Personal Development

My Top 4 Most Shocking Real Estate Horror Stories: What Are Yours?

Expertise: Business Management, Personal Development, Real Estate Wholesaling
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In light of Halloween coming up soon, this week I wanted to have a little fun and share with you some real estate “horror” stories from my experience as an investor!

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A lot of people spend time talking about the glam, the money, and all the positive sides of this business, but they don’t share the things that can go wrong (or weird).

Let’s have fun this week! In the comments section, share your craziest real estate horror story, and let’s see if we can make some BiggerPockets history. Who knows–maybe this could be the most-commented post of all time!

My Top 4 Most Shocking Real Estate Horror Stories

1. The “Ash” House

Typically, I tend to always look through houses before I close on them, but one time, there was a property I had gotten so cheap that I decided to buy it sight-unseen.

We purchased that property on a Monday and went to take a look at it for the first time on the following Wednesday. I had an assistant at the time, and together, we went to go scope out the property–and we found ourselves in a war zone.

This neighborhood was so terrible that you’d think we were in Detroit and not Indy. There were cars in yards, a bunch of trash, and crackheads EVERYWHERE! As we turned down the street toward the property, we notice that there was a house on the block that was completely torched to the ground. We could still smell the charred hint of smoke.

Related: Dirt, Dead Mice & Cobwebs, Oh My: What I Learned From My Latest Tenant Horror Story

I turned to my assistant and said, “Wow, man! This neighborhood is horrible! I can’t believe my eyes. There is a house straight-up burnt down to the ground right next door to our property. No wonder we got this so cheap!”

We were close to our house now, so we began to look for it, and, well, we couldn’t find it. The numbers on the houses on the street seemed to skip, and it looked like our property just wasn’t there.

Then all of the sudden, it hit me.

“OH MY GOODNESS! THAT BURNT HOUSE IS MY HOUSE!”

I was blown away.

I immediately called the agent and said, “Hey, you didn’t tell me the house was burnt to the ground when I bought it. You showed me pictures of it and everything! What gives?”

The agent replied, "Well, last time I checked, it wasn't burnt. Why don't you call the fire department and see what they say?"

So I called the fire department, and they told us verbatim, “Oh yea, man. We know that house! It burnt to the ground LAST NIGHT!”

I lost it!

I bought the house on Monday, and it burnt to the ground on Tuesday. The worst part of it was that because the property was so cheap, and at the time my turnover was typically only a week or two, I didn’t bother to get insurance on it.

Lesson I learned: Even though a house is cheap, you might want to get some insurance on it, starting the day you buy it, no matter what!

2. The “Haunted” House

Back in the day, I used to buy a lot of properties off of the MLS, and there was this one particular property that was SUPER cheap. As we were going back and forth with the agent, I couldn’t piece together why it was so cheap. I mean, there was very minimal work that needed to be done, and it was a decent size, but they were selling it for pennies on the dollar.

It just didn’t add up.

After doing some due diligence, we also found out that this house was famous. It had been featured all over the news at some point, and apparently everyone knew about it except us. It was famous in a way, that, well, you don’t really want to be famous for: It was known for being the scene of a double homicide murder case!

So I had to think about it for a while, but ultimately, I didn’t want to buy a house that could possibly be “haunted.”

What about you guys? If you knew what had taken place in this house, would you have bought it?

3. The Fraud and the Injured Man

I had an out-of-state investor who wanted to buy a house in Indianapolis, where I would represent him as the agent, we’d hire a general contractor to do the rehab, and I’d keep an eye out on the property for him ongoing.

We hired a guy to do the work, and, well, the guy ended up being a fraud, and he took our money and skipped town.

The house was about 75% done, and we were pushed for time and needed the rehab to be completed. I knew a guy who mowed grass and did some basic handyman stuff, so I referred him to the investor to help finish up the project.

Now, I wasn’t present when this happened, but the handyman guy went to the property and brought a friend with him. While there, a garage door ended up falling on the friend’s leg and he ended up suing the homeowner–and me.

The lawsuits took about two and half years and many hours of my life.  I had to go to court a lot, but in the end I was fortunate, and my insurance I had on another project ended up covering the bill.

