In-Person Home Appraisals Won’t Be Required for Some Loans: Should You Get One Anyway?

Some Home Buyers, Refi Seekers Don't Need Appraisals: Should They Get Them Anyway?


With home prices zooming ever higher and mortgage rates ticking up, some people seeking mortgage loans or refinances could get a much-needed break. They may no longer be required to get formal property appraisals—a change that could save them hundreds of dollars and speed up the closing process.

A little-known change in requirements last year from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has made these waivers for traditional, in-person appraisals available. The government-sponsored enterprises have started to use proprietary analytics and property data to value homes. That’s instead of having professional appraisers come out to physically inspect the homes, look at recent sales data in the area, and perform their own analyses to come up with the valuation. (Certain borrowers requesting refinances had access to the waivers earlier.)

A traditional in-person appraisal costs an average of $500, according to Fannie. That cost is footed by the loan seeker, whether it’s a buyer getting a mortgage or a homeowner trying to refinance.

However, not everyone is eligible for these appraisal-free loans, which typically require a down payment of at least 20%, according to the Washington Post. Borrowers can’t request these faster-track valuations; Fannie and Freddie identify properties that they deem appropriate, favoring those that have had other appraisals in the past few years.

“If [Fannie and Freddie] have a good basic inventory of information about the house, its value, and what it sold for, you’re more apt to get a property inspection waiver,” says Don Frommeyer, a mortgage originator at Marine Bank in Indianapolis. But “the longer it hasn’t been appraised, the more apt you are not going to get a property inspection waiver.”

That means if a property hasn’t been appraised in the past decade, there’s a good chance it’s not eligible for a waiver.

Of Fannie’s roughly 1.2 million home mortgages, only about 5%, or 60,000, were no-appraisal mortgages in 2017, according to data given to the Post. Freddie hadn’t tallied its number of no-appraisal mortgages, but estimates they will eventually account for between 10% to 15% of its new loans.

(Lenders typically sell the mortgages they make to the likes of Fannie and Freddie, so they’re not bogging down their balance sheets. So when these government-sponsored enterprises change the requirements for the loans they acquire, it ripples across the mortgage industry.)

But just because folks are offered the option of skipping a traditional appraisal, it doesn’t mean they can’t get one. The question is whether they should opt to save a few bucks, or bite the bullet and hire a flesh-and-blood appraiser anyway.

Should home buyers get a no-appraisal mortgage?

“It can save buyers money, but it can potentially lead to them overpaying if they don’t have that second opinion in the appraisal,” says Chief Economist Danielle Hale of®. That’s because if the appraisal comes in lower than the price of a home, buyers could have some room to negotiate. “But many markets are so hot right now that buyers may not be able to negotiate the price anyway even if an appraisal came back too low.”

In March, 42% of buyers had contingencies in their purchase contracts allowing them to back out if the appraisal came back too low, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

It’s less risky for borrowers forgoing formal appraisal when they refinance a home loan.

“If you’re refinancing solely to get a lower rate and nothing else has really changed about the property itself, it just makes sense,” Hale says. “It can save money.”

Loosening the requirements around appraisals could also help offset the looming appraiser shortage. The number of appraisers nationally has been declining about 1% to 2% annually for the past few years, according to the Appraisal Institute, an industry trade group based in Chicago. And with nearly two-thirds of current appraisers at least 51 years old as of last year, home appraisals could become more expensive and take longer to complete in coming years.

What are the downsides to no-appraisal loans?

Not everyone is a fan of doing away with in-person appraisals.

Sacramento-based appraiser Ryan Lundquist told the Post that Fannie and Freddie’s computer programs “cannot smell 20 cats living at the property.” They also can’t identify problems with the home that can lower the value of a property.

“Appraisals are the gold standard for real estate evaluation,” says Ken Chitester, spokesman for the Appraisal Institute. “As a homeowner, it means you could be selling for less than what you should be getting. As a home buyer, you could be overpaying.”

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A-Plus! Cool A-Frame Makes the Grade as This Week’s Most Popular Home

most popular homes may 18 2018

Top of the class! An A-frame home in sunny Topanga, CA, received an A-plus on the web this week. The cozy wood-and-glass triangle shaped up as this week’s most popular home on®. On the market for the first time since it was built 48 years ago, this distinctive place could be yours for a cool $1.2 million.

