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Realtor Luke Roman and an elite team of specialists handle the cases that no one else can: haunted and possessed houses that literally scare would-be buyers away. Realtor Luke Roman and an elite team of specialists handle the cases that no one else can: haunted and possessed houses that literally scare would-be buyers away. Realtor Luke Roman and an elite team of specialists handle the cases that no one else can: haunted and possessed houses that literally scare would-be buyers away.
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- 111 User reviews
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- 3 nominations
- Father Phil Orley
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- Trivia The Roman Agency's' headquarters is located in the Charon Building. Charon was the original boatman who ferried the souls of the dead in the underworld.
- Runtime 43 minutes
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Welcome Home: Get to know the spooky backstory of SYFY's new show SurrealEstate
Before SurrealEstate premieres on SYFY on July 16 and makes you wonder just what might be lurking in that basement of yours, we wanted to give you a taste of what to expect. What’s up with the Roman Agency, and what are a bunch of real estate agents doing in the ghost hunting business?
“ SurrealEstate is about a real estate group, the Roman Agency, that specializes in haunted houses — buying and selling haunted houses,” actor Adam Korson, who plays Father Phil Orley, explains in the above video.
“This is in essence not a handful of ghost chasers but rather a team of rare individuals qualified in their specific field working together, collaborating, problem-solving with the end goal of selling a house. End of story. The ghosts are just a bonus,” Maurice Dean Wint (August Ripley, the team’s resident tech genius and philosopher) says.
Alongside Wint ( Diggstown ) and Korson ( Teachers ), SurrealEstate stars Tim Rozon ( Wynonna Earp , Schitt’s Creek ), Sarah Levy ( Schitt’s Creek ), Savannah Basley ( Wynonna Earp ), and Tennille Read ( Workin' Moms ) as our team of heroic agents looking to change the world one house at a time. As Basley explains, the Roman Agency acts as a kind of last resort for people trying to sell (or buy) a haunted house. They don’t just sell your house — they figure out what’s up with the creaks, cold spots, and mysterious late-night screaming to solve all your supernatural problems.
“The thing that separates SurrealEstate from other shows is the balance between the humor and the scary,” Rozon says. “Because if not it could just be a straight-up thriller. We’re dealing with some pretty scary stuff and some real issues.” But, as he points out, things get a bit more manageable in the scare department when there’s that one dude who’s down to crack a joke and release the tension. It just so happens that the Roman Agency is filled with people who are down to treat every bump in the night like it’s worthy of a joke.
That’s not to say things don’t get serious. As the cast points out throughout the video, there are plenty of monsters — physical monsters and internal struggles alike — to contend with. To find out just how many monsters, ghosts, and ghouls the gang has to evict from their properties, check out SurrealEstate when it premieres on SYFY on July 16 at 10 p.m. ET.
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Former ‘Schitt’s Creek’ co-stars find the humor in Syfy’s new paranormal series ‘SurrealEstate’
In Syfy’s new series “SurrealEstate,” Tim Rozon is a real estate agent from hell — or rather his haunted properties are. But even with demons in the attic and a hellhound in the basement, don’t think of this as a horror show.
“It never felt like a horror genre show – not in the writing, not in the way we shot it, not in the performances and not for the other actors,” said Rozon (“Schitt’s Creek,” “Wynonna Earp”), who plays Luke Roman, a real estate agent who specializes in paranormally plagued listings. “To be honest, the horror aspect is something that’s kind of a bonus.”
The series, premiering 10 p.m. July 16, asks an intriguing question – what happens to haunted houses after ghosts, ghouls and goblins scare away the owners? Just like any house, someone’s going to buy them (unless they are sucked into the ground like the house at the end of “Poltergeist”).
That’s where Luke comes in. With a team of unorthodox experts at The Roman Agency, he works to identify the pesky parasite, understand its origins and then expunge it from the property to give both buyer and seller some peace of mind. On the payroll, he’s got a priest turned paranormal researcher (Adam Korson), a spiritual tech guru (Maurice Dean Wint) and an infallible office assistant (Savannah Basley).
New to the team is Susan Ireland, a warm, driven agent with a talent for more traditional closings, played by Rozon’s former “Schitt’s Creek” co-star Sarah Levy. All but pushed off the deep end into the Roman Agency’s unusual client base, Susan is skeptical but sturdy, proving she can keep her head above the holy water a lot better than they expected.
For the actors, the notion of diving into a show of demons and – perhaps even scarier – the housing market was all about balance.
“[Horror] can bring out the best and worst, and I think it can bring out the comedy,” Levy said. “That’s the thing I didn’t realize. It can bring out comedy in the least expected places and moments. Anytime we feel afraid – and Tim has said this before – you’ve gotta crack a joke to defuse the moment a little bit. … The horror aspect is there for sure, but the comedy aspect kind of balances it out in a fun, nice way.”
Put simply, “We find the comedy in the horror,” Rozon adds.
Meanwhile, The Roman Agency finds its clients in situations that are no laughing matter (most of the time), when the evil of the week has invaded perhaps their most intimate space possible — their home.
It’s one of “SurrealEstate’s” many nods to family, which Rozon said is the warm center of a show wrapped in scares.
“Family is what you make of it and this is a bunch of people who have found their family in this group,” he said. “That’s the meat and potatoes of the show, the heart of it is this group. The horror actually adds a nice spice to it that I don’t think any other show really has.”
“SurrealEstate” airs 10 p.m. Fridays on Syfy.
Meet the Realtor Who Specializes in Haunted Houses
By jake rossen | oct 31, 2016.
Cindi Hagley looked at the spot where the woman had been bludgeoned to death and paused. It had happened on the front lawn of an expansive property in the Midwest, with distinctive landscaping work acting as a backdrop for the media that had descended on the scene. The arrangement of flowers and other foliage would be familiar to anyone in the area who had looked at a local newspaper.
“What you need to do,” she told the seller’s agent, “is change the lawn. Rip it up. Plant something else. Make it look softer.”
Like an FBI profiler called in to consult with local authorities on a murder, Hagley had been summoned by the property’s representatives for advice on how best to market what’s known in the business as a “stigmatized home”—a slice of real estate that’s been the site of a violent crime or one purported to harbor spirits. As one of just a few realtors who specializes in houses with tumultuous histories, Hagley knows how to rid a listing of negative connotations.