What did I learn? Think twice about allowing anybody on your property who doesn’t have insurance!

4. The Poop House

Recently, we’ve purchased a house that needed some renovations. The property had been vacant for a long time, and there were noticeable signs that a squatter was living there.

On our initial walk-through, we saw beer cans, some used needles, used condoms, etc. scattered all over the place. Upon further inspection, we noticed some brown and black “strips” in the corners in most rooms of the house and realized the truth: The person who lived here decided to poop everywhere, except the bathroom!

Related: 3 Entertaining Tales of Epic Failure in Recent Real Estate History

Later on, we actually ran into the squatter (he wanted to get access to his bike that was still inside the house), and my property manager just had to ask the guy, “Hey, man. Why all the poop in the corners of the house, and no signs of it in the bathroom?”

And the guy told him point blank, “Oh, that’s easy, man! The bathroom is where we smoke, so we don’t want to stink up the place.”

He said it as if it had all the logic in the world!

Conclusion

So those are my top “horror” stories. Now I want to hear from you!

Let’s use this post as a gathering place for the craziest, weirdest and most horrifying stories that the BiggerPockets community has to offer. Ready? Go!

So, now it’s your turn to weigh in! Let us know about your most shocking real estate stories of all time.

Leave your comments below!

Brett Snodgrass is a licensed real estate broker and wholesaler who hails from the Indianapolis metro. His mission in life is to glorify God by serving as many people as he can through his real estate business. He has a pretty active community growing on Facebook and is also the founder of SimpleWholesaling.com Come check it out now and connect!

