No Such Thing as a Stupid Question…Kind Of


It’s always been sort of common to hear kind of “off” questions at open houses I would hold. Actually, stupid questions really. For the house that’s completely empty of all furnishings, “Is the house vacant?” For the fixer upper that needs a new roof, furnace, plumbing, electrical and has a foundation problem, “Will the seller fix all that? How about the seller in 2009 who asks ” Can’t the buyer just let us live here rent free for 30 days after closing?”

You know what? I can get on a roll with this! The buyer that says “Hey! The Title Company cashed my deposit check! Are they supposed to do that?” The agent who asks, “Did the seller accept my client’s offer?” when said offer is $150,000 under the asking price when we had 8 other offers. Then there’s these, “Can we go looking at houses at 8:00AM on Sunday morning?” or “I’m only interested in a house with at least 2000 minimum square feet inside and on a 10,000 sq ft lot, at least 4 bedrooms…can I find that for under $600,000 in Foster City?..and can I buy it via a contingency offer on my home in Redding?”

I’ll bet you think I’m making this stuff up, don’t you? I’m not, I promise! Well, here’s a common question heard at almost every open house…and I used to think it was kind of “off” too. “Where are the sellers going?” That question get’s asked alot! Honestly, there’s usually a very finite amount of answers to that question too. Most likely it’s because the house became either too big (kids grown and gone)or too small (kids not grown and home), there was a job change or a life change (marriage, divorce) or the family’s liquidating an asset. I’ve frequently had to laugh though at this question because it’s seemed that the question comes with an expectation of some weird answer. When someone asks me that they look at me waiting for me to say something like “well, the sellers just got tired of living on top of all the toxic waste under the house” or “Mr. Smith went bananas and shot poor Mrs. Smith right there by the fireplace…after he went to prison the family needs to sell the place”.

You know what? I ask this question all the time myself…because every once in a while the truth is exactly one of these crazy sounding answers! It’s really a very good question! When I was a kid my Dad had this routine every time we went out to eat. He always asked the hostess “How’s the food here?” It used to really embarrass me! Typically they would chuckle and rave about the food. One time when I was about 14 he asked a young girl that question and she looked around and told him “It stinks!” Hmm, I guess my Dad wasn’t so dumb after all!


  1. But remember we must always grin and bear it when it comes to stupid questions. Easier said than done, I know.

  2. Jim – I have been in real estate for almost 13 years – I KNOW you’re not making this up!

  3. 2000 sqft in 10000 sq ft in foster city is hilarious.
    its not even available in san ramon where i live now. ( ex-foster city)

  4. How about stupid things people DO at open houses. Why do they think they can just walk in someones home and use the toilet like the house is a public restroom facility?? Walk around with their coffee and dump the half drank cup in the homeowners wicker trash basket?

  5. Now, I know it’s a necessary question but I love the ones that ask “when are you taking offers?” When you can tell they have absolutely no plan of writing one?

  6. I have also heard people ask hostess how is the food here. Luckily yet to hear “It stinks”. 🙂
    But I also have kind of easy attitude on dumb question, It does not hurt to ask. The information may have impact on your decision making.
    – PBS

  7. Frances Rokicki says:

    LOL! Really good, Jim! I remember when my Dad and I went to the bank. He was buying me my first car and my payments for it, went to him, every month. We went to the bank teller and he gave her the withdrawal slip. She said, May I ask what you are going to do with this money? He simply, said, no you may not. I thought I was going to die of embarrasment, right there. Now, that I’ve dealt with privacy issues, I understand. Some questions are worth asking. There is a good saying about this, something like… Forgive me for not answering and I’ll forgive you for asking me. It really stuns people who are just nosy:)

  8. Michelle says:

    I am afraid I have done many of these offenses. I take my 5 year old to open houses, sometimes I get him a big drink as a bribe. Then, he says, I have to go pee! I do let him use the bathroom- better there than in the bushes, right? =)
    I also routinely ask why they are selling, if someone died there. (There is that house with the triple homicide in RWC, now up for auction!)
    And I am looking for that house that has 4 bedrooms, lots of land, and a cheapie price! =)
    I know, shame.

  9. Jim Minkey says:

    Hey Michelle;

    An agent friend of mine once had a guy walk into an open house, ask to use the bathroom…and proceeded to take a shower in it! he used the stager’s towels to dry off. When asked why he did that, he said he was dirty.

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