It’s a skill that goes beyond simple remodeling. In many cases, Hagley is approached to market houses that owners are convinced are a hub of disturbing paranormal activity. That might require psychic consultations, signed disclosure forms, or the presence of a rabbi.
In 12 years, she has never failed to close on a haunted property. “Marketed properly,” she tells mental_floss ,” I don’t believe a stigmatized home should sell for a penny less than market value.”
Hagley grew up in Southern Ohio experiencing what she calls a “sensitive” awareness to peculiar activity. When she was in high school, her family unknowingly moved into a home that was once a funeral parlor. “Faucets would turn on by themselves,” she says. “There were apparitions, noises in the basement. I believe it was haunted.”
After a stint in network television ad sales, Hagley made a move into real estate. While preparing for her first open house, she sensed movement out of the corner of her eye. When she asked the seller if she had ever noticed anything unusual, the seller said that her boyfriend had seen some sort of apparition.
Hagley believed her. She also wondered how a ghost could potentially affect the value of a home. “I asked my broker if I had to disclose that,” she says. “And I did. It can affect the material value of a home.”
California requires sellers to be forthcoming if a property is “stigmatized”—that is, if it has been the site of a death within the past three years, if it was home to drug manufacturing, or even if a spirit is believed to inhabit the premises, which are all considered psychological impactions that can affect a buyer’s perception of the home. It’s one of roughly 25 states that have such a mandate on the books, urged by a desire for real estate sales to be transparent (and made more relevant by the fact that one in five Americans have seen a ghost). A California appellate court once ruled in 1983 that such a belief can lawfully have a material effect on price. (A woman bought a house and was not informed five people were murdered in it. She was unhappy, sued, and won.)
Hagley studied the requirements carefully and became intrigued by the potential for a sub-specialty in her business. “Not long after that house, I had two homes where people had died a natural death,” she says. “No one else was an expert in this, so I just decided to run with it.”
Word of Hagley’s willingness to tackle properties with lurid histories spread: Sellers started reaching out and requesting her services. If they claim their house is haunted, Hagley will arrange for a walk-through to see if she can observe any unusual activity herself. She’ll also interview the homeowner to get details of what he or she may have experienced. Historical research on the address might lead to a possible cause of the disturbance—if someone was murdered there, or if previous owners had expressed concern over ectoplasmic squatters.
What Hagley does next depends on whether she considers the spirits to be generally benevolent or not. “Some buyers will be okay if the spirits are believed to be gentle,” she says. “Sometimes they need to be removed.”
If it’s the latter, Hagley has a psychic she works with regularly. Other times, prospective buyers will request that a representative of their church perform a kind of spiritual audit on the home—a “bless and assess.”
“I’ve had priests and rabbis walk through,” she says. “I’ve held séances. I’ll do whatever the prospective buyer feels they need to do.”
If someone is still unsure, Hagley offers to call a caterer and let them stay in the house over two or three nights. Safe in the knowledge that the dark doesn’t lead to any kind of real disturbance, they’re more likely to stand behind their offer.
The Hagley Group
Hagley doesn’t openly advertise homes as haunted or stigmatized. That kind of publicity just results in crime scene tourists or would-be ghost hunters wasting her time, she says. Instead, buyers interested in a home are told about its colorful history in person, with written disclosure forms sent as a follow-up.
Hagley is not required by law to get into details. “I might say, ‘There was a death on the premises in 2014,’ or ‘The seller believes there is paranormal activity here,’” she says. “I’m not going to say, ‘Someone was swinging from the chandelier with a gunshot wound to the heart.’”
If an interested party presses for details, Hagley will explain further: “At least 75 percent of people just don’t care. If they do care, I have three or four final offers in already. Someone is going to buy it if they don’t.”
Although Hagley hangs a shingle, Past Life Homes , to remind people of her unique skill set, she says less than 3 percent of her business comes from stigmatized deals; most of her homes are high-end luxury properties. Past Life is simply a way to satisfy both her curiosity about spectral entities and to assist sellers who may feel their home is unmarketable.
Despite her spotless record, she won’t take on everything that crosses her desk. “Recently, I got a call to consult on a haunted house in West Virginia,” she says. “I found out the owners had been offering Halloween tours, opening it as a haunted attraction. To me, that’s taking advantage of spirits. And while I don’t like to say I’m superstitious, I don’t want to piss them off.”
House isn’t selling? Blame the ghosts.
Realtor? Check. Appraiser? Check. Ghostbuster? Check.
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Part of the Horror Issue of The Highlight , our home for ambitious stories that explain our world.
The Nyack, New York, home is a looker. A baby-blue Victorian clocking in at more than a century old, and endowed with a prime view of the Hudson River and proximity to New York City, it might even have inspired an Edward Hopper painting . Perhaps less desirable, however, were the three ghosts allegedly loitering around the property.
Helen Ackley, who lived in the house from the 1960s to the early 1990s, believed the ghosts resided in her home, telling the New York Times that she once saw one while she was painting the living room ceiling and that another one waltzed in her daughter’s bedroom. The third ghost, she said, was seen by her son and was a Navy lieutenant during the Revolutionary War. It may have all been fun and games until, after decades of calling the place home , Ackley made moves to sell the property at the tail end of the 1980s.
In 1989, an out-of-town buyer emerged, someone who was unaware of the house’s well-known local reputation for being haunted. The unlucky man, Jeffrey Stambovsky, a bond trader from New York City, eagerly put down $32,000 on what he thought would be his new $650,000 home. Until, that is, he learned of the home’s mysterious past. Spooked, Stambovsky sued, demanding his down payment back. New York’s State Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision that has become a staple in many law school classes, decided in his favor.
“As a matter of law, the house is haunted,” wrote Justice Israel Rubin for the court in what would later come to be called the Ghostbusters ruling.
The case of Stambovsky v. Ackley is a quirky artifact of legal history, but it also prompts questions about the flimsy underpinnings that hold up the institution of homeownership. A home is the largest and arguably most important asset any American will ever own. Its value rests on a variety of factors, like architectural style or the size of the kitchen, but most uncomfortably, it rests on subjective beliefs around what is and isn’t desirable. Part of that subjective evaluation includes the paranormal. Good schools can bump up a home price. Ghosts lurking by the basement door, not so much.
