Unusual Seller Stories You Wouldn't Forget With Bob Hurwitz

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Unusual Seller Stories You Wouldn’t Forget With Bob Hurwitz

There’s never a dull moment in the world of high-end real estate. On today’s show, Bob Hurwitz of the Hurwitz James Company returns for chitchat with Valerie Fitzgerald. This week, they share amusing seller stories they've experienced when dealing with sellers in Southern California. From luxurious beach houses in Malibu to mansions of world-famous rock stars, listen to funny and bizarre stories that will make you laugh and creep you out!


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Unusual Seller Stories You Wouldn't Forget With Bob Hurwitz

We've got some great laughs in this episode because we're going to talk about sellers. I was laughing thinking about some crazy seller's stories. I remember one and this was an amazing house in Santa Monica. We're showing it and the seller supposedly had left. We didn't know that he was still there. As we're walking to the back, there was this beautiful pool house. We went to open the door and it seemed like it was stuck. We pull on the door hard. It pulls open and the owner is sitting on the toilet with his pants at his ankles. What do you say to that?

Not much. There are a lot of embarrassing situations that can occur. One funny thing I had was years ago out in Malibu. It was a big horse property and the guy always insisted on playing this violin music. He had a Stradivarius and it was horrible. He always insisted that DVD or whatever it was or CD had to be playing music. One time, I was showing a guy from Nine Inch Nails. I forget his name. A rock guy. We go in and the music is playing loud. I thought the owner was gone just like you did.

The guy was irritated with the music and so I went and turned it off. I showed the guy from Nine Inch Nails the property and the owner comes out. He was about 3 feet tall. He was a real irritating guy with a Napoleon complex. He comes out and he goes, "Why did you turn off that music?” I go, "First of all, where were you? Are you in a cupboard or something?” He goes, “That music needs to be playing.” I said, “I'm selling your house, not your CD and the guy hated the music.” I never sold the house. It's weird. Sellers sometimes forget what we're there for, which is to sell the property.

Sometimes they insist on certain things, the setup and the way they want you to show the house. They used to have me parked my Bentley right in front so people had to walk around the car to go to the front door. There was a whole moment where brokers had to have these fabulous cars. They'd have to pull it up and leave them right in front to make it look more important. I had this one seller. She was wild. We were doing our show on HGTV, The Selling LA. I had this house and when I met with her, she was insisting that I do the Sunday open houses. I told her that at this stage of my career, I don't do Sunday open houses, but I have a team that does them and they're great at it.

We were looking for the result. I would say to her, “Nobody knows that I am sitting there.” Nobody knows when they're thinking of going to an open house. We had the open house and all that. I ended up getting her an offer. She came into my office and I presented the offer to her. It was very close to the asking. It was $150 off the asking price was $3,995. I think the offer was $3, 825. She looked at me across the table and she said, “If I hurt, you're going to hurt. You have to cut your commission.”

The agent’s skill makes a million-dollar difference.

It's unbelievable. It is interesting because a lot of people will think they know. They're hiring you because they think you are the most highly skilled person. The fact is the skill of the agent will make the difference between potentially millions of dollars. You know this as well as I do. There are dealmaker agents and there are the ones that aren't. It is interesting to me. A lot of times, sellers will try and tell you how to do your job and they're always wrong. I had one guy and you know this guy too. I won’t say his name because I think we might've had his listing too. Neither one of us sold it. It was up on Sunset Plaza. It was also back at the Viewmont. It’s funny because you do have it before me.

I brought him $11 million and he told me to go to hell. He was listed at $13.9 million and I said, “That is too much money.” I brought him $11 million and he screamed at me.

That's his thing. He strangled another agent, honest to God. He jumped over the table and strangled him. Here's the thing. First of all, you had it right before me and people had it after me but he said, “This is what Valerie did on the house.” He showed me this cool booklet, brochure and stuff because you do this cool stuff. I'm like, “That's great. I'm not going to do that because I do things a little bit different.” He said, “It looks really good.” I go, “I'm glad you like it but the house didn't sell. I'm going to do my own thing.” I go, “You can never be here when I show the property.” He goes, “What do you mean?” I go, “No, you can never be here. I will not take a listing with any owner that insists on being at the house during the showing.”

RERL 2 | Seller Stories

Seller Stories: Your agent is your advocate, not your adversary.

I remember him being at every single showing and showing the house himself.

Here's what happened. He goes, “Okay, I won't be here.” At the very first showing, I didn't know if he was there or not. I went in. I didn't see him or he disappeared or whatever. All of a sudden, he comes out in the middle of my showing and starts telling them things. Interrupting me saying, "He's not showing it properly.” I was looking at this guy. You and I are very similar in the sense that we've been doing this for a long time. We do not take a lot of shit from people and we know the proper way to do things. I was in disbelief and the people were kind of embarrassed. He was like, “Bob, you’re showing it wrong. You need to show it this way.”

