What happens if a sales rep finds out that some visitors were having sex during an open house? Or worse, what happens if the sales rep is personally involved in some hanky panky during an open house?
Real estate lawyers get asked all kinds of oddball questions. One of my colleagues asked me recently how to respond to his client’s query. She returned home after an open house only to find the neatly made bed in her daughter’s bedroom in complete disarray.
Obviously, the bed and the bedroom were used either by the real estate agent or some visitors for a purpose that had nothing to do with marketing the house.
What should a Realtor do if she discovers evidence of an escapade like this in the bedroom, or the bathroom, or even the broom closet?
And how should a lawyer advise the client in this situation? My initial reaction was to suggest confronting the agent to find out what happened. If the agent knew about the incident – or was a participant in it – it might be time to get a new agent and consider a complaint to the brokerage or the provincial industry regulator.
If the agent did not know, it might be a good time to investigate how the event could have taken place and take steps to prevent a recurrence.
To my surprise, I discovered that the internet is full of apparently real stories of people having sex at open houses.
In March 2006, when the real estate bubble was at its peak, GQ magazine ran a story entitled Does Real Estate Make You Horny? It reported on a trend called “house humping,” in which thrill-seeking couples secretively have sex in a closet or bathroom or other quiet corner of the house, without the agent or other potential buyers noticing.
But in his 2016 book The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Film Making, author Dan Mirvish claims that the GQ story, whether it was fact-based or not, and the “trend” of house humping, were the fruit of a viral stealth campaign unleashed to promote a Weinstein Company real estate musical called Open House.
Having sex at open houses has even gone mainstream.
Curb Your Enthusiasm is an HBO comedy television series created by Larry David starring as a fictionalized version of himself. In a season 9 episode last year, the character played by actor Jeff Garlin confides in the character played by David that he had sex with his real estate agent at an open house.
Garlin: “Remember the Realtor from the art gallery?”
Garlin: “Well, she had an open house. And let’s just say it stayed open a little longer for me. Oh ya. Oh ya.”
David: “You had sex with her at an open house?”
Garlin: “At an open house.”
David: “That’s unbelievable.”
Garlin: “Unbelievable. And you know they have cookies at the open house. I brought the cookies up with me. We had sex, I had some cookies, took a nap…
David: “On what?”
Garlin: “Well, they have the staging furniture.”
Marjorie Garber is an English professor at Harvard University. In her 2000 book Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses she says that the real estate open house is a socially sanctioned license to daydream about what goes on behind other people’s closed doors.
“The idea of illicit sex in illicit places,” she writes, “has its own allure in the world of sex and real estate.”
Take the kitchen, she muses, and consider the hidden meaning of the words in the folk song I’ve Been Working on the Railroad: “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin’ on the old banjo.”
I’ll never think of the song, or open houses, the same way again.
All of this serves as a reminder to sellers who have agreed to permit open houses to establish with their Realtors clear terms to monitor visitors and their activities. It’s also a reminder to agents to carefully monitor visitors to their open houses to prevent the possibility of illicit activities taking place right under their noses.