Halloween is just around the corner with ghosts, goblins and spooky spirits banging around in the dark of night. The appraisal profession affords us the opportunity to run into many scary circumstances and surroundings. Here are a couple of eerie memories from our archives to mark the holiday, and we invite you to share your own scary stories with us using the comments section at the bottom.
Casper the Friendly Ghost
For any appraisers who’ve worked inner cities, you all know there is no telling what you may run into during an inspection. As a trainee, we always inspected the roughest areas early in the morning. On this day, we rolled up to the two family and observed it to be in very nice shape, freshly painted with a well-manicured postage stamp lot and a nice 4 ft. chain link fence enclosing the yard. As we walked through the fence, the gate clanged shut behind us and my boss approached the front door of the owner’s unit. He rang the bell and as he did we saw a flash of white ruffle the drapes of the tall double pane window next to the large oak door. Within seconds we heard the deadbolt flip open and the door handle start to turn. My boss pulled open the screen door to greet the owner as the heavy oak door opened. As happens in big cities, the door only came open about six inches, I was standing behind my partner and saw he was being greeted by a small elderly woman checking on us before she would let us into the entry way any further. He explained we were from the bank to appraise the house and she commented she was expecting us. I observed that she seemed to be leaning out of the door trying to fill the six inch opening she had created as she spoke to us. As she talked she began to be pushed out toward us as through she was struggling against someone pushing on her back forcing her out of the door almost into my boss’s arms. With no warning she burst through the door toward us and we heard the blood cuddling roar of the largest dog we had ever seen. It was all teeth and white fur pushing the frail woman out of the house and charging toward the two of us perceived intruders. Without a thought, I instinctively turned and ran down the short path to the fence gate. Unfortunately, my boss had got tangled up as the woman fell into his arms before he too could turn and start running toward safety outside the fence. As I exited the fence and made it to the street, the gate clanged shut behind me trapping my boss in the yard as the dog, now identified by the old woman screaming his name as “Casper”, was in hot pursuit. My partner hit the fence gate at his waist and fumbled with the gate latch before being pounced on by the monster dog. My boss covered his head and turned toward the attacking dog who then stood up on his hind legs and put both massive paws on my boss’s shoulders. They were now face to face. Then this great white toothy beast began to lick my bosses face up and down rubbing his giant head on his chest and begging for a scratch under his chin. Casper as it turns out, truly was a “Friendly Ghost”. We all laughed as the owner apologized and we went on to make our inspection. Needless to say, from that day on I, as the trainee, I was sent first through any fenced gates and knocked on all the client doors so that my boss had a clear path for a quick exit and I would be the preferred victim of the next ghost attack!
Little House of Horrors
It was a beautiful, sunny day in early October 2004 with the temperature in the 70s. I arrived at the subject property around midday looking forward to a quick and easy inspection of what I knew from on-line assessing records was a +/- 20-year-old, 960 square foot ranch. Pulling into the driveway I saw a multitude of random items strewn about the yard and a lawn that looked like it hadn’t been mowed all year. As I exited my vehicle and gathered my tools of the trade, I was met by one of the home’s occupant, a 20 something year old woman with a cigarette in her mouth and coffee in hand. I introduced myself and we chatted for a moment, going over the inspection process, and then began measuring and photographing the exterior of the home. While wading through the tall grass measuring the rear of the home, I was startled by something brushing against my leg. I jumped back looking down and saw not one, but two rather mangy looking cats, one of which than began rubbing against my leg. I laughed at myself for being startled so easily and continued measuring and inspecting the exterior of the home all the while being accompanied by the two friendly felines.
The home looked older than its reported 20 years having had little to no exterior maintenance since being built but thankfully, no significant deferred maintenance was noted and so I was still under the impression this was going to be an easy inspection. However, that changed just moments after entering the home. I was let into the kitchen and was immediately enveloped by the thick layer of cigarette smoke that hung in the air (did I mention I’m asthmatic) and was greeted by several more cats. Now I love cats but do have allergies and so between the smoke and the SEVEN cats that lived in the home, I instantly began having difficulty breathing. I put on my game face as the young woman who had met me in the driveway, and who was now smoking another cigarette, introduced me to her boyfriend and roommate, both of whom were also smoking. Immediately after the introductions I went to work, still hoping to be out of the home in 10 minutes or less. As I was taking notes in the kitchen, I was surprised to find that I was able to smell anything other than the smoke (or cats), but the overflowing trash and pile of food laden dishes in the sink proved odiferous enough to be noted.
By the time I had finished inspecting the kitchen and living room, my chest was heavy and breathing was getting more difficult by the minute. As I went down the hallway, I was again surprised to find I could smell anything over the smoke, but the smell of trash and of a litterbox that needed changing was unmistakable. As I entered the bathroom I did not find the litter box as I had expected but did find a ceiling with several large black splotches of a mold-like substance and bathroom fixtures that were stained from the iron in the water and a very apparent lack of adequate cleaning. As I moved down the hall and inspected the very cluttered and untidy bedrooms, my breathing worsened and I was thankful the inspection was almost over…with only the basement left to inspect.
As I went to open the basement door I noticed a kitty door in the bottom and now knew where the litter box was kept. Given the cleanliness, or lack thereof, with the living area and the strong odor emanating from the basement, I steeled myself as I opened the door, flipped the light switch and descended into the basement. A few feet from the foot of the stairs I found the litter box which was, as I had expected in dire need of cleaning but to be honest, it was not as bad as I had been expecting and I couldn’t understand why the smell of trash was stronger down here than in the kitchen with the overflowing trash and pile of dirty dishes. As I was looking at the litter box and now precariously close to having a full blown asthma attack, I heard buzzing sounds behind me and turned to see what was the cause. It was then I understood why the smell of garbage (and of litter box) emanated throughout the house. Directly in front of me was a PILE of trash over five feet high (no joke) that took up a quarter of the basement. Most of the trash was in bags but several had broken open (or been torn open by the cats) and rotting food could be seen and was what had attracted the flies. I took out my camera in a hurry to photograph the scene before me and get out of the house so I could breathe again. As the flash of the camera went off there was movement directly in front of me as something leapt out of the pile towards me. I jumped back wondering what monstrous creature was attacking me, only to find the same mangy cat that had startled me when I was measuring the home, once again rubbing up against my leg.
I hurriedly left the house and, after a few hours and several puffs on an inhaler, was able to breathe normally again. Since that time I have inspected thousands of homes, many of which had significant deferred maintenance, mold and other issues but for me, this small ranch will always be my little house of horrors.