We also saw a few athletes’ homes surge in popularity. This week’s runner-up is a jaw-dropping spread in Virginia owned by former Detroit Tiger Brandon Inge. After the infielder retired, he retreated to this gorgeous 243-acre getaway. But country life didn’t stick. He’s caught the coaching bug and is returning to Detroit to work with kids. 

If you’re more into winter sports, there’s a cool Colorado mansion with its own ice rink and Zamboni owned by former Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk.

Another property that caught your eye this week was an eye-catching industrial-style contemporary in Kansas. “It’s such a rare and amazing property,” says listing agent Casey Williams. It is pretty cool.

To see even more amazing homes, simply scroll down for the full look at this week’s most popular properties.

10. 215 Broadwater Ave, Billings, MT

Price: $167,900
Why it’s here: Built in 1908, this beautiful home is a walk back in time. The three-bedroom offers original details like hardwood floors, molding and trim, and a “regal staircase.” The kitchens and baths have all been updated, while maintaining period charm.  

Billings, MT


9. 2041 Glenwood Ave, Toledo, OH

Price: $295,000
Why it’s here: Over a century old, this classic has been completely renovated. There’s a whopping 5,800 square feet of living space, including a gourmet kitchen, butler’s pantry, and a kitchenette off the dining room. But our favorite feature is the finished basement area complete with a full bar. 

Toledo, OH


8. 933 Delaware St, Lawrence, KS 

Price: $575,000
Why it’s here: Paging Dwell magazine! This cool contemporary has been “artistically designed” and built by STRUCT/RESTRUCT. Industrial chic details include an open kitchen and a screened garage door that opens to a landscaped wraparound patio.

The master bedroom comes with sliding wood walls that open up to natural light. We promise you’ll love the pictures of this Kansas creation. “The photos speak for themselves in this one-of-a-kind property,” says listing agent Casey Williams

Lawrence, KS


7. 9 Tallwoods Rd, Armonk, NY 

Price: $2,500,000
Why it’s here: Nestled into wooded surroundings, this Mid-Century Modern blurs indoor and outdoor living. Designed by award-winning architect Arthur Witthoefft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the layout includes walls of glass and a floating wraparound terrace. The home features a sun-lit domed atrium, plus an open living and dining space with an original fireplace and hardwood floors. The modern white kitchen features high-end appliances, and each bedroom includes sliding glass doors that lead to the outside.

Armonk, NY


6. Undisclosed Location, Alaska 

Price: $159,000
Why it’s here: Attention preppers! In case of emergency, this is the doomsday cabin to ride out the end times. The off-the-grid property with 7.6 acres of land is a true getaway spot, reachable from Anchorage only by cargo bush plane, as we previously reported. The two-bedroom lakeside abode comes with its own water tank, solar and diesel power, and a generator. And a tractor comes with the purchase price.

Remote, AK


5. 376 Main St, Narrows, VA

Price: $129,900
Why it’s here: This charming bungalow from 1930 has been reimagined as a modern and adorable three-bedroom home. Gutted to the studs, the layout now includes an updated design, exposed wood beams, hardwood floors, rustic barn doors, and “country chic” decor. 

Narrows, VA


4. 1599 Cavendish Gulf Rd, Cavendish, VT

Price: $2,799,000
Why it’s here: Called Grahall, the almost 8,000 square-foot estate on 249 acres takes inspiration from a castle on a Scottish loch. This huge home is built from Glimmerstone granite from the area, and offers commanding views of the surrounding mountains. There are also stocked ponds, as well as gathering rooms with granite fireplaces. The spacious spread has a built-in track record as a rental property and corporate retreat.  

Cavendish, VT


3. 7895 Forest Keep Cir, Parker, CO

Price: $5,200,000
Why it’s here: This mansion is owned by former Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk, and it caught our eye immediately. Why? Because of an eye-popping amenity.

This property comes with its own private ice rink and Zamboni. Your very own Zamboni to smooth down the ice! The building housing the rink also features a clubhouse, fireplace, small kitchen, and sleep loft.

