby. Good job you didn’t buy that property. I agree the whole thing was pretty creepy. I haven’t done much house hunting, and it’s never been with an agent I knew well (in fact, some of the times I’d been shown the property by the owners, and that means one files comments in one’s head for later), but I remember an apartment where the family was still living and you hardly dared to touch anything it was so dirty. I understand people not being able to invest in renovations if they plan to move, but cleaning doesn’t cost that much money, surely.
    Thanks for the warning and I’ll be extra-careful in the future. Take care.

    • dgkaye

      Exactly Olga, cleanliness should be a priority when showing a home. But I’ve seen quite a few homes where owners didn’t get the memo, lol 🙂 Take care Olga xxx

  • Pamela

    Oh my Lordy, what a story! I’m sitting on my front porch watching the fall leaves fall and getting creeped out as I read each paragraph. What a great forewarning to all of us but what a creepy guy. And I’m wondering is that legal to have a hidden camera when you are showing a house? Buyer beware for sure. I’m so glad you decided not to buy there. But all in all, it made for a great story to write about. Thank you so much for sharing it. XO

    • dgkaye

      Lol, thanks Pam. It is a good warning, but hard not to laugh, I know. As far as legal goes, I’m sure that’s part of Big Brother. You know anywhere we go it only takes someone to snap a photo of us with their phone, so yes, way too much privacy invasion now in the world we live. Don’t put it past anyone! <3

  • Hugh W. Roberts

    Thank goodness, my partner and I have only ever purchased brand new builds. No cameras in them (well, I hope not). And we’ve no further plans to move until we’re taken out in a box.
    The prosthetic full leg story is a classic, Debby. I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of you and Ro screaming and making a quick retreat from the basement, but I know I’d done the same if I’d come across something like that in the bath.

  • Sherri Matthews

    Well, that is very creepy, Deb and thank the Lord you and your hubby got out of that deal and fast! It’s the opposite here, you can go all the way to the very end of the transaction, usually a good 2 or 3 months, but not until exchange of contracts takes pace, is the deal legal. Anyone can back out at any time and often do. And often it’s because the buyer (or seller) simply changed their mind, but also if they got a better deal, otherwise known as “gazumping”. I worked in conveyancing as a legal secretary and saw it all the time. The only ones who make money from these aborted deals are the solicitors! Having house hunted several times both here and the US, reading about your experience with the house inspection and a week with a get-out clause, I’m reminded of how much better it is there to have that. Imagine how enraged that crazy man would have been if it had been here and you were just about to exchange contracts months later and you backed out? Doesn’t bear thinking about! And all those extra fees too. You dodged a bullet there, my friend. As for the prosthetic leg, it sounds like something out of a film, seriously! I would have screamed too, the whole thing is so creepy and him driving by your house like that, smashing the lightbulb. Thank goodness you moved away soon after and had no more trouble from him. I have not such stories, but of course I do have the neighbour from hell story I shared on my blog a few years ago. Buyer Beward indeed! Thanks for sharing this story, Deb. Lesson learned indeed for us all!

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for chiming in Sher. Yes! That’s another whole entity – finding out who the neighbors are! We’ve had quite a few of those ‘strange’ kind of neighbors too – along with the good, lol. And I do know about how real estate works in UK. My oldest and dear friend moved there 20 odd years ago and has bought and sold quite a few homes. I’ve heard so many nightmare stories from her about deals crashing through at last minute. I don’t know how anyone could have any peace of mind buying like that! Oye!
      Hugs to you my sweet dear friend. <3 <3 xx

  • Lisa Hutchison

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Debby.

    I wouldn’t even think of a camera in the house, it makes sense. We will be looking in the future for a new home and I will keep your helpful tips in mind. I can’t even imagine the shower scene and the encounter with the man, it sounds like a horror story.

    Enjoy your new home.

    Many Blessings, Lisa xoxo

  • Diana Peach

    Wow. That was scary. And eye-opening, Debby. I’m going to just assume that people have cameras.
    And we ran into that huge extra bill situation when visiting a property a few years ago. Thank goodness we learned about it before making an offer… it explained why the development had so many houses at great prices.

  • Harmony Kent

    Wow, thanks for sharing this, Debby. When hubby and I start house hunting in a few years, we’ll keep this experience in mind. Glad you got sorted out in the end. 🙂

  • Christy Birmingham-Reyes

    Oh wow, Debby, that is quite the story! The leg in the shower would have freaked me out too! We are looking at buying a home so this story is particularly relevant to me. We know to do the home inspection, just in case anything is uncovered, but I never thought of video cameras capturing us and what we say during a walk-through. That’s terribe that the homeowner threatened you and hubby. Awful! You’re allowed to reneg on buying the home if it doesn’t meet your needs. Knowing what he was like, I’m sure glad you didn’t buy that property!

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for dropping by Christy. I’m so happy this post has forearmed you on your journey through househunting. I know you will remember to keep your thoughts and comments til you’re outside LOL. Happy hunting! <3

  • Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Debby – interesting to read … people!!! I turned an article I’d read about an abused wife who was monitored by her husband all the time, after he’d left/moved out of the house, as he’d set all the technology tricks he could to know what she was up to … my WEP Caged Bird entry …

    We just need always to be aware … and as you say tread lightly with all you meet or need to do business with. A fair warning you’ve given us … take care – Hilary

    • dgkaye

      Hi Hilary. Sadly, the spyware that’s among us is astounding, way worse than 10 years ago. Yes, a warning it is, that’s why I shared it. Fair warning. Hugs 🙂 xx

  • Deborah Jay

    Goodness, how appalling, and how scary! You just never know where the next crazy person will be. Sounds like you had a lucky escape, he might have left you some nasty surprises even if you had bought the house.
    I know of someone who lost her house to her other half in a marriage breakdown, and when she moved out, she stuffed the curtain poles with shell fish, which must have made for a truly stinky experience when the ex-husband moved his new partner in!

    • dgkaye

      Yes scary Deb, but I have to imagine the spyware has only intensed since 10 years ago! And hmm, I couild swear I’ve heard of that ‘shrimp in the drapes story’ before? Lol 🙂 xx

    • dgkaye

      Lol Deb. I could swear you already commented on this with your other name. But glad it was so memorable that you’re sure you’ve seen it. LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL <3

  • Kate Johnston

    OMG. I can’t even. I despise house hunting, just because it can be so stressful. I can’t really think of any horror stories right now. I’m not surprised about the video taping. What did those people expect though–and the leg. The leg. That’s one experience you’ll never forget!

    • dgkaye

      LOl Kate, you made me chuckle, but yes, everything you said! I can only imagine how much more surveillance goes on since the last decade with spycams now! No, house hunting isn’t one of my favorite things either. 🙂 x

  • Liesbet

    Wow, Debby! What a house hunting adventure this was! It would make a great premise for a horror movie or thriller! No, I don’t have any stories like that. I’ve never bought a house… But your warning about cameras and surveillance has been registered. I know of fellow house sitters who had to deal with inside cameras while living in different houses taking care of animals. We never encountered that either, but would ask the owners to turn those off during our stay, if necessary. Outside cameras for safety are fine, of course.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Liesbet. Oh ya, with all the house sitting you guys do, I can’t imagine someone doesn’t have a hidden camera somewhere. I even get creeped out in hotels. I have heard of a few being spied on in AirBnB rentals!

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