True Confessions: Has Your House Peeping Ever Gotten You in Trouble?

by hookedonhouses on February 9, 2012

Let’s face it. When you love houses as much as we do, our curiosity sometimes gets the best of us. We might find ourselves in some awkward situations now and then. I know I can’t be the only one! So I’ll confess to a few of my embarrassing moments in house peeping if you’ll share some of yours in the comments. Deal?

#1. The Time I Couldn’t Resist Checking Out a New House Down the Street.

We used to live in a neighborhood where new houses were being built all around us. Some people complained about the mud and the noise, but I loved watching them go up and seeing how they turned out.

One time I was walking past one of them and noticed that the construction workers had left a first-floor window open. Like, wide open. I walked over and casually looked inside. No drywall yet, but the house was huge with soaring windows and a wooded view. Curiosity got the best of me and I couldn’t resist (you guessed it) climbing in.

As soon as I found the big master bedroom and luxury bath, I heard a couple of people coming up the stairs behind me. I was trapped. When they caught me, I tried to lighten the moment by asking, “Did you climb through the window, too? Ha-ha.” “No,” they said, “we have the key. It’s our house.”

After that awkward moment, they gave me the tour of their new place and told me what kinds of finishes they chose for each of the rooms. Best. New neighbors. Ever.

#2. The Time I Tried to Take a Photo of My Childhood Home.

One day my mom and I decided to go by the old house I grew up in. It looked totally different than we remembered, so we snapped this picture of it (above). That was easy enough, but then we were curious about the backyard.

We knocked on the door to ask permission to go around back and get a photo, but no one answered. So we walked around the side, only to find that a big fence had been erected. Just as I was climbing up on an old log in an attempt to get a shot of the back of the house over the top of the fence, I heard, “Can I help you?”

It was a neighbor who thought we were up to no good. We quickly explained that we used to live there and just wanted to see how it had changed, then got out of there as fast as we could. We just hoped he wasn’t taking down our license plate as we sped away…

(I have a painting of my old house the way it looked when I lived there on my About page. It looked so much bigger back then!)

#3. The Time I Went to an Open House to See How They Decorated.

Surely I’m not the only one who has gone to an Open House in their own neighborhood just to get a look inside? Well, I convinced my husband to go with me to one because it has the same basic floorplan as ours, and I was dying to see how they decorated it.

Imagine our embarrassment when our neighbor himself opened the door. Turns out the Realtor had the flu, so he was hosting the Open House for her. I was totally busted.

Now it’s your turn to tell all. Has your “house curiosity” ever gotten you into an awkward situation?

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Luciane at Homebunch.com February 9, 2012 at 8:56 am

LOL Wow!!! I’m just like that! I can’t see a construction site and I want to get in to see what’s going on… My husband feel so embarrassed, poor thing.

Can we imagine the 2 of us together? The “Home Detectives” here we come! :-)

This made my day Julia. So funny!

Have a great day, my friend.

xo

Luciane at HomeBunch.com

Sarah @ housecrazy February 9, 2012 at 8:59 am

doh! those are doozies Julia! Especially the first one!
I had a social work client once who noticed me and my car rolling slowly through his neighborhood. He said he saw me so many times he thought about calling the police because he thought I was casing out the place! Later at my office, he put two and two together and realized it was me – the case worker! When I told him I was just looking at houses (house-hunting) he still kind of looked at me funny. A couple of my co-workers chimed in and said they had noticed me in their ‘hoods too!
Kind of makes you realize that our little obsession with houses really is like any other addiction!

hookedonhouses February 9, 2012 at 9:17 am

Ha! Too funny, Sarah.

Shellie February 9, 2012 at 9:04 am

Ahh, we are kindred spirits I see.

I currently live in a neighborhood with a couple of houses being built and I have totally gone into all of them (only through un-doored doorways thoughs.)

I’ve never been to an open house but before I bought my house I had a bit of a problem with looking at houses that were empty and for sale. Like, my reasoning was “if there is only a knob locked that I can get into by sliding in my Costco card, its fair game”. So I was regularly breaking into empty houses just to see if I liked them. My poor husband would just sit in the car and be nervous until I came out. I *luckily* have never been caught. Good thing I bought a house so now that habit has stopped!