If checking your significant other into the boards isn’t your thing, the rink could be converted into a tennis court or workshop. Built in 2012, the luxe main residence also comes with a gourmet kitchen, wine chiller, seven fireplaces, and a master suite with private hot tub.

Parker, CO


2. 3463 Goode Rd, Goode, VA 

Price: $4,250,000
Why it’s here: The impressive estate is just a few years old, but it gives off the feeling of an Old World country manor. It’s owned by former MLB All-Star Brandon Inge, who has decided to move to Michigan to coach kids through the Legacy Center Sports Complex.

He leaves behind quite a spread. The listing includes a spacious five-bedroom main house plus a separate two-bedroom guesthouse, a barn, cabin, and two-acre lake all on 243 acres of land. The outdoor elements include a massive pool and spa, firepit, outdoor dining, and a fireplace. Who will step up to the plate?

Goode, VA


1. 19650 Valley View Dr, Topanga, CA

Price: $1,199,000
Why it’s here: This delightful A-Frame from 1970 is on the market for the first time since it was built 48 years ago. The owners purchased the land back in 1963, built the pre-cut abode, and have lived there ever since.

The compact 1,536 square-foot home is located in a SoCal canyon surrounded by gardens and oak trees, with a layout that includes three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The sunny living room features soaring ceilings and walls of glass that open to a balcony.

The cozy spread includes parquet flooring, an updated kitchen, a bonus room with separate entrance that could be a studio or guest room, and multiple patios and decks. A-plus!

Topanga, CA

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High-Resale Value Projects You Can Tackle In A Weekend

“There’s no place like home,” as the old saying goes. That’s especially true when it comes to an investment.

You live in and love your home, but there might come a time when you have to leave it. And when that time comes, you’ll want to get as much money as you can for your property so you can move onward — and upward.

In order to increase your abode’s value, you might think you have to put in a ton of time, effort and money, but that’s not entirely true. Instead, you can take on weekend projects over time to spruce the place up so when it’s time to sell, you have a completely updated property that’ll end up selling itself.

Ready to get to work? Roll up your sleeves and start on one of the following five weekend projects.

1. Repaint Your Kitchen Cabinets

When it comes to smart investment in your home, the kitchen is one of the best places to start. Buyers expect kitchens to be updated. Stone countertops, stainless appliances and sleek flooring all make a space feel modern. Obviously, these changes require a lot of money and, sometimes, a lot of time. That’s why you can tackle it in bits and start first with your cabinets.

Old wooden cabinets with equally dated hardware — think oak doors with shiny brass handles — don’t require a complete gut job. Instead, spend a weekend repainting them a more neutral hue. Finish the project off with new metallic knobs and pulls to complete the modernized look.

2. Make the Eye Go up With Crown Molding

Most homes have roughly the same ceiling heights, but there’s a little trick to make yours look bigger — crown molding. Yes, that white line at the top of your painted walls will draw eyes upward, making the room appear airier than it may very well be.

The project is easy enough to complete, too. You might not be able to install molding throughout your entire home over a single weekend, but you can certainly tackle the project on a room-by-room basis. Again, start with the spaces likely to draw in the most moolah:

  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
  • Living spaces
  • Master bedrooms

These tend to be the make-or-break rooms when it comes to a big purchase. Crown molding adds a bit of detail, a feeling of luxury that’ll certainly add to the bottom line.

3. Boost Curb Appeal — and Backyard Bonuses

No one will come in your home unless the first impression is stunning. Another DIY project should be a landscape overhaul of your front yard. It can be something as simple as adding a path of pavers to your front yard or sprucing up your flowerbeds with colorful blooms. All of this will catch the eye of potential buyers — and fatten up the bottom line of the offers they make.

Another easy fix — your garage door. If it’s street-facing, it’s another area for prospective buyers to look at, and it has a great return on investment.

You don’t have to stop with the front of your home. Especially if you live in a climate that permits lots of outdoor activity, you’ll want a backyard to match. Some may require you rent or buy tools for landscaping and other applications, but imagine the payoff with, for example, the beauty of a functioning fire pit in your backyard. Not only will you be able to enjoy it while you’re still living in your home, but potential buyers will easily be able to envision themselves sitting around a fire.