When we are done, they left. He had a little office there when you come in the entrance. I said, “Never ever interrupt me in the middle of a showing ever again. It isn't going to happen.” The guy was taken aback. I said, "It's never happening again. Those people will never buy your house.” Flash forward, I have one broker’s open. It's typical. People come through. The next week, I'm down in San Diego showing another listing. I get a call from him and he goes, "Where's the broker's open? I go, “It was last week.” He goes, “You said you'd have a broker’s open every Tuesday.” I go, “Are you on crack? Why would I have a broker‘s open every Tuesday?” The guy is nuts. A lot of people think they know how to run things.

Do you know what happened? He got foreclosed. He lost it.

What was one of the stranger ways that you got a listing? Can you think of something unusual?

Never interrupt your agent in the middle of a showing.

I had to fly up to Sacramento and see a concert I normally would never go to. I had to go there in my little suit. The guys wore their little t-shirts drinking beer from the can, sitting with their hats on their heads. That was a pretty unusual experience.

I think if you go on enough appointments, you're going to get a lot of weird stuff. I was trying to think of maybe some interesting things. It was funny because the reason that brought it to mind is I drove by to show a listing and I see the house is torn down. This was many years ago but it's an interesting thing. I got a call on this property. It was on the corner of Beverly Glen and Sunset, which is now just a lot. I went in and there was a pretty old woman. I was probably in my late twenties. I went in and this woman was like 70 or something. She was looking at me weird as we're going through the house. The house had all these dark curtains and weird stuff.

She was like looking at me and all of a sudden, she brought her hand up to my face. It was bizarre. She goes, "You look just like him and I knew him.” I'm thinking, “What the hell?” I used to have a thin mustache. She goes, “You look like Errol Flynn. I used to know him.” I go, “Really?” She takes me into this room where there's a piano and a bunch of other stuff. I swear to God, Valerie. This is interesting to me because you never can get the measure of someone. We have a tendency to look at someone and figure out where they're at or what they're about. She showed me these pictures that were black and white from the '40s and stuff. She was proper beautiful back in the day and she did know him. It was the weirdest thing. I thought she was psycho. I did list the property and I never sold it. It ended up getting torn down by somebody else. It's the weirdest thing how sometimes you blunder into things that you just go with the flow.

I had this well-known older actor and he passed away. His wife who's just zany as ever got a house in the Palisades. The Palisades is a big Mediterranean home. I had to go and sit with her for one hour three days a week while she would tell me stories about movies, people, friends, photos and all that. She said to me how she had to trust me, that I had to know something about her life and all this stuff. I did that for two weeks. I went there. This was back in the day. It was an $8 million listing at the time. It was a lot of money for me so I would spend an hour there. It’s interesting but it was pretty tedious. She was in her late 80s and repeating herself. She kept the room extremely hot so I was dying in the room. When she passed away, I ended up going to her funeral and seeing the family. You do get some unusual requests and unusual things.

I had one guy I went on a listing appointment and he had a four-year-old. For some reason, nobody could be around the four-year-old. He kept the child and he had to be home. He would take the child back into the guest house, pull down the drapes and the curtains. God knows why, but nobody could see or be around the child. You'd walk through the house and you'd have to text him and tell him you left and then he'd come out. People have quirks. We are so close to people's personal lives and how they think and the quirkiness that they have, the way that they live and, “Show the house this way.” Homes tell a story so you show them to tell the story. We're telling the story as we're showing it and walking through so it makes sense to the person who's listening and you're walking through with. My favorite thing is when they go, “Where's the guest bathroom?” I said, “I don't take pictures of toilets.They tell me, “I want my guest bathroom picture.” I go, “It's small and there's the toilet.”

RERL 2 | Seller Stories

Seller Stories: Everybody wins when the property sells.

The truth is less is more. I have this one guy’s house listed and he had the weirdest artwork of all time. This one sculpture thing would freak people out. It looked like macabre, really devilish. I would turn it around and hide it in the corner. He was proud of it. Sometimes those quirks that they think are good are a real negative. It's about the big picture. That first impression when they come in the door. I have a client that is so meticulous and spends a fortune on everything from hinges to air conditioning returns. People don't care about that. They want to walk in and they want to feel the house but he thinks that's important. That may help us establish some value later on once somebody likes the house but it's strange.

