Laughter the best medicine
MAIN IMAGE: Matseleng Mogodi, principal Snooks Estates; Caron Upton, property consultant Harcourts Dunn; Michelle Keegan, head of sales Pam Golding Properties
Whether it is being attacked by an aggressive goose, being alone with eerie lights in an empty show house or protecting their commission from greedy ancestors – this is all possible in a day’s work as an estate agent in South Africa.
“I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it liveable.” — Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist who survived a Nazi concentration camp during WWII
Studies have shown that having a sense of humour is good for one’s mental and physical health. It is an important skill to nourish especially when faced with hard and trying times like the current pandemic and resultant economic hardships.
So, with that in mind, Property Professional asked estate agents to share some of their favourite funny anecdotes when things went very wrong. The following delightful true tales are the result:
“A good laugh is a mighty good thing, a rather too scarce a good thing.” — Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick
Be prepared for anything
Estate agents know that their job always requires to be familiar with the area and to act and look professional, but there are certain eventualities that may be hard to anticipate …
Trish Parsons, Harcourts Hilton agent, relives her ‘Show Day Horror Movie’.
“I had arranged with the owner of a property to host a show day at her home while she was away on holiday. I arrived at the property with about 20 minutes to spare as I knew the client had left the property immaculate and in “show day” condition. All I would need to do was open the curtains, doors at and windows to allow the lovely afternoon sunshine into the home!
Using my keys, I let myself in through the garage which led straight into the kitchen. As I opened the door, I was overcome by the most foul smell and soon after was confronted with what looked like a murder scene spewing out across the kitchen floor! For the first 30 seconds I literally thought I had walked in on a murder scene as the floor was covered in congealed blood!
I soon realised the cause was a recent power failure that had resulted in the plugs in the house tripping, and my dear client had very thoughtfully stocked her freezer full of meat before she had left!
My first instinct was to turn around, get back in my car and put a “SHOW DAY CANCELLED” sign on my board outside and on my FB page. Fortunately my professionalism kicked in and I immediately went into cleaning mode. I rolled up my sleeves, emptied the freezer into black bags, and started to mop up the congealed blood. All the while I was trying very hard not to throw up! I think I may have even shed a few tears whilst using an entire bottle of bleach to try and sanitise the crime scene.
I honestly I don’t know how I managed, but about 30 seconds after I had emptied the freezer and fridge, mopped up the blood, gotten rid of the black bags of rotten food in the outside bin, rushed around the house opening curtains, doors, windows, lighting every scented candle I could find and emptying all the air freshener sprays I could…the gate bell rang! Luckily, the driveway was long enough to give me time to wash my hands, unroll my sleeves and, wipe away my tears and slap some lipstick on. There was a happy ending though – I sold the house that day!
Matseleng Mogodi, principal of Snooks Estates in Gauteng, has heard it all – from money notes that turn into cloth to ancestors that has to approve the commission pay out.
“We had a rental client who came up with the excuse that she was unable to pay the rental for the month because the money had turned into a piece of cloth. She said in Sesotho ‘mo chelete ne ke e beile teng, e fetohile lesela’ which translates into ‘where I put the money, it has turned into a piece of cloth’. This was really bizarre because we all knew there was no way the money could have turned into a fabric.”
Then there was the client who instructed the attorneys to pay the agent’s commission over to her because the money needed to go via amadlozi (ancestors) for protection before being paid to the company. “She said she would pay the money to us once the dlozi (ancestors) process was done. Obviously, the ancestors don’t know us and they’d definitely not agree to family money being paid out, so we refused.”
Speaking of the supernatural, Caron Upton, property consultant with Harcourts Dunn, had a scary experience with faulty lights in an empty show house.
“It was an eerie winter’s afternoon and I was doing a show day in an empty house. I was sitting in the kitchen waiting for clients and prospective buyers to arrive, when the lights suddenly started dimming and then illuminating again – dim, light, dim, light. I am not one for superstition or ghost stories, but this freaked me out completely. I sat there looking at that light toying with my comfort levels and then decided to leave the kitchen immediately – only to find out later that the switch on the dimmer was faulty! Moral of the story: before you guess, investigate!”
Sometimes estate agents end up on top of a gate or at the wrong address …
Bev Sparks, Pam Golding Properties real estate agent in Durban North, recounts the time when she arrived at a property to view it with a client and found the seller in stitches with laughter. “The previous agent had arrived at the house, and saw the driveway gate was accidentally left open – so she went up to the door to ring the bell. However, the seller wasn’t back yet to open up for her. He was just around the corner and obviously pressed the gate remote to open it, which resulted in the gate closing rather than opening. This agent had already started climbing over the gate to get out, so you can imagine the sight of her sitting astride this gate while it was being opened. She did see the funny side of it, and we all had a good laugh.”
Robyn Evans, Harcourts Business Development Manager: KwaZulu-Natal & East London, once asked an agent to sit show for her in a lovely apartment in a secure estate. “I told her that the owners never lock their doors so she could go right in. She arrived half an hour before the show, put up boards outside the entrance and let herself in. The apartment was a total mess with dirty dishes in the sink, beds unmade and clothes all over the place. Like a true professional, she decided that the show should go on and she set about tidying and cleaning so not to embarrass herself when clients came to view. With that her phone rang and it was a friend of hers who lived in the same estate enquiring as to why she had her boards up at number 4B when it was 4C that was For Sale. Can you imagine the surprise of the 4B owners when they arrived home to a clean and tidy home?”
Then there are the little mishaps that you will never forget. Michelle Keegan, Head of Sales at Pam Golding Properties, still remembers an encounter she had many years ago with a very intimidating goose. “I was a rookie agent, operating on the KZN North Coast, and had just arrived at a property to list it for sale. I knocked on the door only to be met by a ‘guard’ goose who chased me right off the property! I actually cleared a little wall, I got such a fright! That goose was very intimidating!”
Janie Parton, Pam Golding Properties agent in uMhlanga, once got a call from clients to show them a property while she was dotting foundation on her face. As she met them at the gate, the power went off due to loadshedding. However, the clients were keen to see the property, so they used the flashlights on their phones. It was only when she got home and looked in the mirror that she saw she still had her foundation dots on her face because she forgot to rub them in. “I called the client to apologise and they said it really didn’t matter. We had a good laugh.”
Lastly, Matseleng Mogodi shares about the seller that removed all the electrical wires, plugs and lights in his home before he moved out. “He said he bought these himself and the house didn’t come with wiring – even though there was an Electrical Compliance Certificate done and issued.”
“Life is like a box of chocolates … you never know what you’re gonna get!” (Forrest Gump in the movie Forrest Gump). Isn’t that the truth!