4. Beautify the Bathrooms

Bathrooms have a big effect on buyers. They expect clean, modern updates, just like in the kitchen. Overhauling your powder room is an easy weekend task that might require small swaps, such as a new modern light fixture over the vanity or a new vanity altogether.

Your full bathrooms will require a bit more attention if you want them to be up to snuff. Again, look in the familiar places:

  • Lighting fixtures
  • Cabinets
  • Hardware
  • Countertops
  • Tile

You don’t have to shell out a ton of money to have someone else re-tile a wall or backsplash in your bathroom, either, if you have the patience to demo and tile the space yourself.

5. Out With the Really Old

Some accents once considered fresh and fashionable now give your home a dated appearance. You probably already know what in your home screams 70s, 80s or 90s. Whatever it is should go in due course.

The list of outdated design elements is truly endless, but some of the biggest offenders are old-school wallpaper, the floor-to-ceiling wood paneling that may or not be actual wood, and, of course, popcorn ceilings. By removing these three offenders alone — a popcorn ceiling doesn’t take much effort — your home will snap right back into 2017.

Once people start envisioning themselves living in your home, you won’t have to envision offers pouring in — they’ll start coming thanks to your hard work. You go, weekend warrior.

‘Amalfi Coast in Malibu’: $58M Cliffside Estate Is Most Expensive New Listing

A European-style estate carved into the side of a cliff in Malibu is this week’s most expensive new listing on®, with a price tag of $57.5 million.

Property records show the homeowners bought this vacant half-acre lot for $2 million in 2000, and then spent seven years building their coastal escape, according to the Real Deal.

Named “Il Pelicano” and offering “breathtaking views” of the water, the gated mansion just steps from the beach was designed for indoor and outdoor living.

Built into the rocks with private access to two beaches, the home features European details and custom-made pieces. The combination of the Old World architecture and the surrounding locale make this property simply stunning.

“This is really an extraordinary property. It literally is the Amalfi Coast in Malibu,” says listing agent Shirley Sherman of Douglas Elliman. “The key to this house is that it’s one of a kind. You can probably never build it again. There’s just no other promontory like this.”

European-style estate

Entry with fountain

Living room with walls of glass

Eat-in kitchen

Outdoor entertaining space

Bedroom with fireplace…

… and private terrace

Sun deck

Cliffside retreat

The European details include a reclaimed fountain in the entryway, old French doors, reclaimed hardwood floors, a vaulted ceiling, and a reclaimed Indian stone fireplace.

The ornate interiors are paired with floor-to-ceiling windows, which showcase the ocean views. The home has four bedrooms and 4.5 baths, and it’s estimated to be between 6,000 and 7,000 square feet.

Prices continue to soar for area homes with beach access. The recent $110 million off-market sale of Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton’s Malibu home set a Los Angeles–area record, according to Mansion Global. In Malibu, David Geffen’s Carbon Beach compound and Kurt Rappaport’s beach house each sold for $85 million.

This house, however, is hard to compare with the other multimillion-dollar sales in Malibu, Sherman says. “This is very, very unique. The house was built like a piece of art.”

All these astronomic home deals along the beaches of Malibu make this latest offering seem almost like a deal. Almost.

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Where Americans Are Moving This Spring: Wanna Gamble a Guess?


Spring brings out the moving trucks en masse, as people start itching for a change of scenery. And new research suggests that one state is raking in new residents more than any other: Nevada.

That’s according to ATTOM’s Pre-Mover Housing Index, which compared the number of residential mortgage applications with the total number of single-family homes in a given area during the first quarter of 2018 (so, January through March). Basically, a higher mortgage-to-housing inventory ratio means more people are slated to be moving to the area within the next 90 days. That means Nevada, scoring the highest of all states, should expect a whole lot of newcomers from April through June. Nevada was followed by Delaware, Florida, Colorado, and Virginia.

Granted, Nevada (and its glittery epicenter, Las Vegas) is a fun place to visit—to, say, play some slots or blackjack before you bail (typically with less cash than you had going in). But why are more and more people deciding to stick around?