Sarah @ Thrifty Decor February 9, 2012 at 11:03 am

Ha! I used to use my grocery coupon card to get into OUR house as it was being built — towards the end they would lock the doors, but wouldn’t give us a key till we closed. I wasn’t having that, so I would break into my own house. :) (this was before the deadbolts were installed of course.)

Alicia February 9, 2012 at 9:05 am

I’ve been in the market for a house for almost a year. My boss was curious about the house hunt one day when we were at lunch, so I told him that there was one I was eyeing and they had just dropped the price $15k! He suggested we do a “drive-by” to take a look. Unsure if it was occupied, he pulled his car into the driveway, got out and started walking around. I followed suit. As we’re basically trespassing on the yard, a lady walks up the sidewalk and it’s the owner! And she was crying! Turns out she had just missed a call from her brother in Afghanistan. (So glad she wasn’t crying over the trespassing.) We explained I was interested in the house and she actually opened it for us to take a look around. Six months later, my fiance and I are making an offer on that same house!

hookedonhouses February 9, 2012 at 9:17 am

What a great story, Alicia!

Dawn February 9, 2012 at 9:05 am

Totally guilty of going through Open Houses, especially if they’re neighbors. I’m always curious on how they may have upgraded their house (especially if we have the same floor plan!) and how it was decorated. I’ve gotten some great ideas that way. When we’ve sold our own homes, I’ve always had neighbors walking thru and it was just ‘wink wink’!

Mike February 9, 2012 at 9:20 am

My grandparents were stationed in Darmstadt, Germany, in the early-mid 1950s, when my mom was little. We’ve had a picture of the house they lived in since then, and the address was written on the back.

In 1996, when I was stationed in Germany, I went and found the house, and then took my parents there when they came to visit me for Christmas. We were standing on the sidewalk with my mom commenting how it seemed much smaller than she remembered, when this little old German lady threw open the upstairs window and started yelling at us in German. Needless to say, we took our leave…

Rick February 9, 2012 at 9:22 am

Before I was married I couldn’t resist exploring unlocked/undoored houses. I took my wife 1 time but she was so tense that we would get in trouble that we couldn’t do it any more. I have gone to many open houses well above our price range and in areas we would never move.
I also loved going to Estate Sales held in the home. You get to see some great houses and imagine what you could do with them.
Christmas season also is good time to look because houses are lit up more.
Yes I am hooked
rick

Karena February 9, 2012 at 9:25 am

I have definitely gone to Open Houses to see the decor. So I am as they say a “Looky Loo” At least I don’t waste a Realtors time and have one go with me! Ha! I love your Open Window story!

xoxo
Karena

Art by Karena

Janet February 9, 2012 at 9:26 am

It depends on who “catches” me. If the owner, neighbor, construction worker types catch me I tell them I am a realtor, I am (so not a lie), they usually want to chat up the realtor. If I get caught by a realtor, or I’m at a model home or open house I just tell them I’m a nosey neighbor, otherwise they peg you as competition or a “spy” and are not usually very nice. ;)

Lisa~A Cottage To Me February 9, 2012 at 9:29 am

One time my husband and I went back to the house we built in Indiana. We typically go and visit our old neighbors so that was nothing new. This visit, the people that lived there were not home and I was curious what they had done with the house inside. My old neighbor and I walked around the house and looked in some of the windows. He little boy who was maybe 5 at the time walked around with us. All of a sudden the woman that lived there pulls in the driveway and see’s us in her side yard. She comes over and I shyly explain that I was just curious about the changes and hoped she didn’t mind that I was looking in the backyard. Then the little 5 yr old said…..They were looking in your windows too!! Talk about embarrassed, but he got me an inside tour. I wasn’t exactly pleased with the changes they made inside, but it wasn’t my house anymore. But then I wouldn’t make an upstairs bedroom into a seed starting room (when there was a potting shed outside) or the dining room into a playroom for the kids….well, anyway, not our house anymore!