In fact, paranormal activity affecting property prices is common enough that a cottage industry has sprung up trying to clear homes of anything supernatural before a sale. It’s a reflection of just how tenuous the value of a property is that the whispers of ghosts can inflict a real cost.
That’s why the Ghostbusters case isn’t the only time that the legal system has had to wrestle with the question of what to do with purportedly haunted houses or places where there has recently been a death.
Four states have laws on the books regarding paranormal activity and real estate, according to Zillow . In New York, as the Stambovsky case settled, if a seller invents and maintains that their property is haunted and then allows a potential buyer to remain ignorant of the “home’s ghostly reputation,” the court will rescind the sale.
In New Jersey, if homeowners are asked, they’re required to disclose whether there are “psychological impairments.” In Massachusetts and Minnesota, the laws go in the other direction: Instead of ensuring that the buyer has information about paranormal activity, the law protects a seller who may choose to withhold that info.
Caring about ghosts in your home isn’t just for the superstitious, it’s for a market-conscious buyer as well. Even if just 10 percent of people would be uncomfortable buying a home where there are rumored to be ghosts, that reduces the value of the property, because it can reduce demand. And 10 percent could be an underestimate: A 2009 Pew survey found that nearly a fifth of Americans said they had “seen or been in the presence of a ghost.” A more recent 2019 YouGov poll found that roughly 45 percent of Americans believed in ghosts, demons, and other supernatural beings.
It’s unclear how many people would allow that belief to affect their home-buying decisions — particularly in a market as hot as this one — but a dissenting judge in the Ghostbusters case wrote that Stambovsky sued because, “as a result of the alleged poltergeist activity, the market value and resaleability of the property was greatly diminished.”
David Chapman, a real estate professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, wrote about the Stambovsky case and how to teach it in a paper subtitled You don’t have a ghost of a chance . Chapman, a real estate agent, says he’s had clients refuse to buy properties if they think there might be something strange going on in the home. “I had a client that carried a box, some sort of Geiger-counter-looking-thing, and she would put it in front of each house and it would determine whether we would even go into the house at all,” he tells Vox.
Chapman also notes that America’s aging housing stock could change how frequently this comes up. “My wife and I own a lot of houses that were built between 1895 and 1920, so if you look at the amount of owners that had been through those homes, I would guess that there were not very many of those that somebody did not die in the house,” he says.
According to Freddie Mac , more than 50 percent of single family homes were built before 1980 — and the older the home, the higher the chance that someone died there.
In his written opinion, Judge Rubin from the Stambovsky case sarcastically quipped that while buyers are legally responsible for screening their purchases, strictly applying that standard “to a contract involving a house possessed by poltergeists conjures up visions of a psychic or medium routinely accompanying the structural engineer and Terminix man on an inspection of every home subject to a contract of sale.”
While the image of a psychic accompanying would-be buyers to each property might be comical, it’s not as far-fetched as the judge made it sound. A cottage industry of spirit-related businesses exists to assist buyers and sellers grappling with the ghosts that may or may not be lurking beneath the floorboards. The website DiedInHouse.com was started in 2012 after its founder got a call from a tenant who noticed paranormal activity in her home. Now, people can pay $11.99 to get a report about whether anyone has ever died in the house they are considering purchasing.
For some, the knowledge of whether there was a death — or even a murder — in the house recently isn’t enough. That’s where Jane Phillips comes in.
Phillips is a self-proclaimed ghostbuster who travels the country offering “paranormal energy clearing services” to real estate agents and homeowners alike. Her business is often driven by agents who are having difficulty getting a listing sold; they call Phillips, she clears the house, and, she tells Vox, that makes it possible for the house to sell.
A mortgage banker before becoming a professional psychic, Phillips is in tune with the real estate world. She runs her business out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, but says she does business “all over the world.”
One of her clients, a Santa Fe real estate agent named Suzanne Taylor, uses Phillips’ services frequently when selling homes. “I buy and sell a lot of properties that are distressed and very old...so I use Jane all the time,” she says, explaining that she’ll spend hundreds of dollars each time Phillips comes to a house and “clears” it of any negative or supernatural energy.
Phillips has a checklist, she explains, that helps her rule out things like a loose screen door that could be blown open by the wind. “An oncologist is always going to see cancer,” she adds. “I’m a paranormal, so I’m always looking for it to be paranormal... but I have to put some reason and logic in.”
Along with using essential oils, a pendulum, and some L-shaped rods, she explains, she taps into her “intuition and psychic abilities to remove interfering and dark energies.”
For some buyers, a little spiritual cleansing is enough to make a sale — particularly in a housing market this hot. Over the last year, demand for homes has spiked, exacerbating an already dire housing shortage in the United States. Research by Freddie Mac shows that the US is short 3.8 million homes to satisfy the existing demand. This has made people more willing to overlook a lot of their preferences around homes in order to get their hands on any property — even violent deaths in the home.
One Maryland house in an attractive DC suburb was the site of several murders, but after a short period of time (and an address change) it hit the market at a much higher selling price . Even the childhood home of Jeffrey Dahmer found a buyer .
“Given a choice, people would rather not buy [a home] that has a psychological problem, but when they don’t have a choice, they will,” Chapman says.
Owning a home in the United States is not simply a way to find shelter in a place where you’d like to live; for many, owning a home is a bet on the future value of that property. Yet, as one of the primary wealth-building tools Americans have access to and are encouraged by government policy to pursue, the bet of homeownership can be remarkably risky.
Unlike many other physical assets, a home’s value is predicated on more than just the cost of the physical materials. Things outside of an owner’s control like the quality of nearby schools, the crime rate, changing fads about what type of house style is “in” and, of course, whether or not it is haunted, play an important role. And, importantly, neither the buyer nor the seller need themselves to be believers in the paranormal for it to affect the value of the home.
While it can be a bit funny to think of something like a poltergeist affecting your retirement nest egg, it becomes sobering to consider the more insidious ways that subjective evaluations can affect homeowners. Most notably, Black Americans have faced a racism penalty when selling their homes : Many find their homes undervalued relative to their white counterparts, finding a decreased demand to live in Black neighborhoods can negatively impact the value of their homes.
As for the Nyack house, it turned out to be a case study in never knowing how public opinion will end up affecting the market: While Ackley lost the case, the publicity ended up actually working in her favor.