According to local real estate experts, there’s a lot more to Nevada than all-you-can-eat buffets, craps tables, and Celine Dion. Let us count all the reasons why Nevada’s an increasingly popular place to live.

Low taxes and cost of living

First off, who are all these Nevada-bound home buyers? According to real estate agents, the latest wave is dominated by a mix of cash-strapped millennials and well-off retirees, both of whom are drawn to the low cost of living that Nevada provides in a variety of ways—starting with low state taxes.

“A large number of home buyers that are moving from out of state into Nevada, specifically Las Vegas, are moving here primarily because of our favorable tax structure,” says Arnée Dodd, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Southwest, in Las Vegas.

Namely, Nevada residents pay no income tax; meanwhile businesses bask in a favorable environment with a low payroll tax and no inventory or franchise tax (hmmm, maybe that’s why Amazon just built a new warehouse here).

Most of the home buyers Dodd’s seeing are moving from New York City, Chicago, Oregon, and (most of all) California—the last of which makes particular sense given these states are next-door neighbors.

“Many are ‘tax refugees’ who move to Nevada from California to escape the high taxes,” says Jason Hartman, president of Platinum Properties Investment Network. “If you stay away from the casinos, Las Vegas is a very inexpensive place to live.”

New businesses (and jobs)

A recent influx of new businesses and sports teams has also turned Nevada into more of a magnet.

“We’re seeing the impact of the new Raiders Stadium, the Golden Knights, the Las Vegas Aces WNBA team, and Amazon’s new fulfillment warehouse in North Las Vegas,” Dodd says. “All of these new jobs are bringing with them existing employees that will be relocating, and residents from other states to fill these new positions, making Las Vegas an attractive destination.”

And it’s not just Las Vegas, but also Reno, which bills itself “The biggest lilttle city in the world,” and nearby Sparks that are all seeing fast-paced growth.

“Now Reno is booming, too,” explains California developer Tyler Drew. As for Sparks, “When Elon Musk said that’s where the Gigafactory would be built [to create lithium-ion batteries to power Tesla cars], companies and people flocked to that otherwise sleepy town.”

Cheap homes

Last but not least? The houses in Nevada are bargains—and plentiful due to tons of construction.

“This is a city that invests in itself—never have I seen so much construction in a city not for repair, but for forward expansion,” says Nevada resident Alex Felice from In addition to residential homes, “Las Vegas is working on roads now, widening them for future growth over the next 10 years.”

Currently, according to, the median price of homes in Las Vegas is $275,000. Compare that with San Francisco’s median of $1.3 million, and you could easily live in Vegas and fly to work in S.F. and still end up ahead (by as much as $1,124 a month by one account).

“Part of this is a symptom of California’s housing crisis issues,” Drew says. “Do you have an education? Skills? Can afford a home that’s $500,000 but not $800,000 for your family? Nevada is a smart option. The California exodus for millennials is very real, and Nevada is reaping the benefits.”

In addition to having cheaper homes, programs exist in Nevada to make them even more affordable through financial assistance.

“Incentive programs for first-time home buyers, like the Home Is Possible down payment assistance program, have also been a catalyst for people moving to Nevada,” Dodd says.

So, deals abound—come ‘n’ get ’em now! Because these bargains may not last for long.

“Real estate prices here are growing fast due to this demand,” says Felice. “If you want to move to Nevada, the time is immediately, as prices are going up daily and there seems to be no end in sight.”

Sounds like a pretty good wager to us.

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Prince Harry’s Wedding Will Have a Tiki Bar. Do You Dare Tiki It Up, Too?

Getty Images;

With Meghan Markle and Prince Harry tying the knot this Saturday, everyone’s abuzz about the royal wedding. And although many of their plans still remain under wraps (like whether Markle’s dad will be walking her down the aisle), one wedding detail is definitely confirmed: The royals are having a Tiki-themed after-party.

You read that correctly. Tiki-themed.

