Realtors® Share Tales of Items Homeowners Left Behind

By Kim Shindle | Aug. 30, 2023 | 5 min. read

Finding the unexpected during a walk-through can challenge Realtors® and their clients. And who knew so many sellers would leave things behind!

Remains of the Day
Jim Cassidy, a member of Tri-County Suburban Realtors®, was working with an older widow and her attorney to sell a large family home in Ambler. The widow and her late husband immigrated to the U.S. from Germany, had no children and her attorney was concerned about her living alone.

“When the property was vacant and we were given a key to list the property,” Cassidy said. “When I went to check the property and measure the rooms, I found a brown urn on a bedroom closet shelf, engraved with the husband’s name and date of death.”

When Cassidy returned the urn to the attorney, the attorney smiled and said, “She always said not to worry about her living alone because PaPa was upstairs looking after her.”

Tina Richlin had a similar situation when sellers left their dog’s ashes behind in a closet.

“I knew they were having a difficult family situation. I contacted them to see if they wanted the remains, but I never heard back. Eventually, I put it in a pet cemetery so he had a proper burial,” Richlin, a West Branch Valley Association member, said.

Crazy Stuff Left Behind
PAR President Al Perry said, “I’ve seen some crazy stuff left behind. I have an autographed Billy Jean King tennis ball in a display case sitting next to me in my office that was left behind in a house.”

In the crazy stuff category, Beaver County Association member Denise Molchen-Donnelly has one of the most unique stories. She and her husband thought they found a dead body in an outer building on their newly purchased 6.5-acre property.

“We found the building was packed from floor to ceiling with years of belongings that should have been thrown away. While removing items one day, we saw two dirty, flesh-colored legs nestled amongst stuff in the loft. We thought it was a dead body but were relieved to realize they were prosthetic legs that belonged to the owner’s late husband,” Mochen-Donnelly recalls. “When I later became a Realtor®, after that traumatization of finding those ‘legs,’ I certainly know the importance of a final walkthrough!”

Greater Harrisburg Association member Danielle Winn was the buyer and her mom was the agent when Winn bought her first home from a woman who had lived in the home her entire life. After an auctioneer and siblings went through the house, Winn was left with many helpful household items as she started a new home.

“I used her avocado-colored trash can for many years and still have her sugar and flour canisters as well as her hand mixer,” she said. The previous homeowner documented everything and Winn continued to find things in the attic and basement over the years. When she removed wallpaper from two bedrooms, she found the names of the owner’s dad and others and the date, which she assumed they left a note each time they re-wallpapered.

A loaded handgun in a vacant property’s kitchen cabinet surprised Realtor® Heidi Dunigan, a Central Susquehanna Valley Board member. “During a final walk-through, I opened a kitchen cabinet with a handgun, some prescriptions and an Epi-pen. I unloaded the gun and checked with the seller’s agent to see if the sellers planned to be at closing and they were.”

When Dunigan returned it to the seller, he said, “I wondered where that was.”

PAR Treasurer David Dean was shocked when he was doing a final walkthrough, even though everything on the first floor seemed okay.

“On the second floor, something seemed amiss,” Dean recalls. “I remembered leaving all the doors open and there was a huge walk-in closet that I knew I had left open. I opened the door and screamed when a homeless fellow screamed and ran down the steps and out the door. I talked with him several days later and struck a deal with him to stay in the property and ensure no one stole the copper pipes until I was ready to rehab the property a year later.”

Don’t Forget Your Pet
David McConnell, a Realtors® Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh member, had a unique request from an estate attorney handling a client’s home sale.

“It was January and she had just passed and had a boyfriend in the area,” McConnell explained. “Everything was as expected until the attorney advised concerning the sale of the house, a provision in the will noted that in the spring, when the client’s pet turtle named Ned emerges from hibernating in her garden, the homebuyers had to promise to give Ned to her boyfriend.”

McConnell added the request in the agent comments on the MLS. The house sold and in May, Ned emerged.

“I received a call from the buyers that a turtle was wandering around their backyard,” McConnell said. “Needless to say, I went over to capture Ned. The boyfriend also arrived and the transfer was made. As we left, the buyers laughed, saying they had bet friends that the entire story was a ruse!”

Beth Endrizzi, a Tri-County Suburban Realtor®, had a surprising call from a buyers’ agent letting her know that her seller had left behind the family’s pot-belly pig in the home. “I knew about the pet, but I had to let the seller know that they had to collect the pig before the sellers closed on the property,” she said.

In a happily-ever-after story, years ago, Paul Marcks, a Greater Scranton Board of Realtors® member, said he had back-to-back-to-back closings that fortunately all fell into place. At the end of the day, he received a call from the buyer at the first home, who was celebrating with family and friends in their new home but told Marcks there was a problem.

“The first seller had left their dog behind at the home,” Marcks said. “By the time I had hung up the phone with the buyer, the seller called me saying he was driving back to his previous home because they just realized they had forgotten their dog.”

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