After the Ghostbusters ruling became a curiosity, it increased the value of the home for people who were interested in living in a haunted house. Roughly 30 years after the case was settled, film director Adam Brooks, musician Ingrid Michaelson, and singer/rapper Matisyahu have all lived in the home .
According to Realtor.com , it is now roughly 200 percent more expensive than nearby properties. It sold for over $1.7 million this year .
Jerusalem Demsas is a policy reporter specializing in housing for Vox.
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Real Estate Horror Stories: Agents Tell Their Most Chilling Encounters
Halloween’s almost here—and with it, the usual ghost stories, haunted houses, and horror flicks. But what happens when Halloween meets real estate? Prepare yourself for chilling true stories and valuable career advice from two experienced agents.
Meet Erin Hybart, a solo real estate agent at Clients First Realty in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she’s spent the last six years serving investors and other clients. Hybart loves all things real estate, but she’s especially passionate about alternative housing, which she blogs about at ReErin.com .
You’ll also hear from Brie Schmidt, the owner and managing broker of Second City Real Estate in Chicago. With her experience as a real estate investor, she’s helped hundreds of other investors close their property deals. She’s also the co-founder of the Midwest Real Estate Networking Summit and CEO of ChicagoBrie, where she teaches other agents how to work with investors.
Ready for some real estate horror? Dim the lights, grab some popcorn, and read on as Hybart and Schmidt share the most terrifying encounters they’ve had in their real estate careers.
What’s the spookiest thing that’s ever happened to you in your career?
Hybart: The scariest thing that ever happened to me while working in real estate was when I was at a house in New Orleans recently purchased by an out-of-state investor. I knew the home had recently been used by squatters, so I was extra cautious while on the property.
While we were outside in the backyard, I heard a noise that sounded like fireworks and car tires squealing. It seemed odd to be popping fireworks during the day, so I went to the front yard to see if I could determine what was going on. I saw people walking down the sidewalk and a guy on a bike. I then started to smell gunpowder and realized what I heard was actually a drive-by shooting on the road in front of the next-door neighbor’s house, so I quickly left the property.
I was grateful I wasn’t in the front yard at the time because there were bullet casings all over the ground a few feet from my car.
Schmidt: I was looking to buy a property for myself, so I was alone in a vacant house. I was upstairs and heard someone open the front door downstairs. I called down, but nobody answered. I called down again with no response, but I heard movement below. I searched upstairs for a weapon, but all I could find was a closet rod, so I removed it from the wall.
I heard the person coming upstairs, so I hid behind the bedroom door waiting to attack. They walked into the room in a uniform, and I realized they weren’t an intruder. I yelled out, and the man identified himself as a city inspector. My heart was beating out of my chest, but I calmed down when I realized I wasn’t in danger.
Did this experience change the way you approach your business?
Hybart: I can't say it changed me all that much, honestly. But I’m a little more aware of the areas I visit and make it a point to have someone with me when visiting certain properties. I’ve also pivoted out of certain areas for flip properties.
Schmidt: Nowadays, I always make sure to lock the doors behind me when entering a vacant house, even if my clients are present. I also carry pepper spray in my purse in case an intruder approaches me. I make sure my agents are up to date and informed about agent safety and our company policies regarding agent safety.
What advice would you give to other agents who face unexpected or scary encounters?
Hybart: There’s not much I could’ve done differently in my situation. In the neighborhood I was in, drive-by shootings are a regular occurrence.
For general advice to agents, I advise caution before going into neighborhoods you don't know. Also, I always recommend knocking on the front door before a showing, whether the property is vacant or occupied. Announce yourself so that if, by chance, someone is inside the property, you won't startle them.
Schmidt: Agent safety is very important. Make sure you’re taking precautions and following your company policy. The National Association of Realtors also offers a variety of agent safety apps and safety products.
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I found a homeowner who wants to sell their house to me directly. Is it wrong to ghost my realtor?
Posted: November 27, 2023 | Last updated: November 27, 2023
Dear Big Move,
I’ve been working with a realtor for about 6 months.
During that time we’ve seen about 20 homes, and put in two offers that didn’t work out for various reasons.
We’ve been approached by someone who is going to sell their home, but is not on the market yet. They want to sell to us directly as a home for sale by the owner. We are OK with that.
However, we are also looking for advice on how to fairly compensate our realtor for the work they have done so far.
What’s the best option for us? Is it wrong to ghost my realtor?
The clue is in the question. Ghosting does not treat others with respect, and does not give them the explanation they deserve. Tell them the truth. Explain your situation, and have an open and honest conversation. You will feel better for doing so.
It’s great that you found a home, and one that is directly sold to you by the owner. That will save you thousands of dollars in commissions and fees that you don’t need to pay real-estate agents, so that’s a big win.
Typically, when a home is sold, the listing agent and the buying agent each get a 3% commission, both of which are paid for by the seller. The stage is set for the buyer’s agent to no longer automatically receive a 3% commission.
Last month, a Missouri court found the National Association of Realtors and two real-estate brokerages guilty of conspiring to inflate real-estate commissions , a decision that will likely have a deep impact on the U.S. housing market.
Negotiate a fee
Just because you found a house by yourself, you shouldn’t ghost your real-estate agent. They scoured through listings for you, took you to 20 open houses, and even helped you put in two offers. For that work, you should think of how you would want to compensate them. And you seem to agree.
Have you signed anything that would require you pay them a commission if you find a house? Typically, sellers sign such contracts for a period of around six months
Obviously, if the seller was using a realtor, it would make no difference: the seller’s realtor would simply have to split their 6% commission with your realtor.
Assuming that the seller does not have a realtor, you could negotiate a fee for the services provided by your realtor thus far. Have a number in mind — say 2%, slightly less than the fee they would have gotten — and see if you and your real-estate agent are comfortable with it.
Enlist your realtor’s help
But here’s another route that could be a win-win for the both of you: Consider keeping them until the transaction is finalized, and make that 2% contingent on them providing those services.
After all, real-estate agents do more than just setting up open houses and showing you the property. They can help you with paperwork, purchase agreements, contacts, schedule inspections and appraisals, help you find multiple lenders, and help get you a good mortgage rate. Plus, they may be able to spot any potential red flags that you would’ve overlooked.
