Breaking and Entering...A Big Oops from Show Homes

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty

I am still relatively new to ActiveRain and the blogosphere in general, but wanted to share a story with the network that still dumbfounds me.  I received a call today from a renter who contracted with Show Homes (a company that manages vacant listings and arranges for tenants to help stage the home while listed) seeking my legal help because of a huge error by Show Homes.

Basically, Show Homes contracted with an individual who claimed to be the owner of a home that a friend of mine had recently listed.  They were to provide a tenant to help in staging and furnishing the home.  Unfortunately, Show Homes failed to verify that this individual was in fact the owner of the home.  Show Homes was puzzled but not deterred when they were unable to get in the door the day their tenant arrived to move in.  They just called a locksmith, broke in and re-keyed all the locks.  The unknowing tenant started moving their stuff in as they had planned.

My friend the listing agent got a call the next day from a showing agent with feedback that the home was not ready to show.  She was told that there were boxes everywhere and two large dogs in this listing that was supposed to be vacant.  She naturally assumed the showing agent had confused the home with another showing, but found out that the other Realtor was not mistaken about the address.  She then proceeded to call the police and meet them home (the homeowner was an out of state owner).  Surprisingly enough, the keys she had just made copies of no longer worked and the home was occupied with tenants that neither she nor the owner had ever heard of.

Even better, Show Homes then tried to arrange for the actual legal home owner to pay them for their services in staging the home.  Further, they have not yet returned the money the unknowing tenant origninally paid to Show Homes for a place to stay.  They have likely broken several laws, their contract with the tenant, and have been paid several thousand dollars that they have not earned, but insist that they will work things out.  As for the would-be tenants, they will be asking for their money back and likely looking for another place to live.  My friend the listing agent now has a great story, but it could all have been avoided if Show Homes had just checked the tax records to determine legal ownership of the property.  A note of warning, be careful in any dealings with such companies.

Comments (6)

Judy Kincaid
Tampa, FL

What a nightmare!  This is the first I have heard of Show Homes.  I have to wonder how carefully tenants are screened; not only to determine if they are honest and trustworthy but to assure that they will stage the home and keep it in showcase condition at all times.  Thanks for enlightening us to this situation!

Oct 11, 2006 04:48 PM
Craig Schiller
Trempealeau, WI

WOW... that IS a story.

And a nightmare. When I stage homes THAT is not gonna be a problem... because Real Estaging requires a 50% deposit.

Who is gonna pay ME for to work in a house they don't even own?

How in the heck did they get the key? And from who?

Oct 11, 2006 08:57 PM
Tracy Thompson
Rite-Way Realty - Phoenix, AZ
Incredible story. Thank you for sharing. It give us one more thing to keep our eyes peeled for. Not that he is a big factor in this, but why did the locksmith re-key without verifying anything.
Oct 12, 2006 12:50 AM
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
Serving the Greater Phoenix and Scottsdale Metropolitan Area - Scottsdale, AZ
Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty
Good point Tracy.  I had to provide all kinds of paperwork to the locksmith when he opened a door to a condo we were in the process of listing.  All keys (except the one I had misplaced) were inside the property in the kitchen drawer.
Oct 12, 2006 02:30 AM
Jeff Link
Asheville, NC
"Your Asheville Real Estate Link"
Craig, they got the key when they have the locksmith re-key lock
Oct 12, 2006 03:10 PM


That sounds like a pretty sketchy story - I'm not sure you have all the facts right. Showhomes (the national company not to be confused with Showhomes of Dallas) works with the listing Agent and homeowner of record (according to the Realtor) to get contracts on homes. Keys to a property come from the homeowner directly or through the Realtor. Almost all staged homes, including Showhomes, take a minimum of 5 days to stage and are often limited from showings from setup/move in to avoid showings while the home is in process. MOst Showhomes are high end homes and even the best stagers in the country take time to stage large homes.

I've read a few posts on scam artists that prey on legitimate property management / real estate companies and potential tennants by advertising homes they do not own. Showhomes is a very reputable company and certainly not in this mix.

Sep 18, 2008 01:31 PM