Carrie February 9, 2012 at 9:29 am

A few years after we sold our old house, it went back up for sale. I couldn’t resist going to the open house to see what they had done to the place. We were the only ones there at the time so the listing agent was latched onto us. To try to and sound like an interested buyer I asked questions that I already knew the answers to (like how old the house was). As we stepped out the door we spotted our former neighbours (who knew who I was) chatting with the current owners. Before we made it to the car, the current owners had walked over to the listing agent and said something to her. As we pulled away, they were all staring at us. I’m sure the current owners told the agent who we were :-0

hookedonhouses February 9, 2012 at 11:23 am

Too funny!

Kate B February 9, 2012 at 9:41 am

There is a house on our street that is identical to ours. When it went up for sale, I went to the open house on the pretext that we had a friend who was house hunting and I was getting information for them. I was just snooping really – wanted to see what they had done with it. The answer was – nothing since the 1950s.

jennifer February 9, 2012 at 9:43 am

We had just moved into our new (old) home, and I saw that a cute house in a neighborhood close by that was on the market and they were having an open house. I just wanted to see it, and I persuaded my poor husband to go to the open house with me. The owner was there. She was the listing agent for the house we had just moved into. She recognized us and of course asked if we were already looking to move again. I don’t remember my answer, my husband said never again!!

Julia February 9, 2012 at 9:52 am

I go to open houses all the time and tell the realtors I’m a neighbor. They are used to it here in southern California. But I have to admit, I feel a little guilty, like I’m cheating. There is a home in the middle of construction down the street which I pass on my walk everyday. I’ve snuck into the house many times. I actually met the neighbor who is building it the other day and it slipped that I’ve been in the house. She took it in stride. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Lori....Lovin Life February 9, 2012 at 10:17 am

Yep….I’ve had some similar experiences. My MIL and I walked into a new construction that was going up in my neighborhood and the owners walked in about 5 minutes later. Thankfully they were nice about it and even admitted that they had checked out my house as it was being built, and got some of their ideas from us! But I have to say I’ve not gotten caught alot more than I have!!! LOL!

Cori February 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

We moved into a house that needed (needs) tons of updating. Soon after I saw another house in the neighborhood having an open house (same floor plan) so I went in to check it out. A couple of weeks later at my daughters sporting event a woman introduced herself and said you live around the block from us but we are selling our house. I almost blurted out I was in her house. Luckily I stopped myself.

Lori....Lovin Life February 9, 2012 at 10:19 am

Oh, and now I have my 6 year old son doing it too. He always asks if we can go check out houses that are being built. And he is little enough to squeeze in windows and come unlock doors for me!! LOL! Is that bad????

Molly @thewaffler February 9, 2012 at 10:25 am

My mom is a historical preservationist so when I was a kid I was dragged to open houses (“just for fun”) instead of church or soccer games. We also passed a number of “no trespassing signs” just to see a house. Mom would always say, “If you’re asked, just say ‘I’m looking for the Gidwitzes’”. Needless to say, I’ve picked up the snooping habit — loving to look at houses runs deep in some of us!

hookedonhouses February 9, 2012 at 11:24 am

I think I’ll have to use that one. “Just looking for the Gidwitzes!” Love it.

Marie February 9, 2012 at 10:26 am

When I was in elementary school I loved anything to do with floor plans and floor plan books. I couldn’t wait to visit a new friend’s house to see the floor plan. When I’d come home my Mom would have me draw the floor plan up so she could see how the house was laid out, too! And surprise, I’m now an architect! :-)

Penny February 13, 2012 at 10:54 am

Marie, I, too, began my obsession with floor plans when I was a little girl. I drew floor plans in the dirt, which would be my pretend house. Also, as a hobby presentation in fourth grade, I showed the class a binder filled with my collection of “House Plan of the Week”, which by the way, was my favorite part of the Sunday newspaper. I did not become an architect (still regret that), but I still love to look at floor plans!

