When my home in Potomac, Md., went under contract just days after going on the market, I couldn’t believe my luck. Dozens of buyers had come to the first open house as my landscaping came to life, with blooming spring flowers that created great curb appeal. Several offers came in, including one that my husband and I decided to accept. I was counting the 41 days until closing, when I would move out and hand over my keys.
As someone who has sold a home before, I knew that there could be various hiccups before settlement. In this market, I was prepared for financing contingencies (Could my buyers afford this? Would they get approved?) and last-minute requests (Agent: “They just want to pop in to measure/see the window treatments/show their Aunt Fanny who’s in town.”). Of all the inconveniences I was braced for, one would catch me completely off guard.
“Something came up,” my real estate agent said nervously when she called me just two days after a practically perfect home inspection. “You got Googled.”
It turns out that the woman buying my house did a Google search on my name. I am a writer, and like most journalists who have published anything in recent years, most of my work is stored somewhere on the web. So naturally, my mind raced anxiously as I thought back to the many topics I had written about over the years.
Was it the swinger’s club article? Years ago, I had gone undercover to a club near Columbia, Maryland for a piece I was writing about swingers for a relationship site. Did she think I held wild parties in the house she was about to buy?
Was it the piece I’d written where I described chilly nights in the living room for nine straight weeks? The heat worked fine; it was motherhood and a colicky baby that kept me up all night.
Was it my sons’ antics that I had chronicled over the years? They had: painted some tree trunks (only two); tracked mud up the steps (I replaced the carpeting before the home went on the market); stuck fake rubber eyeballs to the den ceiling (I scraped them off with a golf club and a lot of swear words).
No, it was none of these things.
“She read something about you coming home to find water in the basement,” my agent explained.
I couldn’t help but laugh. A few years ago, I had written about an inept babysitter who, while I was out for two hours, had unknowingly dropped a sock in the laundry sink drain and then run the washing machine. So all the water draining from a big load of laundry had nowhere to go but up —- and over the sink and across the basement floor. But, there was no plumbing problem!
With the issue clarified, I breathed a sigh of relief as I was back on the path to closing. Nevertheless, it was weird the seller was able to learn so much about me. And a bit unsettling.
Since some 300 million people search Google every day, chances are that some are home buyers searching to uncover dirt on their potential new home (and its current home owner). So, if you are a seller, take a break from home staging and box schlepping and scan the internet for your old blog comments, Facebook rantings and anything else that could be misconstrued. The old saying “Buyer Beware” should now be joined with “Sellers, search yourself on the web.”
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