Sally's eyes will make a grown man cry!

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC BK607690

Sally came home from school...and, as she normally does, she ran upstairs to let her parents know she was home. When she went into the master bedroom, she found her parents, laying in a pool of blood on the floor, dead. Her father had shot her mother in the head and then pointed the gun at himself and committed suicide. We don't know why. I guess for whatever reason life was too difficult for him so he ended it. Sally's life would never be the same. Nor would mine. She was 16.

I have known this family since Sally was 6. She also has two sisters, Susan 25 and Sandy 22. This family was part of a large extended family in Poinciana and I have been their Broker for years. They trust me. They are my friends. We have been through several sales related to divorce and a couple more related to illness. I love these people.

My phone rang one day last year and it was Susan, she asked me if I would come over and meet with her and her husband, over at her parent's house, to see about placing it on the market. The murder/suicide had just happened a week earlier and I had just heard about it the day before Susan called. I was shocked and heart broken for these three beautiful young girls. But I needed to help them. All they had left in the world was the house that they had grown up in and where their parents had died so tragically.

I knew this would be the most difficult listing appointment I had ever been on. But I had no idea how difficult it would truly be.

Anyway, I prepared my analysis and went over the next day to meet with them. When I opened the door there were the 3 girls waiting for me. I hugged them and mumbled something stupid about being sorry and went on in to look at the house. They gave me the tour and when we went into the master bedroom, the carpet had been cut out of a large part of the floor, where the bodies had been. They did this to remove the blood stains. I was still OK and managed to finish the tour.

We went back downstairs and sat at the dining room table and I pulled out my stuff, so we could figure out a price, to get it sold. That's when I made my mistake. I made eye contact with Sally for the first time. Folks....I'm a tough guy, I've been through and seen a lot in my lifetime but NOTHING will prepare you for looking into the eyes of a 16 year old girl, who had just found her parents dead, a week earlier. They were and still are the saddest eyes I have ever seen. I lost it.

I had to excuse myself and I went outside to gather myself. These girls were depending on me. This was no time for me to be weak. They needed my strength not my weakness. It took me just a few minutes to gather myself and I went back in and took care of the business at hand. I can't bring their parents back but I can help them get this home sold so they can get on with their lives. And I did. I did what needed to be done. After all, they are my friends and I am their Broker. Where else could they turn?

Folks, this is a true story. Of course, the names were changed to protect my friends but everything else is true. I wrote this for a reason.

As REALTORS® we have to help people through their difficulties. If you are working mainly with Buyers you may not run across this that often. Buyers are buying during an "up time" in their life. They just got married or they just had a child and need a larger place or maybe it's their first home together. Whatever it is, it is normally a happy occasion.

If you work with Sellers, you WILL encounter the ugly side of life quite often. You need to be prepared for it. Sellers sell because of divorce, illness, financial hardship, death, old age and a myriad of life's difficulties. Our job is to be able to help them through these times. It's not easy. I have cried with my Sellers on more than one occasion. I have been pissed off at their circumstances. I have been there for them if they needed to talk. I pray for my Sellers every day. I know things about my Sellers that their own family members don't even know. I do not judge them. I am their confidant, their friend, their calming force and their counselor. AND I am their real estate Broker. "Real Estate is about people NOT money"

This post was inspired by Patrick Canavan's post "Leaving a listing appointment with tears in my eyes". My response to Patrick was:

  • So my advice is......always help if you can. No matter the circumstances some times folks need to sell and get on with their lives. And if we as REALTORS(R) can help....then we MUST do so. Our job is not about selling houses.

Here are a few other real life examples of the issues our Sellers deal with:

Folks, this was a very difficult post to write. I hope it made you think. And for you Buyer's Agents out there, if my Seller does not accept the offer, you presented, please don't assume that they are being "foolish". You have NO idea what my Sellers may be going through. And that's all I have to say about that.

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Comments (112)

Rick & Ines - Miami Beach Real Estate
Majestic Properties - Miami Beach, FL
BB - all I can say is "you have a gift" - thank you for sharing it.
Sep 03, 2007 09:30 AM
Judi Glamb
Coldwell Banker Hearthside - Hellertown, PA
Associate Broker, ABR

Bryant - thank you for sharing.  Your heart shows through on this post! Your line "You have NO idea what my Sellers may be going through" is something we all need to remember when we get unexpected responses.   We all have to remember that there is usually some reason behind people moving and it is not always "happy".  

Sep 03, 2007 10:04 AM
Boomer Jack Boardman & Carl McIntyre, the Codgers
Noted Curmudgeons - Saint Paul, MN

BB: The lip trembles—the eyes tear—nothing more to say.

Jay
Sep 03, 2007 11:04 PM
Bryant Tutas
Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC - Winter Garden, FL
Selling Florida one home at a time
Thanks all!!!
Sep 03, 2007 11:48 PM
Karen Rice
Joseph J. O'Brien REALTOR Inc. - Greentown, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

Just adding a comment - nothing sensible to say, other than, I really appreciate your blogs, Bryant.

Thank you. 

Sep 04, 2007 05:29 AM
Lysa Napolitano
Daytona Beach, FL

BB, I'm with Karen on this one. Thanks.

Sep 04, 2007 05:34 AM
Patrick Canavan
Keller Williams Realty - Yorba Linda, CA
Orange County Real Estate Voice

Hi Bryant,

My post brought up an issue that you needed to get out.  And you did it.  Your post to Active Rain must of been very difficult for you to write,  but I am sure it needed to be said.

Empathy "understanding and entering into another's feelings"  I will have to control these feelings and get on with the job.  You are absolutely right when you said:

"No matter the circumstances some times folks need to sell and get on with their lives. And if we as REALTORS(R) can help....then we MUST do so. Our job is not about selling houses.