Christine February 9, 2012 at 10:27 am

When I was a kid my parents and I lived in a trailer but were designing our house. On Sunday afternoons we would go for a drive to the new neighborhoods looking for other houses that were being built. We would walk around the property, go inside, and look at their layout. I don’t remember ever getting caught though. I love taking pictures of interesting houses that I see and I always want to knock on the door and ask for a tour. Alas, I don’t, but this post really resonated with me. Thanks for sharing!

Alessandra White February 9, 2012 at 10:28 am

I love old abandoned houses, probably because they allow me to fantasize how great they could be if I had the money to fix them up. When I was in college (art school) I got my mom to drive me around rural southwest Ohio to take photos of some of the abandoned places near where they lived. We had gone to a few houses with no interference so when I got to this particular farmhouse I was feeling a bit bold. I went around the house taking pictures, then saw that the front door was open so I started up the stairs, peering into the dim interior. I had the camera up to my eye and was about to snap some photos when I heard my mom call for me. I looked over and parked behind our car was a pickup truck with a gun rack, and a very large man standing there looking at me. He asked if there was anything he could do for me, and I told him I was a photography student working on a project for school. He stared at me for a few uncomfortable moments, and then got back in his truck and drove off. In hindsight, there was probably something he was keeping in the house that he didn’t want found. I could have been an agent for the government for all he knew. Anyway, a very scary experience!

hookedonhouses February 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

Yikes!

Linda February 9, 2012 at 10:37 am

I’m guilty of house-stalking too! I love driving by neighbourhoods looking at houses, yards, gardens, and if there is a window open, interiors. Night time is especially good when lights are left on and curtains open lol. I’ve never be brave enough to go into houses-under-construction or open houses, but I will go to lottery show homes and home tours. A favourite was a floating home tour with about a dozen houses.

My latest is google-mapping – I like to see how neighbourhoods are designed, who has pools in their backyards, etc. This leads to “house treasure hunting”. I’ll see a fabulous house in a magazine, or somewhere, and go look it up on google map. It’s fun when you have the smallest bit of info on the house’s location and you find it – you’ve struck gold! The only thing is that I would never go to these houses in person, to creepy, and most times they are in far away and exotic locations and I don’t have a large travel budget :)

Pat February 9, 2012 at 10:48 am

It truly is a condition that runs in the blood of people who love houses, isn’t it!?
I’ve gone to many open houses and homes under construction, but the one that stands out in my mind is when our church purchased a home for our new Pastor. The home was still vacant, but owned by our church. I HAD to check it out. My husband agreed to drive me over there and look at it…from the outside. I was walking around, looking in windows when I came to a sliding patio door in the back. Just as he said “don’t touch that”, I slid the door open and the most ear splitting alarm went off! I think it could be heard for blocks. In seconds the police were in the driveway. My dear husband had to explain that he was on the church board, and his curious wife opened the door. The police then called the alarm company to shut off the alarm and we left. In silence.

hookedonhouses February 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

Oh. My. Gosh. That’s hilarious, Pat!

Sarah @ Thrifty Decor February 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

Ha!! Let’s just say I know what every house on our street looks like inside. We were one of the first on our street and I was giddy each time a new one started. ;) It was heaven for a couple years — I didn’t even have to get in the car to check out houses!

Erin February 9, 2012 at 11:02 am

Yep, we can all relate. On the flip side, our house was the last one completed on our street. Right after we’d moved in, several neighbors commented on how much they liked the cabinets or the carpet we’d chosen. We hadn’t even had time to invite anyone over. When we got to know everyone better they all admitted they had toured our home multiple times during the construction! It made me laugh because I KNOW I would have done the same thing. The last time we sold a house, I caught my son’t teacher driving by and then the next day she said, “Wow, I looked at your house online. Does it always look like that?!” (meaning that it was completely immaculate for staging). We laughed about it! I always look at the real estate photos when my neighbors put their home on the market, so I guess I assume everyone else does too. Really, who doesn’t do that?! It would be abnormal not to look!

Jessica February 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Our neighbors freely tell us that they looked at our house when it was being built, too. I guess looking through houses that are under construction is nothing to be embarressed about after all. ;-)

jean February 9, 2012 at 11:28 am

I go to lots of open houses in my neighborhood, so that would be very embarassing for the homeowner himself to open the door! Oops!

