River Towns Real Estate – Strange Visitors

After a few issues about the business of real estate, we’ve decided to present real stories from the world of buying and selling homes from homeowners, realtors and clients. Each column will feature stories from the participants themselves. 

Realtors know, if you are doing an open house, it’s best to have another realtor with you. Agents – and sellers who sell on their own – should ask all visitors to show their driver’s license and sign in. Always try to walk visitors through the house yourself. For buyers who attend open houses, please do not feel offended when we ask for your information. We are just being safe.

Now a couple of stories. First, one from my friend Wendy Phillips, a Real Estate Salesperson from William Raveis Legends Realty Group in Briarcliff.

Strange Visitors

I was hosting an open house with a colleague in a lovely condo complex. A woman walked in and I asked her to sign in and tried to engage her in conversation. I wasn’t getting much response and she seemed to want to zip through the home at her own pace. I escorted her to the second floor where I began pointing out all the wonderful features of the home when she became oddly distracted. A group of people had come in the home and she hurried into the hallway to listen in. I could tell something was wrong. “Someone just walked in who I REALLY don’t want to see. Could you go downstairs and distract them? Perhaps take them into the garage while I scoot out?”

You don’t hear that every day. I was torn, she looked desperate but this was such an odd re-quest I wasn’t comfortable leaving her upstairs alone. I motioned to my colleague to come up stairs while I went down to distract the group of people while the “mystery lady” scooted out. In all my years in real estate, this was the strangest scenario I’ve witnessed. I guess I’ll never know if her plea for help was genuine, but I sure was happy to have a colleague with me to help with the situation. Stay safe out there!

From the bizarre to the scary. Here’s one of my own stories.

I had an open house on a $1.3 million home in Purchase. The house was vacant as my clients had relocated. I arrived about 30 minutes early to prepare when the bell rang. I rushed to the door thinking maybe it was a neighbor but instead it was a man who said he knew he was a little early but wanted to see the house. Normally, I walk buyers through the house but since the house was empty, I told him he could walk around the house and I would be here if he had any questions.

Within 5 minutes he came downstairs, looked at the door and said, “You should re-ally lock the door, you never know who can come in.” Panicked, I tried to remain calm and said my colleagues would be there any minute. Thankfully, he left but I realized that being there alone, left me very vulnerable. If the locks aren’t that secure anymore, you can look for services such as change lock.

Suzan Zeolla works for Houlihan Lawrence in Briarcliff Manor. She is a realtor with over 21 years of experience. You can reach her at szeolla@HoulihanLawrence.com


  1. Wow; some crazy experiences! Thanks for highlighting how important it is not to sit alone; I never go downstairs ahead of people when showing basements and similar spaces at open houses! Stay safe everyone!

  2. Thank you Suzan and Wendy for demonstrating the very real concern for personal safety when working in exposed situations. We as realtors are so eager to accommodate potential buyers and to service our sellers, that we can easily disregard exercising better judgment. I now make it a practice to have another realtor with me at all Open Houses. Great to point out that no one should feel offended when asked to present ID. Everyone I’ve asked has always been cordial and completely understanding of the request. Beyond protecting ourselves, we have a duty to protect our seller clients. We can discuss features, improvements and market value at an open house, but bottom line, we are talking about someone’s home sweet home.

  3. Great topic! Appreciate the stories and know that every circumstance is different. Here’s another tip: I also ask buyers who arrive as a family to stay together. Sometimes one member goes right and another goes left -I tell them it’s important they all hear and see the same thing and if they were the owners they’d appreciate it.

    1. Love this Susan. When showing a home I find people going opposite ways and I do the same thing. I usually tell them the sellers asked us to make sure no one walks around alone.

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About the Author: Suzan Zeolla