Real Life Nightmare Stories from the World of LA Real Estate

Ahhh, the glamorous Los Angeles real estate life. I know, you’ve seen the palm trees and $30 million homes on Million Dollar Listing LA. You’ve seen the quick phone calls and “negotiations” and voila! Another $250k in commission, earned effortlessly.

(PS, that’s not how it really works).
Here’s another side that you won’t see on Bravo, the underbelly of luxury real estate.

Through these nightmare stories that I’ve ACTUALLY lived through, you’ll be able to see what you need to do as a seller to prepare your home for sale. Bottom line: Don’t be these people.

The Nasty Bachelor:

I’m not going to go into too much detail here, because I’m still trying to bury this deep, deep in the recesses of my brain that I forget about it completely. Suffice it to say, I was at an open house of a bachelor where I found VERY dirty, used underwear, strewn akimbo in the master bathroom and bedroom. Along with socks and a few other, less disgusting, items.
This was an open house the client KNEW about. I had no choice but to find the longest, pointy instrument I could wield, to pick up said belongings and place them into his hamper. Because, adulting.

Lesson: Place your dirty underwear and other miscellaneous laundry in the hamper so your Realtor doesn’t have to.

All the details matter when it comes to preparing your home for sale.

The Front Door from Hell:

This home was for sale in Bel Air, to the tune of $20 million. It was a WONDERFUL old home, built in the 1920’s, it was in probate so it was vacant. The antique lock was from that time, and had never been fixed or changed, making the front door extremely wonky. Imagine my pleasure, as a Realtor, showing up in a lovely silk dress on that hot summer day, with open house visitors (that have arrived 30 minutes early), struggling like a madwoman with the lock, smiling whilst I curse under my breath, channeling my cool, calm and collected while I’m schvitzing through my clothing, apologizing to these early arrivals and trying to not appear like the village idiot. NOT fun. And not helpful to sell your home either.

At last, the lock relented and we made our way inside.

Only it gets better. Apparently, the lock heard me call it a **#@$**, so when it came time for me to leave the open house, guess what happened?? The door refused to budge. As in, I COULDN’T GET OUT. Now in most normal houses you would leave through another door, no problem. But this lovely old home in Bel Air was like Fort Knox. There was one way out, which was through the front door. The only other option was over a 10 foot fence with lovely, fleur-de-lis spikes at the end. How I’ve always loved the fleur. Not anymore. Did I mention I was wearing a silk dress? With the help of a kind security man in the area, I managed to find a few items to stack and hoisted myself over the fence, thus escaping.

Whatever happened to that charming front door lock? I don’t know, but I hope its newest residence is Dante’s 9th level of hell.

Lesson: Make sure your front door lock is in working order so your Realtor doesn’t look like a moron and your home appears to be one that people can actually enter. You know, the little things.

Buyers love doors. Preferrably ones that open.

The Lurker:

Perhaps the best views in all of LA come from Mulholland Drive, the famous street that winds above the lights of the city and into the valley below. This home was an architectural wonder, built by a well known architect, it had even won an award and had celebrity neighbors on either side. With walls of glass and views galore, imagine my excitement to host this open house. Until I showed up and realized the homeowner would be hanging out right there, beside me.

The whole entire time. 

Buyers came through the home and I did my best to welcome them and guide them through all the amenities and features of the property. My spiel was immediately usurped by the homeowner, who wanted to drill down on the monetary qualifications of each buyer as they set foot inside the front door.

Alas, not my best open house. Buyers recoiled and left almost immediately upon arrival, and justly so.

Lesson: You’ve hired your Realtor for a reason. Trust them to do their job and don’t be at your open houses or showings. It’s a huge turn-off for buyers, and they aren’t able to be honest about their real questions in front of a seller.

Even the best views can’t hold buyers when a desperate seller is lurking about.

The Queen of Versaille:

Brentwood is a quietly affluent section of Los Angeles, westside. Many celebrities live there, as do Edythe and Eli Broad, the founders of the world-class, Broad Museum (in downtown LA, I highly recommend a visit if you get the chance!)

My hopes were high for hosting an open house at this home along a lovely, tree-lined street. The architecture of the home was Mediterranean, so imagine my surprise when I opened the front door to find that Louis XIV had taken up residence throughout every crevice of the interiors.

Heavy, dark curtains obliterated every ray of coveted California sunshine, and I’m not exaggerating to say that gold dripped from EVER-Y-THING. Now, if this is the style that makes you happy, what am I to say? All I know is this look doesn’t connect with most LA buyers that prefer minimalism and mid-century as opposed to maximalist design from 200+ years ago from men in wigs and fancy shorts.

To make matters even more interesting, this house was filthy. Really, grossly dirty. The light switches were full of grime and I was a little afraid to breathe in this home, with all the dust and other questionable particles.

This played out exactly how you would imagine. Buyers came into the house and buyers left almost as quickly as they came. Nobody stuck around (it’s always agood sign when buyers come to your open and hang out for a bit) and nobody had anything good to say. Mouths agape, most left in shock.

Last time I checked this home had been on the market for hundreds of days (unthinkable in west side real estate), and perhaps it’s still on the market, even now.

Lesson: You can decorate however you want, but keep in mind your style may not connect with buyers. In this case it’s best to remove all your belongings and stage the home, or just remove your belongings. This home would have been MUCH better just by removing the dirty, heavy curtains. And clean! A professional, deep clean is a must for homes that want to sell quickly!

I hope you enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude reading these stories from my LA real estate escapades. I do have more, which I may relay in a future blog post, so stay tuned!

More often than not, I worked with sellers and developers that were absolutely lovely, that “got it” and took suggestions well. I guess you could say that most of my stories were boring, because the houses were prepared for market and they sold quickly.

The upside is all these stories gave me the experience and expertise for what I do now, which is consult with Realtors and homesellers on how to get their homes ready to sell for top dollar.
If you are getting ready to list your home, get exact instructions on what to do (and NOT do)  with my Design-to-Sell Consultation.
Find out more about it here.