My friend recently bought a house a few towns away. I knew the address, but had not seen the house yet. She had signed a contract, but had not yet closed. The previous owners no longer lived there, so we went by one day. We (me, my husband, and kids) parked in the back of the house, and were peering in various windows trying to get a better look, when someone opened the door and said “May I help you?” very suspiciously. Turns out a friend of the owner was there cleaning out a few things still in the house before the closing. Felt pretty stupid.

Kristin S February 9, 2012 at 11:28 am

I don’t have any busted stories but I did grow up with a mother who couldn’t resist an open house or a home under construction. If we were on a walk or driving down the road, we’d stop at either.

I loved walking over nailed planks traversing muddy puddles to explore a house pre-sheet rock.

Still do.

Julie @ The Family CEO February 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

I have done every single one of those things. Every. single. one. I’ve also been caught by the new owners inside homes being built twice. Never had to crawl through a window though. Not that I’m above that. LOL

Julianne February 9, 2012 at 11:33 am

My first (and only, actually) time getting caught was when I was only 17. I made my boyfriend drive by a little cul-de-sac of pretty houses in my neighborhood about 3 times, really slowly, so that we could look at how prettily the owners had all made things. On the last drive-by, I finally noticed the little kids out playing in the yard…and they were all not playing anymore, but watching us silently. As we drove away the little girl ran inside.

We went back to my house and were sitting in the car in the driveway when the father of the little girl roared up behind us, got out of his car and marched up to my boyfriend’s car. When I got out (I was totally sweating!), he asked what purpose we had in being here and driving by his house. I was soo embarassed, and told him that my family and I lived at THIS house and that I just loved his section of the neighborhood. He didn’t seem to buy it, but he walked back to his car and drove off.

Thus ended my days of paying attention to only the houses I drive by…now I make sure there’s no one outside when I do multiple repeats of driving by, so I don’t look like a scary creep-o (but I am still doing drive-bys!).

Lori-Anne February 9, 2012 at 11:35 am

Julia, we could totally be BFFs! I just love how you roll! I have so many similar stories, but with one exception: I haven’t been busted (YET)! One of my faves was “breaking” into an old heritage home that was on the auction block. There had been a showing prior to bids being laid but I (and my mum) had missed it, and when we stopped by either later that day or the next day we found a back door unlocked and helped ourselves. It felt so scandalous… and fun!

Dixie Redmond February 9, 2012 at 11:48 am

No, but the lady at the door did look at me strangely when I asked if I could match a paint sample to the color of her house.

Bethany Peterson February 9, 2012 at 11:51 am

I haven’t ever gotten caught, but I have snuck into one place being built after dark. It was my mom’s idea. And pretty stupid since it was so dark in there, we couldn’t see much anyway and probably could have fallen down the open stairway! One time we were going to an advertised open house, but the realtor wasn’t there, so we walked across the street to another house being built by the same builder. No realtor there either, but the finish carpenter who was there was nice enough to let us in to the other place with the direction to lock up after we were done. As we were leaving, another couple came to check out the place too, so we passed the torch to them. Later that day, we saw them at another open house and laughed! There’s a place being built right now by our house and every time I drive by, I think, I’ve gotta get in there before they close it up! It’s a sickness, I tell ya.

polly dove February 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I had that exact same thing happen to me once too. I was with my husband and two of my kids on a Sunday. There was a GORGEOUS house being built that we were dying to go into and see. It was all locked up, but we found an open door on the side of the house so we went in. We were coming down the stairs when we saw this young couple come around the corner. They were my daughter’s Sunday school teachers. I said the same thing to them, “Oh did you want to see this amazing house too?”

“We are building this house. It’s ours.”

Oops! They were SO young I couldn’t imagine how they could afford it, but they gave us the tour, talked about colors and flooring and shared their story about how they COULD afford it. I was really embarrassed but they said they were happy we liked it so much!