“I would recommend formally utilizing their [agent] in the transaction, with a negotiated fee paid by the buyer at closing,” Erin Sykes, chief economist and real-estate wealth advisor and broker at Nest Seekers International, told MarketWatch.
“This gives the buyer protection as the realtor will have their best interest in mind, doing due diligence, and they gain the benefit of full representation,” she added.
Putting a value on time
The leverage you have is goodwill: they are getting something for their time, but they also have no other option. Many other people would simply ghost their realtor, buy the house and run.
Ultimately, if you decide that you don’t want to pay your real-estate agent for not playing a role in closing on your new home, then that’s your prerogative. You can choose to not pay them a dime.
But remember this: how would you like that if the tables were reversed? Is their time not as valuable as yours? And is this the kind of karma you want buying your new home?
This week’s Big Move question was spotted on Reddit .
By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties .
‘ The Big Move ’ is a MarketWatch column looking at the ins and outs of real estate, from navigating the search for a new home to applying for a mortgage.
Do you have a question about buying or selling a home? Do you want to know where your next move should be? Email Aarthi Swaminathan at [email protected] .
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In Moscow, a Financial District in Name Only
Moscow’s financial district, known as Moscow City, has become a visible symbol of Russia’s economic woes.
An office worker inside one of Moscow City’s skyscrapers. Russia, facing broad-ranging financial sanctions and largely dominated by state-run companies, simply has no need for vast office spaces for stock traders, auditors and bankers.
From 2000 to 2007, the Russian economy grew on average 7 percent a year. Most of the site’s construction occurred in the last decade.
Workers during their lunch hour passed through an underground passage that links skyscrapers in Moscow City. Office space in the neighborhood currently averages $6.90 a square foot each month, almost a dollar below the city average.
One tower in Moscow City, called Evolution, twists in a DNA-evoking double helix. New buildings are also being repurposed at the development stage.
High Level Hostel, one of the newest tenants in the neighborhood, sits on prime real estate on the 43rd floor of a multimillion-dollar glass-and-steel tower.
Empire Tower, the skyscraper that is home to High Level hostel, is still largely empty two years after opening.
As Kremlin policies have dealt blows to the country’s financial sector jobs, Moscow City is now shifting tactics to fill the glut of premier office space.
Outside the City of Capitals building, with the twisting Evolution tower in the background. While nonfinancial ventures — from a culinary school to a 6,000-seat movie theater — rent more space in Moscow City, meshing the various constituencies is now creating new challenges.
By Andrew E. Kramer
- Nov. 25, 2014
MOSCOW — In the coveted corner office, a bearded man in sweatpants scrambled eggs at a kitchenette, all the while taking in the serene beauty of the city lights twinkling far below.
In the conference room, or as the company prefers to call it, the “common area,” two other men lounged about playing video games on an Xbox. In place of cubicles, there are bunk beds.
High Level Hostel, one of the newest tenants in the financial district here known as Moscow City, sits on prime real estate on the 43rd floor of a multimillion-dollar glass-and-steel tower. It is not a youth-hostel-themed work space, but an actual youth hostel — dirty socks and all.
“We thought, ‘why not open a hostel in a skyscraper?’ ” said Roman Drozdenko, the 25-year-old owner. “Nobody’s done that before.”
The tower, with its marble veneer foyer, banks of elevators and breathtaking views, was clearly built for lawyers, accountants or stock traders. But “there were no questions regarding our guests” from the building management when he opened in September, Mr. Drozdenko said. “In fact, there were no questions at all.”
Moscow’s skyscraper district, formally the Moscow International Business Center, reflects the broader problems in the Russian economy. The country, facing broad-ranging financial sanctions and largely dominated by state-run companies, simply has no need for vast office spaces for stock traders, auditors and bankers.
Vacancy rates in the newly built financial district have become acute. The entire site, some 148 acres that now includes the tallest building in Europe , Mercury City Tower, had a vacancy rate of 32 percent at the end of October, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate consultancy. The rate is projected to rise above 50 percent next year when new buildings open.
“Russians have a great tradition of building things they don’t need,” Sergei Petrov, an office worker in Naberezhnaya tower, said of the emptiness behind the glass facades, a veritable Potemkin Wall Street.
Moscow City was envisioned as a hub of emerging market finance, a shiny skyscraper-dotted testament to Russia’s growing international influence. For a time, the idea was not improbable: From 2000 to 2007, the Russian economy grew on average 7 percent a year.
This herculean undertaking on a bank of the Moskva River was to be Moscow’s answer to Manhattan or the City of London.
One tower, called Evolution, twists in a DNA-evoking double helix. The spires of Federation Towers resemble billowing sails, evoking Russia sailing into a capitalist future. Federation Tower East, when finished, will rise 95 stories to a height of 1,224 feet, surpassing its still mostly empty neighbor Mercury City Tower as the tallest building in Europe.
Eight skyscrapers are finished, including the gold-tinted Mercury tower. Eight others are under construction, and two more are planned. The entire site is scheduled to be finished by 2018.
But Russia’s tanks are now getting more international attention than its banks, leaving Moscow City as a $12 billion reminder of the nation’s economic woes.
Western sanctions, for example, have taken aim at Russia’s largest state financial institutions, Sberbank and VTB, which both own towers or floor space in Moscow City. The two banks now have a limited ability to issue debt on global markets, thus limiting their growth options.
Sanctions by the United States and the European Union are expected to trim about 1 percentage point of growth from Russia’s gross domestic product this year, and slightly more next year if they remain in place. Even without sanctions, problems have been stacking up. Rising inflation, falling oil prices, and a tumbling ruble have left Russia near recession.
The government also accounts for an outsize proportion of the economy, leaving scant jobs for the grunt workers of private enterprise, the bankers, lawyers and traders for whom Moscow City was built. In Russia, 81 percent of the shares of the top 10 companies are owned by the same entity, the state, compared with 11 in Germany, according to a study by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development economists.
Rather than turning to banks, Russia’s largest company, the sanctioned state oil company Rosneft is now appealing directly to state funds for loans. And the Kremlin this year again delayed shifting pensions into the private sector, dealing another blow to financial sector jobs.
“Somebody had the idea that if you build a lot of skyscrapers in one spot you have an international financial center,” Darrell Stanaford, a real estate analyst in Moscow with Romanov Dvor, said in an interview. “But it doesn’t work. You need other things, too.”