Reformed party boy Harry has reportedly requested a “carnival- and festival-themed wedding after-party” complete with a stocked Tiki bar. The bash, which will follow the formal reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II, will be modeled after his favorite London nightclub, Mahiki, known for its tropical cocktails and celebrity patrons such as Rihanna and Paris Hilton. After years of boozing in the original Dover Street club (which has been around since 2006), Harry’s friends opened Mahiki Kensington last year, well within stumbling distance of his home at Kensington Palace.

So, it’s safe to say Harry has been a fan of the whole Tiki trend for a while now.

According to The Mirror, Harry and Markle’s 200 guests will be welcomed by a steel band and have their pick of rum cocktails mixed by Harry’s groomsmen, who will reportedly be staffing the bar. Other delicacies will include “South African wagyu beef, iced beers, champagne, and ice luges filled with vodka.” Sounds like a shindig fit for a modern royal couple!

Is Tiki going to take off?

For months we haven’t been able to turn on a TV or tune in to Twitter without hearing about the royal wedding. So with all eyes on Harry, Markle, and the events surrounding their nuptials, we can’t help but wonder: Is their Tiki-themed bash going to permeate other areas of daily life—specifically the ones inside people’s homes?

Some experts think it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing Tiki influences in interior decor.

“The royal wedding reception does have the potential to influence home decor,” says Drew Henry, founder of Design Dudes in San Antonio. But he also believes the re-emergence of Tiki has been bubbling for a while.

“It has already been making a comeback, due to the resurgence of Tiki bars,” Henry adds. “With those places opening up around the country and world, it only makes sense for the trend to creep back into decor.”

A brief history of Tiki decor

“Tiki,” by the way, is the name of a mythological figure worshipped in Polynesian culture. In the 18th century, once British explorers ventured onto the islands in the Polynesian triangle—including Hawaii, Easter Island, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Samoa—the word “Tiki” became a catchall to describe an assortment of carved statues from the area.

The Tiki trend caught on big with Americans during World War II, when deployed soldiers became enamored with the beauty of the South Pacific and subsequently brought their excitement back to the states with them.

“It was a weird moment in history, when the whole country became fascinated with the South Pacific, mostly because it was unknown and exotic,” Ken Albala, a professor at the University of the Pacific, told NPR. “Tiki bars and restaurants became wildly popular.”

Although the first Tiki bar—Don the Beachcomber—was opened in Los Angeles in 1934, Tiki culture washed over America like a tropical wave during the 1950s and 1960s, its heyday. Restaurants and bars depicting a romanticized interpretation of Polynesian culture were filled with Tiki god statues, palm tree motifs, tropical fabrics, rattan furniture, and—more importantly—colorful, elaborate cocktails.

How to do Tiki without being tacky

While part of the appeal of this latest Tiki trend is to fully embrace the kitsch, those who are reluctant to bring touches of Tiki into their home can do so in small doses.

“The Tiki look works really well for outdoor spaces, and can also be easily incorporated into Mid-Century Modern interior decor,” says Henry. This makes sense, since both Tiki and MCM decor reached their fever pitch together in the ’50s and ’60s.

To do it right, stick to bamboo and cane accessories, pillows or small works of art in palm prints, and glassware made specifically for Tiki cocktails (e.g., hurricane glasses).

Henry is currently crushing on a rattan bar cart ($149.99, Target), which would suit both an indoor and outdoor lounge area. String lights—both mini paper lanterns and Edison bulb strands—will add to the tropical island feel.

Photo by Brian Dittmar Design, Inc.

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Who Killed the Deal to Sell Your House? It Was an Inside Job

Real-estate agents trying to sell property never know who might try to sink a sale.

Riki Blanco for The Wall Street Journal

It took weeks for Jade Mills to finger the perp.

The real-estate agent had been showing a mansion in Los Angeles’s Benedict Canyon area for several months with no success. Priced at around $10 million, the Hamptons shingle-style property boasted seven bedrooms and a swimming pool with a spa. Prospective buyers would seem enamored but never be heard from again.

Then Ms. Mills got a call from another agent. She learned that the sellers’ housekeeper, fearful of losing her job once the home sold, was giving buyers a laundry list of woes. The neighbor’s dog was a barker, the canyon echoed loudly at night, and another neighbor hosted raucous parties.