    David Roberts from Brownstown, Michigan
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Took me awhile to stop laughing at the poop house and the burnt down one. Not laughing at you, just good stories.
    Kelly
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Same here. At some point you just have to laugh at it because it’s almost surreal! Thanks for sharing these stories–good insights with some humor!
    Brian Stephens Logistics Manager from Ohio
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    The burned house and the poop house sound like real life versions of the show The Wire. I’m laughing too hard at them. Almost wish I had a story to add…almost.
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Thanks David, Yeah, I have to laugh as well! Sometimes you can’t take things too seriously in this business which we all sometimes do… Sometimes these stories are hard to take at the time, but it’s always the story that you tell at the “Party”. Thanks again! Brett
    Christy Greene from San Diego, California
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Real Estate, and business is definitely not for the thinned skinned and weak stomach. They were not kidding when they said “Greater the risk, the greater the reward.” Good for you that you can laugh about it now and keep plowing forward!!
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Thanks Christy, Yes, I have a very Strong Stomach after some of these Experiences… Sometimes when these things happen, you can also become cold and hard towards people… but we have to not let that happen and try to think of the best in people and keep moving forward… Thanks again for your comments. Brett
    Lisa DuFaux Investor from New Port Richey, Florida
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Wow! I thought I was going through an interesting time right now but this gives me a new perspective! Crack, tenant relationship break ups and destroyed furniture (all the same house) don’t come close to your stories 🙂
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Well Lisa, I am sorry you are going through some of that.. I am sure you and I will have more before we are done. I have quite a bit more… but have had space for 4… I hope that it gets better for you… Brett
    Tanja Davidson from Clayton, North Carolina
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Love the theme for this post! Loved your stories too and no, I would not care if the house was haunted because some people are really into that sort of thing and I don’t believe in ghosts. paranormal … yeah but not ghosts. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. However, if the murders were because the area was so full of crime, that would be different. But murder/suicide wouldn’t bother me.
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Thanks Tanja, I agree with you 100%…… Thanks for the comments, and yeah, I always wandered what other’s thoughts were on if a Crime happened in the house, would if affect your decision to move forward? Thanks for the answer. Brett
    Wilson Churchill from Madison Heights, Michigan
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    A haunted house wouldn’t bother me. My Mother and her Sister both swear to have witnessed ghost activity in their old house, but I have never seen anything strange. I might have my Catholic friend go thru there with some holy water, but I would still buy it. My worst story is a house I have that has attracted some “interesting” tenants. The first tenants I put in there ended up getting a divorce. They abandoned the property in the middle of Winter, so the pipes froze. Fortunately, the pex pipes were fine, but the faucets and water heater pressure valve broke. The next tenant I had in that house ended up moving in six dogs and three cats. The carpet was a total loss. I ended up replacing the carpet with cheap ceramic tile, since the house sits on a slab. That is the only home in which I now allow pets.
    Wilson Churchill from Madison Heights, Michigan
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    I forgot to mention that the first tenants also left piles of trash everywhere, including under the appliances.
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    WOW WILSON, Those tenants were some Doozy’s!! sorry that happened, I think you are making some good steps in the right direction. Thanks for the comments. Brett
    Karen Rittenhouse Flipper/Rehabber from Greensboro, NC
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Oh, my gosh. It’s impossible to top your stories. And, no, I wouldn’t buy a house where I know there had been murders. Houses carry their energy with them and I don’t want that one anywhere near me or my buyer. We’ve had a number of horrible, filthy, really should be burned-to-the-ground houses. One was so bad, our buyer couldn’t step in further than the front door because of the smell. The guys wouldn’t even let me look at the house until after it had been cleaned out. Every single contractor who worked in the house got sick. There was more nasty trash in it than you can imagine, including 47 tires. Never under estimate the cost to clean out and dump trash. Thanks for your post!!!
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    WOW… 47 TIRES!! That’s Crazy in a house? I couldn’t imagine that, Thanks for your comments and reading Karen.. (I love that name by the way, because that’s my wife’s name) Thank you for reading, you are always good on your comments, and I appreciate your stories. Brett
    Susan Goldthorp Investor from Mims, Florida
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    This story is a little different from the others, this was a few years ago when I had 2 triplexes in a difficult neighborhood. One of my tenants was a single disabled lady on section 8 who was constantly in and out of hospital. She called me one day and said she had fallen out of bed and couldn’t get up but she had managed to get to the phone she had called the fire department and they were on there way but had no way to get in. Luckily I was available and said I would get there as soon as I could, just hang on so I could let them in. I lived half an hour away. By the time I got there they had kicked the door in lifted the tenant back into bed asserting she was apparently not sick enough to go to hospital and left! There I was at 6pm with an immobile lady in a hospital bed with the front door hanging off its hinges. Of course the tenant had no money to pay for the repairs and there was the issue of actually getting anyone at that time. I did manage to secure the property for that night and the tenants grandson came out to help her. I ended up having to purchase a new door, and made sure going forward there was a lock box on it to let the paramedics in. There was more to this story but enough for now