Moscow City, which has taken a direct hit from these policies, is now shifting tactics to fill the glut of premier office space.
City, the management company for the development in the neighborhood, says financial services companies are no longer the majority of its new tenants. Of the new Russian occupants signing leases this year, 58 percent were nonfinancial companies as well as local small and midsize businesses, like High Level Hostel, according to the management company.
New buildings are also being repurposed at the development stage. One low-rise will become a 6,000-seat movie theater.
In finished towers, various nonfinancial ventures are renting space. One company sells Cambodian citizenship to Russians wanting a second passport. A culinary school and restaurant are opening.
Many multinationals have rented space. IBM, General Electric, KPMG, General Motors, Hyundai, Energizer and Japan Tobacco International are all tenants, as is a major Russian investment bank, Renaissance Capital.
Prices, too, are falling. Mr. Drozdenko, the hostel owner, said a real estate agent offered him the space for about $8,000 a month for 1,600 square feet, or about $5 a square foot.
In Moscow City, office space currently averages $6.90 a square foot each month. That’s below the average of $7.75 for high-grade office space elsewhere in the capital, according to Denis T. Sokolov, senior analyst and a partner at Cushman & Wakefield in Moscow.
“We have to do this,” Dmitry Granov, the director of City management, said in an interview of the effort to broaden the range of tenants, because of the dearth of financial sector jobs in Russia.
“If before we were looking for international corporations, today we are looking for Russian companies, and small and medium businesses,” he said. He said dropping rents would attract technology start-ups.
City management company contested the vacancy estimate by Cushman & Wakefield. Cushman & Wakefield counts vacant sublease space in its total, while the management company does not. City says current vacancies are about 20 percent.
Meshing the various constituencies is also creating challenges.
“The cafes, amenities and dress code you need is different for clients of a youth hostel and for investment bankers,” said Mr. Stanaford, the real estate analyst, of settling tenants like High Level Hostel in their high-level location. “What image-conscious business is going to buy office space in the same skyscraper with a youth hostel?”
Empire Tower, the skyscraper where High Level hostel sits, is still largely empty two years after opening. In the foyer, an oval marble sculpture echoes the oval motif of the 60-story tower, designed for a more professional clientele.
Forty-three stories up, High Level Hostel opened in September with 24 beds, with prices starting at $25.50 in a six-person room, including a breakfast of toast, porridge or muesli. The hostel manager, Leonid L. Fedotov, 19, who goes by the nickname the Beard, recalled backpacking guests from Holland named Ron and Eve.
“It was really cool because Ron and I played guitar in the evening,” he said, as they gazed out at the twirling facade of Evolution Tower and the sea of lights of Moscow below.
The State of Real Estate
Whether you’re renting, buying or selling, here’s a look at real estate trends..
College football is clobbering housing markets across the United States, as wealthy fans and investors seek short-term rentals for games.
Democrats in Congress have introduced a bill in the House and the Senate to ban hedge funds from buying and owning single-family homes in the United States.
Some landlords are asking New Yorkers with disabilities to foot the bill for accommodations to make buildings more accessible, even when developers and building owners are legally required to pay for the changes .
As sea levels rise and storms worsen, threatening the planet’s fragile coastlines, some architects and developers are looking to the water as a frontier for development .
NASA is plotting how to build houses on the moon by 2040 through new technology and partnerships with universities and private companies.
Social media platforms are awash with videos of microapartments and tiny homes with tens of millions of views. But do clicks translate into new occupants ?
Colorado mountain towns have become a magnet for the new remote-worker class. But the newcomers are driving rents up and upending life for locals .
Your Source For Real Estate News & Information
Real-Life Ghost Stories From Really Terrified Real Estate Agents
Key Takeaways: – Virtual Inman Connect on Nov. 1-2, 2023 and Inman Connect New York on Jan. 23-25, 2024 are upcoming events to prepare for – A study shows that 29% of Americans believe they’ve lived in a haunted house, with 27% knowing beforehand and signing the contract anyway – Buyers who have lived in haunted houses feel remorse and believe their homes will be harder to sell, take longer to sell, and sell for less – 71% of Americans surveyed say they would consider buying a haunted house to save money – Unexpected costs, high interest rates, and inability to pay mortgages are scaring buyers off the market – Real estate agents share their ghost stories, including experiences of hearing a piano playing in a basement, feeling allergic reactions, and encountering odd sights in foreclosed homes inman:
No one can predict the future, but you can prepare. Find out what to prepare for and pick up the tools you’ll need at the Virtual Inman Connect on Nov. 1-2, 2023. And don’t miss Inman Connect New York on Jan. 23-25, 2024, where AI, capital, and more will be center stage. Bet big on the future and join us at Connect.
Ever seen a specter at a showing? Ever shown a haunted house to horrified buyer clients? Ever felt the presence of the paranormal at a potential listing?
The natural cultural bridge between Halloween and real estate is (you guessed it!) ghosts, which makes sense because ghosts haunt houses — if you believe scary movies like The House on Haunted Hill , The Haunting of Bly Manor and The Shining (OK, that last one was a hotel, but still). Or if your scare needs to be delivered in lighter fare, even in movies like Casper , Disney’s Haunted Mansion and Beetlejuice , ghosts and homes go hand in hand.
Off the big screen, about 29 percent (up from 24 percent in 2022) of Americans surveyed in a new study from Real Estate Witch, Zillowtastrophes , and Estate Media , believe they’ve lived in a haunted house.
Of that number, 27 percent knew beforehand that the house was haunted and signed on the dotted line anyway. More than 1 in 3 of those buyers (36 percent) are haunted with remorse, and 55 percent say they wouldn’t do it again.
They also feel like their homes will be harder to sell (71 percent) and take longer (64 percent) and that they will ultimately sell for less (69 percent).
Their saving grace might just be that 71 percent of Americans surveyed say they could be swayed to buy a haunted house to save money.
Half said they’re most terrified by unexpected costs, high interest rates (46 percent) and an inability to pay their mortgages (42 percent).
These same factors are scaring buyers off the market in general, which might mean taking a haunted listing or two. So, how do you prepare for the paranormal?
You can’t, but you can read other agents’ stories for fun this Halloween.