“You’re never going to sell that house with her there,” the other agent told Ms. Mills.

She immediately called the sellers and asked them to make sure the house was vacant for showings. Within weeks, it found a buyer.

A home sale can have many potential deal killers. Emotions can run high. There can be hidden agendas. From tenants who don’t want to move to the child who doesn’t want to see the family home sold, third-party players can block or undo a transaction. For agents, it can mean playing a combination of sleuth and therapist.

Sometimes the culprit is easily identified. A couple of years ago, a disgruntled teenager who was upset that his home was about to be sold decided to throw a blow-out party at the large Brentwood estate while his parents were away, recalls real-estate agent Joseph Montemarano. The boy and his friends painted graffiti all over the tennis court and guest house the day before the final walk through—smiley faces, tags and different versions of “Bob woz ’ere” were sprayed all over the property.

“The parents had to pay to have the court repainted and resurfaced and repair the guest house,” Mr. Montemarano says. “Luckily, my buyers were pretty OK with it. They just told the seller to make it right.”

More common is the angry-tenant problem. A renter in a townhouse in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, who was paying just $1,500 for a parlor-floor apartment in the top location and didn’t want to move, took to chilling it to freezing temperatures before every showing and leaving rat traps lying around. There were no rats.

“When I brought buyers, she would say to them, ‘I can’t stand living here, but you can go ahead and see it,’ ” says real-estate agent Jean Marie Echemendia, who brought several prospective buyers to the property without success. Seeing through the tenant’s scheme, Ms. Echemendia purchased the apartment herself, at a deep discount.

Third-party players may try to sabotage a home sale.
Third-party players may try to sabotage a home sale.

Riki Blanco for The Wall Street Journal

A different strategy suited the second-floor occupant in a four-unit building in Culver City, Calif. “My name is Mr. Bravo. State your business,” he announced in a booming voice when real-estate agent John Hathorn brought a prospective buyer of the building around for a final inspection.

Mr. Bravo tried to convince the pair that the building’s garage had a “demonic force” in it, describing objects randomly falling from shelves and telling of a time he was attacked by a ghostly presence.

“I turned to my client and asked him if it concerned him,” recalls Mr. Hathorn. “He said, ‘Are you kidding me? Of course not.’ ” The deal closed as planned, and contrary to the tenant’s fears, he hasn’t been evicted.

Sometimes the people who make trouble for real-estate agents aren’t even aware of what they are doing. Leslie Turner, an agent in Charleston, S.C., says her nemesis comes in the form of a local building inspector who is given to discussing a home’s condition in such alarming language he regularly deep-sixes deals.

In January, the inspector checked out a charming 1882 downtown house that was under contract to a couple from Ohio for about $1.5 million. When the inspector came by, he toured it for hours and produced a lengthy report that “made it sound like there was a parade of imaginary horribles” awaiting the couple. Spooked, they walked away from the deal.

“You always want to protect your clients and have them have a really thorough home inspection, but it’s just the way this guy delivers the news—he doesn’t have a good bedside manner,” Ms. Turner says. “I’ve seen people miss out on perfectly good properties because of this deal killer.”

For the Charleston house, she had other eager shoppers, and the house sold just a day later to different buyers. Although they used the same inspector, they had owned historic homes before and knew what sort of quirks to expect.

Cheryle Healion, a woman shopping for a home in the Los Angeles area, has been supplying her own inspector, of sorts—and her own deal killer.

Ms. Healion, a paralegal who is a subscriber to ideas of spirituality and alternative healing, asks for help on her prospective purchases from an adviser who studied feng shui under a Chinese master.

Ms. Healion was in late-stage negotiations on several properties over the past three months, but when she sent the floor plans to her feng shui expert, the guru disapproved.

In one instance, the expert noted that electrical towers near the north side of the property, which she said would bring bad health. In another case, a property’s position on a sloped piece of land indicated that Ms. Healion might lose money, the expert said.

“I am very frustrated,” Ms. Healion says of the rulings from her guru. “But her heart is in the right place.”

Ms. Healion’s real-estate agent, Melea Johnston-Avrach, is even more frustrated. “I now cringe when I hear the term feng shui,” she says.

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