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    WOW SUSAN, That is an interesting Story. Thank you for sharing. Brett
    Laurie Williamson Rental Property Investor from Plano, TX
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Well, this is a great article — I really enjoyed reading about your horrific adventures, and admire the positive attitude! Sorry these things happened to you, and thanks for being a good sport and sharing. I just have one rental, and the worst I’ve had happen was when they stopped paying rent, then moved out and stole my fridge. But losing a whole year’s profit to turnover and make ready was pretty horrifying!
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Thanks for sharing.. Yes I know losing a whole year’s rent is tough, especially when you just have 1 rental… Keep Plugging away:) Brett
    Jennifer T. Investor from New Orleans, Louisiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Not really a horror story…fortunately I don’t have any of those (yet!)…but funny. I closed on my second rental property in August and inherited the seller’s disabled brother who was living for free in one of the units. He had an engine and its transmission sitting in his living room. So weird. Then there was an arcade style Pac Man game in the kitchen of the other unit. Not the living room or a bedroom…the kitchen. Thanks, BP. I learned the art of cash for keys from some of the helpful folks on here. I gave him a 30-day notice to vacate with a promise of a few hundred bucks if he was out on time with his stuff…including that crazy engine. And he was out on time (phew).
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    NICE, I am glad it worked out. I love Cash for Keys as well. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, But I love when it works. That is a weird thing, Transmission in the living room? LOL… Thanks for sharing. Brett
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    My parents once bought a house that had a stain on the carpet. Black and oily. We eventually concluded the previous owner had stored a car engine there, and changed the oil in the room.
    Kent Verge Investor from Bentonville, Arkansas
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    While fixing some issues with one of our purchases, we noticed that the track for the garage door was bent and would stick. Our handyman adjusted it multiple times and it continued to stick at the same spot. Eventually we replaced one track and some of the rollers. When I met the neighbor some time later, she said that the previous owner had committed suicide in the house. Apparently she hung herself from the garage door track. Ugh!
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    OH WOW….. That give me the heebie jeebies. I bet that made your stomach churn, That is a crazy story. Thanks for Sharing… Brett
    Jerome Kaidor Investor from Hayward, California
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Woohoo! I got one! I had this lady in a studio. She was a retired nurse. She was an ab-so-lutely *perfect* tenant for 8 years. Quiet as a mouse, you never knew she was there. And the rent came in before the first of the month until … one day … it stopped. I sent my manager up to talk to her and see if she was having any trouble, because she was such a good tenant. She just said “Tell the Kaidors to file”. OK, you don’t have to tell me twice. We filed, she filed an answer. Her answer was 5 pages of tight, crabbed text. She accused us of all sorts of things, but mainly, she said we were stealing her electricity, and running the whole complex off of her apartment. She also complained about a whole host of habitability issues. She accused our maintenance man of having wild parties in the parking lot. I sent my maintenance man up to check her apartment, she wouldn’t let him in. I hired an electrician to check if all our stuff was running off *our* breakers. It was. We went to court and me & my lawyer duked it out with her in front of the judge. We won, she lost. Between the court date and the lockout, she totally trashed the apartment. She broke the stove and the water heater. She smashed the kitchen tiles with a hammer. She put holes in the walls. She stole all the electrical fixtures and cut the wires in the boxes. She set fires in the kitchen and bathroom. She cut water supply lines under the sinks to cause a flood. She stole the doorknobs and locks. She slashed the tires on my maintenance man’s truck. That was One Expensive Turnover. I think she had gotten into drugs.
    Karen Rittenhouse Flipper/Rehabber from Greensboro, NC
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Wow, Jerome! Absolutely every landlord’s worst nightmare. But I have never heard it actually happening to anyone to this extreme before. Thanks for taking one for the team. Your worst should be over….
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    GEEZ O PETE! And this was the quiet as a MOUSE LADY. This sounds like the Movie “MISERY”. Did you File against her for all of the damages? That is Wild Story. Thanks for sharing. Brett
    Jerome Kaidor Investor from Hayward, California
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    I did call the police. They never showed. I could have sued her for the damages, but what’s the point? She doesn’t have any money. She’ll *never* have any money. I try to be philosophical about this stuff. At the end of the day, she’s a homeless welfare bum, and I’m a middle-class landlord. I wrote the checks, got the apartment into tip-top shape, and quickly re-rented it. Financially, the most painful part was her cutting the wires in the electrical boxes. $1800 to the electrician.
    Viviana Rueda Investor from Miami Beach, Florida
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Ouch. What a nightmare, and what an about face from a great tenant! Sounds like you may have hit the nail on the head regarding drugs and/or battling other issues.
    Deanna Opgenort Rental Property Investor from San Diego, CA