From mysteriously locked doors to paranormal parties, we’ve rounded up some spine-tingling tales from agents in the field.
Ghost stories from the field
Teri herrera, broker, windermere.
I was showing a new client a waterfront property on Lake Sammamish in Bellevue, Washington. It was a two-story home with a daylight basement and a lovely lawn out to the lake. I was showing my client around the main floor of the home, chatting up the cabinets in the kitchen, when all of a sudden we started hearing a piano playing from the basement level.
My client and I glanced at each other thinking that was a bit strange. Soon after the piano started playing, we could hear voices, men and women, laughing and talking, and we could hear the shuffling of feet dancing across the hardwood floors down below.
At that point, I walked over to the window facing the lake fully expecting to see that there must have been some sort of a party going on back there, and everybody had decided to come in. But when I looked outside, there was no evidence of anyone having been in the backyard.
I said to my client, “I definitely had an appointment. I’m surprised they forgot we were coming.” I walked over to the door leading to the lower level; I opened the door and saw a staircase with a second door at the bottom of the staircase also closed.
When I opened the door, the sound of voices and the piano music amplified. We could distinctly hear men’s and women’s voices and could almost make out conversations. I yelled down the stairs “Realtor!” but the party continued. I walked to the halfway point down the staircase, and again yelled out “REALTOR!”
At that moment everything went dead quiet. I looked back up the staircase to my client and quietly mouthed “Whoa! That’s weird!” She nodded affirmatively. I continued down to the end of the staircase and opened the door. Just inside the door was a small table with a vintage clock ticking away.
I stepped into what appeared to be an elderly person’s apartment and there, tucked around the corner, I saw it. A piano, but there was absolutely no one down there. I ran back up the stairs, nearly knocking my client over, and ran for the door. She — not knowing what I had seen — was right at my heels.
We drove off as quickly as we could. Realizing I had not locked the door, I called the listing agent to inform her of the door and our experience. She gasped and said “Oh my gosh, Teri! The owner’s mother-in-law lived down there, and she passed three days ago!”
“Well, she was having one hell of a party there today!” I told her.
Anna Altic , broker, RE/MAX Homes and Estates
I have had quite a few unexplained experiences showing properties, but here is my weirdest one: I was out with some first-time homebuyers who were newer to the process, so I didn’t know them super well yet.
We had looked at three or four properties already and were headed into our last home, which was a 1930s bungalow.
In Nashville, it’s very common to show properties that have framed gold records up on the walls, and I like to try to see if I can figure out who the owner is from the awards they have won.
After I’d gone through the house with my buyers, I went over to look at the gold records in the hallway, so they could take a second look around and discuss. As I was standing in the hallway perusing the records, my throat started to get really scratchy, and then I started to feel wheezy and short of breath.
I casually yelled to the buyers, “Hey guys, do you see a cat in here anywhere? I feel like I’m having an allergy attack.” It got bad enough that I was thinking about stepping outside when the husband rounded the corner, took one look at me, and very curtly said, “We have to go now, and I mean now!”
So we hustled out, and it was awkward because I wasn’t sure if I’d said or done something that upset him.
Later that evening, the wife calls me and is kind of sheepish. I immediately reassured her that I was glad she called and welcomed feedback if there was something I could do differently to make her husband more comfortable.
She hemmed and hawed for a second and then said, “Anna, you are probably going to think we are crazy, but when John rounded the corner today he saw something behind you and it was squeezing your neck!” I still sold them a house — but definitely not that house.
Justin Fox , broker-owner, RE/MAX Professionals
Back in the foreclosure crisis (circa 2008), almost everything I showed was a foreclosure , so vacant homes and odd sights were the norm. I was working with a young couple who fell in love with the online listing of a quirky foreclosed home built in the 1870s. It was on one of Minnesota’s seven historic military wagon roads dating back to the 1850s, with just over an acre overlooking a small lake.
As we walked up, dodging overgrown trees and wading through tall weeds, the home clearly needed some love. Some of the “improvements” led us to believe the former inhabitants were a bit “quirky,” but we weren’t dissuaded!
Exploring the labyrinth of a house, we climbed down a makeshift ladder into the dank limestone basement, and as we climbed back out, we heard a loud thump from the front of the home in an area we hadn’t yet been to. We headed across the uneven floors toward the source of the noise and found a bird had flown into the living room picture window and lay twitching on the ground outside it. Par for the course given the location in nature, we told ourselves. Although, at this point, we all had an odd feeling creeping over us.
We proceeded up the steep narrow stairs to the home’s second story to check out the bedrooms. The primary bedroom had a small private balcony overlooking the lake, which we all agreed was our next destination. I opened the old, wooden screen door for the buyers and noted that the only lock was an old fish-eye hook latch (I’ve been locked out before, so I always check this).
Holding the door for the buyers, I stepped out last and softly shut the door behind us. We stood on the balcony for a few minutes taking in the view, and as I turned to open the door, it was locked! The hook was IN THE EYEHOLE, and we were locked out on this 3-foot-by-5-foot, second-story balcony. I rattled the door a few times to see if it would pop out, but ultimately had to cut the screen to free us.
Once inside, the buyers headed back down to leave. I stayed at the door for a few minutes trying to slap the door shut so that the hook would lock and could NOT do it. The buyers ultimately decided there were unseen forces telling them this wasn’t their home and didn’t buy it. To this day, every time I drive by the house, I always wonder if the current owners have any odd experiences.
Kristy Kyle , broker/Realtor, RE/MAX Executive Fort Mill
My client and friend loves old homes , so we spent a lot of time in the Myers Park area of Charlotte seeing every home from the 1900s that became available. Of course, the architecture and history are a draw when looking at these homes. One of the last homes we saw before making her decision was built in 1920 on Selwyn Avenue — a small brick ranch with a basement with just enough room and in the right area.
We walked in, and the normally talkative client was silent as we walked through. I was pointing out all of the features she would have and, of course, the great location.
As I opened the door to the basement, she all of a sudden grabbed me and said, “I have to get out of this house!”
I was confused of course and said, “Why?!”
She made it out the front door, and took my hand to show me her heart was beating out of her chest. Still confused I said, “What?”
“I felt someone in there, and he didn’t want me there,” she said.
“Really?! I didn’t feel anything!” I said.
