It was actually the second time I had been to the property. The first was one week prior. The homeowner had met me at the door and informed me that she could not let me in that day. There was not more explanation than that. Strange, but oh well.
My office set up another appointment and I was back, seven days later, at the same door. After I knocked, she opened the door, came outside, and promptly closed the door behind her. Now, it was just her and I on the front porch. Again, a little strange, but I have seen crazier things. “I can’t let you in,” she began, “until I warn you.”
Oh boy, here it comes, I thought.
“Do you know that show on TV about the hoarders?”
I nodded, apprehensively, that I did.
“Well, I have come to the devastating conclusion that that is me. I am one of those hoarders.”
I could tell she was embarrassed and just beside herself with what to do. On the one hand, she wanted the loan and that required allowing an appraiser to tour her home. On the other hand, she was terribly humiliated by having me there. I assured her that I had been doing this gig for 20 years and had seen it all. She had nothing to be worried about.
Honestly, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw on the inside. There were stacks of garbage in every room. There was a small pathway that led from the Lazy-Boy in the front room to the kitchen, back to the bathroom, and finally to a bed. There was so much junk in this house that it was impossible to get around well. There was cat feces littering the floor, moldy food on the countertops, and the smell was something indescribable.
The poor lady followed me around apologizing for everything I was seeing and experiencing. I kept reassuring her that it was okay, but the “I am sorry’s,” and “please forgive me’s” just kept coming. Finally, near the end of the inspection, I stopped what I was doing, turned to her, looked her in the eyes and said, “My dear, you do not need to apologize. Your home is your home. I am simply a real estate appraiser who is here doing my job. I make no judgement on you or your circumstances. I learned a very long time ago that I am in no place to judge another’s heart or situation. I do not know you. I don’t have any idea what experiences you have had, and frankly, I it is none of my business. My business is to walk through your home, make some notes, take a few pictures, and be on my way. I do not and will not judge you.”
That is all it took. Her body relaxed. Her tone of voice changed, and we spoke no more of her home’s condition from there on. Instead, we had a pleasant conversation about her husband who had passed on a few years earlier. I did not gain a new friend. I probably will never see her or interact with her again, but we had a new understanding.
It is easy, as appraisers, to get so involved in racing from one appointment to another to forget that we are not just professionals; we are human beings. Furthermore, we are intruding on people’s personal space. We are in their most private and intimate areas; their homes. It is already a difficult place for most people to be in. When we make that short time with them together memorable, it might just make someone else’s day.