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Opinion Editorials

Agent’s remarks: Be aware there are dead animals and sex toys in the home

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imgresI came across these two funny blog posts recently about weird stuff found in sellers’ homes. Playboy Bunnies on the light switch face plates, handcuffs on the bedposts and (with apologies to hunters) Bambi’s dad’s head affixed to the wall.

What’s the weirdest stuff you’ve seen in a seller’s house?

Writer for national real estate opinion column AgentGenius.com, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. ines

    March 31, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Ben,
    your link to the handcuff post is broken. I had a funny showing this weekend when we walked into a house where one wall was full of crucifixes of every size and color possible – our buyer is Jewish and we made a joke out of it, “Here’s a wall just for you” and now he refers to the property as “the house with the crosses”……..so important to neutralize a home for sale.

  2. Marc Kusherman

    March 31, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I’ve got two to share. One was a machete under the bed, paired with the deep freezer in the basement. Scary. The other was a bomb shelter that looked like something out of a WWII movie. I was told it was 500 feet below ground at its deepest point. It was pretty amazing.

  3. Vicki Moore

    March 31, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    I want the handcuff link! I guess I’m finally going to have to write a post about the house that had a domnation room in it. (Not kidding.)

  4. Maureen Francis

    March 31, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Well, there was the luxury home where the party had taken place the night before. My whole office came in to see a $2.5m listing. There was a naked woman sleeping in a bed and puke in the sink in the powder room. I guess they forgot we were coming. I bet the woman was pretending she was asleep. If there were 45 people parading through my bedroom and I was hungover I would definitely keep my eyes shut and hope I was having a bad dream.

  5. Mariana

    March 31, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Actual agent remarks: “Follow path through Seller’s belongings to view home. Do not turn left at kitchen. That path leads to dead angfel fish. I am sorry.”

  6. Mariana

    March 31, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    What have we SEEN? Top 3:
    A basement of unexpecting teens smoking ***.
    A lady passed out drunk on the sofa.
    A man dead on the toilet. (Okay, not me but a girl in my office found him.)

  7. Karen Rice

    March 31, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    I saw an inflatable doll in someone’s basement one time. In a strategic location on the doll’s anatomy, someone penned in permanent marker “Doug Was Here.”
    (*Name changed to protect the innocent, or not so innocent, whatever the case may be.)

    My favorite Private remark: “You Must Call for An Appointment or the Owner WILL Be THERE.”
    Sounded like a THREAT.

  8. Jim Duncan

    March 31, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Taking Mariana’s cue …. here are some agent remarks from a listing in our area – ” Small dog will bark and may bite if you attempt to kick her. Please call agent to remove her before showings if you are scared of small dogs”

  9. Judy Orr

    March 31, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    1. We were not warned that the home we were viewing belonged to a taxidermist. When we went into his “office” in the basement we were greeted by a huge collection of stuffed birds and other animals. It felt like we were in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
    2. I opened a door to a bathroom and felt something banging on the other side. It was a huge enema bag set-up being proudly displayed.
    3. One home featured bloody panties soaking in a bathroom sink along with a sanitary belt (that was obviously a long time ago).

  10. Matthew Rathbun

    March 31, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    short version: Pastor, his wife and five homeschool children being shown property with “fun room” displaying countless open adult magazines and other assorted items on the bed. Divorcing couple, had husband trying to keep folks from buying home…. it worked.

  11. Bob

    March 31, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Top 3 in particular order:

    – Living room with bullet holes and blood on wall – reminded me of St Valentines Day Massacre
    – Part of an office caravan with 30+ agents in older craftsman style home hearing a 70 yr old agent scream when she opened a bedroom door and interrupted a couple… of guys.
    – dresser in bedroom and on top was mirror, razor blade and a few specks of white powder

  12. Larry Yatkowsky

    March 31, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    another agent attached to the handcuffs wearing Bambi’s clothes .>)

  13. Annie Maloney

    April 1, 2008 at 8:52 am

    This is not an experience that I had, BUT, could you imagine discovering what was hidden in this house. Long article, but UNBELIEVABLE!!! https://www.ssqq.com/archive/vinlin19.htm

  14. Bill Lublin

    April 1, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Short version – Owners in Florida for the winter, showing in the afternoon, open the Master Bedroom Door – surprise! Owner’s Son his and girlfriend trying to stay warm without clothes!
    New record set for bedroom door closing –
    🙂

  15. Andy Kaufman

    April 1, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    We were walking through one of our new REO assignments a few weeks ago and came upon a case of bandit signs reading “Real Estate Investor Seeks Apprentice”. Good a good laugh out of that one. This house also came with a crack security team, actually make a team of crackheads, who kept breaking in and ‘dropping the kids off’ in a plastic tub in the middle of the basement and doing other shady stuff (don’t wanna know).

    Then, when we went to check on another one of our listings last week, we walk up to the front and notice that the large wooden front door was missing (along with both of our lock boxes). Called our handyman for a bid & he just started laughing.

  16. Athol Kay

    April 3, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Photos of not exactly handcuffs, but defintely “restraints” in a house for sale are here. Scroll down to #310. 😉

    The house with 30+ samurai swords was spooky.

    Raccoon in attic. Angry.

  17. Sue

    April 4, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    I was showing a townhome which was a total wreck. Actually seemed like a crack house or something. We were commenting on what a wreck it was, how could anyone live like this, how disgusting is that, can you believe this….on and on. While standing in the living room, I put my hand on the back of the couch and felt a foot thru the blanket. Evidently there was a passed out or sleeping human under the blanket on the couch. Now, I don’t know if it was a he or she, dead or alive. I looked at my client and my eyes got big. He picked up on it right away and we just eased our way out. He bought the place and fixed it up.

  18. David Wyrick

    March 28, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Coming upon unexpected taxidermy makes me think of Norman Bates (Psycho). It probably causes negative associations with a lot of people.

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.

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Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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