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    I’m thinking definitely sounds like the mental wheels were slipping a few gears, though that particular persecution complex stuff sounds more mental health than drugs (especially if she was old enough to be retired).
    Jennifer T. Investor from New Orleans, Louisiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Wow! I guess you never can tell. Considering her previous great history, it does sound like there was some additional force going on…like drugs or the onset of dementia/alzheimers.
    Sherri
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Had a tenant who decided there was something wrong with the furnace when actually she had run it out of propane. Called an electrician to fix it. Then had them bill me for repairs. Then proceeded to threaten suing me for the $1100 she spent in a hotel while the house didn’t have propane for heat. My opinion: you have $$ for hotel but not for propane. DUMB! !
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    WOW Sherri, That does sound like a Silly choice from the Tenant… Thanks for Sharing.
    Joshua Diaz Rental Property Investor from Bronx, NY
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Wow these stories certainly put things into perspective. Thanks for all the shares. Of course, the gurus would never share things like this!
    Brett Snodgrass Investor from Indianapolis, Indiana
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    VERY TRUE JOSHUA!! VERY TRUE… Brett
    Jerome Kaidor Investor from Hayward, California
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Wow, I’ve got another . horror . story. I rented to a nice lady. She occupied her studio alone. Or was she? One day, she called me: “I’ve moved out of state to get away from my husband who’s threatening to kill me”. OK, I sent my maintenance guy to change the locks – no go. The offending husband was in the apartment. Urk. We filed an eviction. Duked it out in front of the judge. “Your honor, I didn’t rent to this person and he’s never paid me a dime of rent.” “Judgement for the plaintiff”. We waited for the legal wheels to turn. The lockout was yesterday. Apartment in good shape just full of junk. HOWEVER….. Before the lockout, he tried to kill the next door neighbor. Beat her severely, knocked out her teeth, and threw her out of the second story window. The police came and arrested him. He had a gun, he threw it in the dumpster, they fished it out of the dumpster. My tenant is in the hospital, apparently in a lot of pain. I don’t think we’ll be seeing him again. My maintenance man thinks this is his third strike, and if it sticks, he’s going away for life. Good riddance.
    Chuck Edwards
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Bought a house in Sarasota Florida. Had been working on it about 2 weeks when one day the neighbor stopped me and asked what we were doing. I told him we were rehabbing the house to resell it. He then asked me if I found the hook in the bedroom ceiling were the former owner hung himself !!!! I then said nice talking to you and went back inside and freaked out for a little while. I figured what the heck it wasn’t disclosed to me when I bought it. So I’ll be damned if I’m going to say anything. Still freaky though.
    Harold Felder Investor from Charlotte, North Carolina
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    I know this story pales in comparison to others I have read here and I hope I never top this one but while doing a rehab on a 4plex I bought, the contractor found a dead baby bat in the pipe under the sink (still have no idea how it got there). We called pest control. The guy goes into attic and says that there are about 75 bats up there with guano all over the place. We (my wife and I) told him to get rid of them. He said he couldn’t because it would be against the law. We asked why and he said because bats are protected and since there are baby bats, locking out the parents would be sentencing the baby bats to death and there was a moratorium on that. He said that the only thing we could do was to wait for the baby bats to grow up to the point where they could fly out on their own, then they would put up a screen to prevent them from coming back in. The problem is that it was June and we would have to wait until late August for them to get old enough to fly out on their own! Bat guano is toxic and dangerous. It was also causing an odor problem at the same time we were trying to rent out a couple of the units we completed rehabbing. So now we have a smelly, hazardous situation for our remaining tenants and we could do nothing about it. We could have someone clean up the existing guano but they were constantly creating more, especially if there were 75 bats. After waiting around three or four weeks, we decided to call another pest control guy for a second opinion. He went up in the attic and said he only saw about 3 bats and none of them were babies. He said he used to work for the first guy we called and he is afraid of bats and probably didn’t want the job (I do remember him saying that he didn’t like bats). We got the second guy to close up the holes and paid someone else to clean up the mess and all is well now. This is just one of those things that I could have never imagined happening. Hopefully it helps someone else.
    Mark Gaines Property Manager from Chatsworth, California
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    I had four houses with three guest houses for over 20 years. Great tenants and bad tenants. I did almost all of the work and learned a lot from the experience. Hold on for many years and you will be wealthy as you will own the properties outright. More recently I rented to a general contractor. He was not all bad. But he sent his kids to the doctor for supposed mold related illnesses. I started to repair a water heater leak and found a small amount of mold in the cabinet. I found out later that the raised foundation had standing water in it. The easy solution is to pump out, dry out and fix the broken pipe. I hired a mold attorney and he took over the process. The tenant would not let us in to repair the problem. Then the contractor did not fix it for two months. I has to pay for the tenants to live in a high end two bedroom suite with meals food and jacuzzi while I repaired the simple one day to two week repair. $30,000 later they are out and new tenants are so happy to have such a nice house for such a reasonable rent.