She went on to tell me she had never had that feeling before, but she got a bad feeling once she walked in and felt someone else was there. It made her whole body shiver and her heart race. It took a bit to calm her down, but we did not go back in!
Mauricio Umansky, founder and CEO, The Agency
As Inman’s Lillian Dickerson reported when Mauricio Umansky’s book The Dealmaker came out, he once encountered Michael Jackson’s ghost.
Below is the account published on Inman earlier this year:
At the time of his death in 2009, Michael Jackson was leasing a house in Holmby Hills and Umansky was hired by the property’s owner to sell it, he details in The Dealmaker .
According to Umansky, Jackson actually died in the secondary bedroom suite of the property.
Following a hard-learned lesson years ago, Umansky had been extremely careful ever since about not leaving anything on in the house and remembering to lock everything. So, after a long day of showing the property to serious buyers and curious Jackson fans alike, when Umansky returned the next morning to find the secondary suite bedroom window open and the stereo blaring, he was alarmed and surprised.
“That evening when I left the house, I checked the stereo, the window, and all the lights what felt like fifty times!” Umansky says in The Dealmaker . “The next day, I came back and the lights were on, music was playing, and the window was open again. Immediately, I called the owner to double-check that no one had been there. He confirmed that not one person had set foot in the home since I’d locked up.”
Umansky also claims the bedroom was known as Jackson’s favorite place in the house, and that he used to listen to music in there while looking out the windows at the back garden. The only possible explanation, therefore, that he could come up with for the blaring music was Jackson’s spirit was still in the house.
Later on, Umansky says what convinced him of the fact is that when it came time to close the house with a buyer who wanted to pull out because a motor that was supposed to move the home’s chandelier up and down wasn’t working, Umansky threw out a “Hail Mary” to Jackson that was returned.
“As the buyer meandered into another room, I literally looked up toward the sky — as a last-ditch effort — and said, ‘Michael, please help me out here,’” Umansky says in The Dealmaker . “Then I walked back over to the switch and, by some miracle, the chandelier started going up and down.”
The deal was saved.
“I definitely felt [Jackson’s] presence,” Umansky told Inman. “Just to be clear, I never believed in spirits and ghosts up until my mother-in-law died, and then I had an experience that was super real, super physical, and then I started to become more open to it. And as I became more open to it, we started to encounter ghosts or spirits.”
Umansky also added that he believes he and his family are currently living with a friendly “Casper-like” ghost in their home.
Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateC oach.com
Author, coach, and long-time Inman contributor Bernice Ross has had a few spooky interactions with the paranormal. We dug deep into the archives (2013!) to bring you this little ditty:
After spending one Saturday afternoon preparing [with a friend] for our upcoming qualifying exams, we decided to take a dinner break. When we returned, several pieces of furniture were moved and the lights were flickering much more so than usual.
We decided to watch a movie — “The Ghost of Flight 401.” Probably not the best choice in a house that was a bit spooky, but with only seven channels and no cable, we didn’t have many options.
After the movie, I grabbed my study materials and walked with her to the front door. The stairwell adjacent to the door had a heavy oak banister on top of the intricate wrought ironwork. As I was about to leave, the entire banister started to vibrate. Everything else in the house was completely still.
I looked at her and asked, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” She did. We were both mesmerized and too frightened to move. After several minutes, the vibration stopped. Needless to say, that was the last time I was in the house.
Have your own ghost story? Send us an email , and we’ll add it to this post.
Virtual Inman Connect, scheduled for November 1-2, 2023, offers a platform to learn about the latest trends, strategies, and technologies shaping the real estate market. It's a chance to connect with industry experts, share insights, and gain valuable knowledge to prepare for what lies ahead.
Similarly, Inman Connect New York, happening on January 23-25, 2024, promises to be a hub for discussions on AI, capital, and more. It's an opportunity to explore the transformative power of technology and its impact on the real estate landscape.
But let's take a break from the future and delve into the spooky side of real estate, particularly the connection between ghosts and homes. Halloween is the perfect time to explore the paranormal, and it turns out that ghosts and haunted houses are more than just fictional tropes.
According to a study by Real Estate Witch, Zillowtastrophes, and Estate Media, about 29 percent of Americans surveyed believe they've lived in a haunted house. Surprisingly, 27 percent of these buyers knew beforehand that the house was haunted but still decided to move in.
However, the remorse is real. More than one-third of those who bought haunted houses (36 percent) express regret, and 55 percent say they wouldn't do it again. They also anticipate challenges when selling their spooky abodes, with 71 percent believing it will be harder to sell, 64 percent expecting a longer selling period, and 69 percent predicting a lower selling price.
Interestingly, the study reveals that 71 percent of Americans surveyed would consider buying a haunted house to save money. Their fear of unexpected costs, high interest rates, and potential mortgage payment difficulties outweighs any concerns about the supernatural.
So, how do you prepare for the paranormal? The truth is, you can't. Ghostly encounters are unpredictable and often unexplainable. However, you can find solace and entertainment in reading ghost stories shared by other real estate agents.
Teri Herrera, a broker from Windermere, recounts a chilling experience while showing a waterfront property. As she and her client explored the house, they heard a piano playing and voices coming from the basement. Despite investigating, they found no evidence of a party. It turned out that the owner's mother-in-law, who had recently passed away, used to live in the basement.
Anna Altic, a broker from RE/MAX Homes and Estates, shares a peculiar incident where she felt a sudden allergic reaction while perusing gold records in a 1930s bungalow. Her buyers later revealed that the husband had seen something behind her, squeezing her neck. Needless to say, they decided not to buy that particular house.
Justin Fox, a broker-owner from RE/MAX Professionals, recalls a foreclosure home from the 1870s that he showed to a couple. While exploring the house, they heard a loud thump and discovered a bird had flown into the picture window. Despite the odd occurrences, they continued their exploration, only to feel an eerie presence as they climbed the steep narrow stairs to the second story.
These stories remind us that the real estate industry is not without its spooky encounters. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it's always intriguing to hear these tales from the field.
As you prepare for the future of real estate, don't forget to embrace the spirit of Halloween and indulge in some ghostly stories. And if you're looking to stay ahead in the industry, mark your calendars for Virtual Inman Connect and Inman Connect New York. These events will equip you with the tools, knowledge, and connections you need to thrive in an ever-evolving market. So, bet big on the future and join us at Connect!
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