Thank you for your input and advice on my blog.  Very much appreciated.

Sep 04, 2007 07:52 AM
Rebecca Dean
Downing Frye Realty - Bonita Springs, FL
Wow. This really made me think. I guess the old saying is true: Until we walk a mile in someone else's shoes....As Realtors we must realize that the reason for selling is not always happy and that many people are sad to be moving on from their home. We have to not only get the most money in the shortest amount of time for their home but also be a compassionate friend when needed. In your case it seems as though you managed both. Thanks for sharing.
Sep 04, 2007 12:21 PM
Lizette Fitzpatrick
Lizette Realty - Richmond KY - Lexington, KY
Lizette Realty, Lexington KY MLS - Kentucky Homes
I understand what you felt. I've gone through it also. WE ended up auctioning the property off because it was stigmatized. So many people turned out along with 3 TV crews. It was a sad day too.
Sep 04, 2007 04:12 PM
Bryant Tutas
Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC - Winter Garden, FL
Selling Florida one home at a time
Darn it! I just read this post again and it still makes me tear up. Thanks for stopping by. I hope this post make you think about what it is we really do.
Sep 05, 2007 10:16 AM
Midori Miller
Talk 2 Midori, LLC - Daytona Beach, FL
Online Marketing For Real Estate Professionals

Broker Bryant-Gosh, I had to come back to this, I read this a few days ago and it hit too close to home.  You are truly a inspiration to me and many others. 

I too have been in situations like this, not easy but I have realized through the years that when we work with seller's most often something really life altering has caused them to make a move.  Can't stress it enough to show empathy and you did just that. 

Happy to hear the young ladies have moved forward with their lives.  Not an easy feat... 
Sep 05, 2007 12:06 PM
Jon Mitchell
Classic Property Management - Santa Clarita, CA
Wow, that is a very sobering post.  Sometimes, the fun and games need to be put on hold to get the message across.  Great post.
Sep 05, 2007 01:02 PM
Vicky Poe
Good Ole Rocky Top - Crossville, TN
Realtor/ Auctioneer
This is a business about helping people.  You have a very big job ahead of you.  Good luck to you and the girls. It is obvious that you care about your clients.  I had a client killed in a car accident.  It is difficult to go back to the house.  You will sell this property and help the girls move on with their lives.
Sep 07, 2007 03:12 PM
Michele Connors
The Overton Group, LLC Pitt & Carteret County - Greenville, NC
Your Eastern North Carolina Realtor
Been a little busy and just getting time to read a bit- this is a moving story and heartbreaking. You have certainly taken on a role in their young lives that will forever be with them...I wish them well and hope they keep in contact with you thru their lives so you have comfort in knowing these girls found peace and a place in this world where they felt whole again.
Sep 09, 2007 02:29 PM
Rich Schiffer
Swarthmore, PA
Referral Agent, e-PRO
I really admire you, Bryant, and in many ways I want to be like you when I grow up.  I think I would have done something a little differently, though...I would have stayed there with them and had a good cry.  You are right that people sometimes need your strength, and you probably would did the right thing.  I just think that sometimes people want and need sympathy, and physical displays like crying together can create a bond of trust that surpasses whatever degree of trust you can create with a marketing presentation.  It might be seen as less than professional, but sometimes, the coldness of professionalism gets in the way of creating authentic, human relationships.  This is a people business, right?  Your story certainly is an example of that.
Sep 10, 2007 11:59 PM
Bryant Tutas
Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC - Winter Garden, FL
Selling Florida one home at a time
Hi everyone, Thanks for stopping by. I still can't read this post without it affecting me. I hope I don't have anymore listings like this. I am glad I couild be there for them though.
Sep 11, 2007 08:08 AM
Tracy Santrock
Fonville Morisey/Santrock Realty Group, Inc. - Cary, NC
Raleigh - Cary Realtor/Broker In Charge

Wow Bryant,

I had a friend a couple of years ago that I knew in Alabama and her son came home and shot both parents during Thanksgiving while she and her husband were sleeping.  He had mental issues and they have put him where he should be.  I can't help but think about the daughter that survived the ordeal.  This story reminded me of the tragedy in Alabama.

I couldn't even imagine having to take a listing in the home!!  I was about to cry just reading this post!! I had heard that you had a listing like this but I didn't know the story behind it. Thanks for sharing even though it was difficult.

Sep 25, 2007 04:31 AM
Bryant Tutas
Tutas Towne Realty, Inc and Garden Views Realty, LLC - Winter Garden, FL
Selling Florida one home at a time
Thanks Tray. This was a very difficult listing and a very difficult post to write. My prayers go out for your friend. That's horrible!!!
Sep 25, 2007 09:28 AM
Pat Hommel
Annapolis Plaza CB Residential and Commercial - Annapolis, MD
Annapolis, AA Co., Md. Real Estate Sales

Bryant,   Your story here about this family's tragedy is so moving on several levels.  With a tragedy such as this to handle, these young women were so fortunate to have you to turn to to guide them through the emotional upheaval in their lives.  There are no coincidences....you were in their lives for many years and they knew they could depend on you without question.  This is a very personal and difficult post for you to write and I especially appreciate your sharing this with us.  You show how you were called into service to help a family heal in the process of a huge trauma.  Blessings to you and your friends.

Pat Hommel, Annapolis, Maryland

Sep 28, 2007 06:16 AM
Debbie Summers
Charles Rutenberg Realty - New Smyrna Beach, FL

Bryant... Very powerful and you did the right thing for your client... you are not required to disclose.  I'm so glad that those girls had you.

Aug 17, 2008 09:29 AM

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