I had this guy once in Malibu and this is funny. It’s him and his wife. I go on this listing. They are a nice couple. I go, “Where are you guys going to go when I sell the house?” This was another guy that wanted to be there for the showings. I said, “No. I don't do that.” He said, “The previous agent...” I said, “I'm sorry. I won't do that.” He said, “Okay.” I said, “Where are you guys going?” He goes, “We're going to move to New Zealand. We're going to raise llamas.” I go, “That's interesting.” We're going through the listing agreement and everything. It was a cool house. It wasn't that much. It's maybe $3 million or something. He's looking at the contract and he goes, “This part of the listing here says that if the property is unmarketable, I still have to pay commission. What does that mean?”

I go, “Why don't you just tell me what the story is? I never actually enforced that clause. What do you mean?” He goes, “If the IRS seizes the house, do we still have to pay a commission?” I’m like, “No, just tell me the story. I'm your advocate. I'm not your adversary in this.” He said, "We're dellionaires.” I guess with Dell computers, some people made a bunch of money and they didn't pay taxes. He goes, “That's why we're going to New Zealand because it's a non-reciprocal country and they can't get us.” The IRS did seize his house as it turned out. At the end of a conversation, even on talk radio, people will talk a certain way. At the very end, they say what they think and this was the same thing.

It's so important that we understand, especially if there's an issue there because t
he timing can be critical to them. Whether it's a foreclosure or something is being seized or even in divorces. How about where the husband and wife stay in the house but then they're divorcing and battling. You have to try to show the house and get in. We have to know the story to put that front up for them. We're the front for them to get them the highest and best possible price.

That's so true. It's interesting because divorce fuels so much of our business and it's like a minefield. One of the things I'm personally proud of is I deal a lot with divorce situations. I get along with both people. You have to walk that line. Sometimes, what one person wants to do is different from the other. It is important that they tell us the story and they tell it to us early enough. I'm sure you've had this situation like I've had before where someone is not motivated to sell. Whatever information they give us, that's how we operate. We're their representatives.

The truth is, less is more.

I've had this situation a number of times. One, in particular, is for someone that's a good friend of mine now. I'd bring offers and he and his wife would scoff at him. Finally, he said, “Bob, can we go to breakfast?” I go, “Yeah.” We go to breakfast and the wife was saying, “We’re not in trouble,” and he goes, “We’re in trouble. I got like a month to get rid of this.” As soon as he did that, I changed exactly my approach. I sold the thing on multiple offers. I was very creative. The guy's worth about $100 million but without that, they would have gone into bankruptcy. It would have been brutal because he's not a young guy.

I went on a listing appointment. The house needed so much work. It was going to be a fixer type of sale. He's pretending as though he didn't need to sell but he wanted to sell. He'd been there a long time. He had to explain every little thing they did to this house over 30 years of which nothing mattered anymore because the house is a teardown. In any event, they didn't tell me the truth and I found out later that he owed in hard money $5.8 million. I don't think the house is even worth $5 million. That's tough. We had to part amicably and he found someone else who's going to take it. I'm sure he’s blown some smoke at him that's going to be $10 million. In the end, the poor guy will lose the house because we know that happens with hard money loans. You're borrowing more and more to pay back the debt that you can't pay back.

From my standpoint because I deal with a lot of properties that are overseas and properties I don't see, it could be interesting with some of the people you deal with. It can be sketchy or you figure out if they are who they're supposed to be. If they really own the properties. It's a lot cleaner here with the stuff we deal here but there are some very unusual characters. It makes it interesting. It's the people that make it interesting.

Every single day is a different deal, story, person, agent, buyer and seller. It's all about the stories. Everybody's got a story. Everything has a story. It is so entertaining. I see burnt-out agents because they take everything personally and they get crushed with it. We're problem solvers. We have to figure it out, "Give me the story and let me help you. Together let's figure this out."

That's exactly right. I think it's interesting because I tell my agents this. There'll be overwhelmed because they'll look too far ahead in the deal. If there's one issue that came up, you deal with that one issue. Don't think so far ahead, but you have to stay ahead of the game. That's why it's important that there be honest communication between the seller and the agent. Certain agents get an adversarial position. They think their job is to protect. This business is psychology more than anything else. It's a matter of managing the expectations of your buyer, your seller and working with the other agent to solve the problems because everybody wins when the property sells.

As we know, there are agents that that think they're protecting their seller by behaving like they are the seller.

That is the worst. It's so true. What they're doing is detrimental to the seller so you've got to work. We have to be the intermediaries. We're the ones that solve the problems but if we don't know the problems, we can't solve the problem.

Bob, I love talking to you about all of our crazy business. We had so much fun.

We can do this forever. We do this extemporaneously. There's no planning. There are a million different stories in this world. It's not the phony TV stuff where things are created. These are real-world issues that we've been in a long time. I love talking to you as well.

We're going to come up with another storyline. I'll talk to you later, Bob.

Have a great one.

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