Jeanne February 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm

My grandfather built a house for my grandmother in West Hollywood back in the early 20′s. When we visted the area several years ago, my uncle, who along with his brother (my dad) and sister, was actually born as well as raised in that house, wanted to go see it. It was evening and we were taking flash pictures of ourselves standing in front of of the house. All that hubbub attracted the attention of the man who resided there and he came to the living room window and looked out at us! Feeling a little awkward, we knocked on the door and explained who we were and what we were doing so he wouldn’t think we were weirdos! His response surprised us! He said it didn’t fraze him a bit – he gets people coming to take pictures of themselves in front of his house all the time! As it turns out, a famous TV and film personality couple had shared that home not many years previously – slept right there in my grandmother’s bedroom where I used to play dress-up as a child! He even showed us a piece of mail that had been delivered to the house for one of them after they had moved out! He then explained that the house itself had appeared on television in a popular cartoon spoof featuring that couple. Apparently that’s how the house became popular – people recognized it from the cartoon! Then he surprised us still more by inviting us in to look around – not something he would normally do, but because our connection to its history he was gracious enough to allow us into every room. My uncle and I were thrilled and so pleased to see that very few changes had been made to the beautiful craftsman details that my grandfather had included in his design so many years ago.

Amy @ The Button Casa February 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Julia…you’re so funny :) I haven’t actually gotten into any messes by looking at homes (clearly you’ve got more guts than I do) I did get a real estate license many moons ago though. I got to look at all the pretty houses…I didn’t make very much money at it though, lol.

Christine February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm

#’s 1, 2, 3? Guilty!!! I grew up next door to a contractor and his family. Even as a little girl, I loved going to his new projects. He would point things out to me, tell me how the framing went together, show me the plumbing (all cast iron back then!) and electrical, explain the architectural drawings and give me scrapes of a myriad of materials from which I made doll projects. He explained how the different trades came in to do their work at different times and most probably influenced me life-long obsession with building and interiors. He was such a sweet and caring mentor to a curious little girl (me) and one whose own daughter didn’t much care about her dad’s work.

Kelly D February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I couldn’t say my experience was embarrassing. A new neighborhood near my old childhood home and they were having an open house for all the houses, all we had to do was drive around and walk in. I guess a police man who was patrolling (probably hired security) wondered why we would pull into a driveway and sit in the car a few minutes before going in. Mostly because it was raining and we were looking at the paperwork to see how much the particular model was selling for. I think he followed us to half the houses before deciding we were good people and just taking a look. :)

Kelly D February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm

**I meant to say, “A new neighborhood went up near…”

debbie bailey February 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm

New houses aren’t my cup of tea, but let me find an abandoned farmhouse? You bet I’ll be in there by hook or by crook. That’s how I got lots of ideas for the new/old house we built. I’d take photos, show them to my contractor, and say, “I want this in my living room”, etc. I had four little kids at the time, so I’d drag them along with me. We still laugh about it today, and they, too, like to do the same thing now. Guess the acorns don’t fall far from the tree!

Karen February 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm

LOL! I’ve never been confronted but the guilt of stopping to take a picture of a charming home or yard or both has gotten me some serious frowns and scowls from neighbors, probably wondering if a) the house is going up for sale and I’m taking photos for the ads or b) I’m casing the joint for a later robbery. In any event, I have always been flattered when anyone has asked to see my yard or house but I guess not everyone are the house lovers we are!
Karen

Kristin February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I take walks @ night in the winter (no matter how freezing it is) because I noticed that people turn their lights on earlier but are less inclined to close their shades… I can walk by a few times to check out the decor!

I wouldn’t worry about getting busted at a neighbor’s open house… I think that’s pretty standard for most neighborhoods. I usually tell the realtor I am just a nosey neighbor. You’d be surprised how much info I get about the house, what’s been done and other houses in my neighborhood just by fessing up to my obsession.

Spring February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I have totally gone into my neighbors’ houses while they were being built. But I know they went into ours as well. All in good fun. (We would periodically check to see how much of our yards and into which windows of our home they could see into. No, really.)

We later learned that before we finalized buying our house one of our neighbors had made an offer on it. Um… I’m not sure if that legal or not, we did have a contract after all. I’m gratified to know that they liked my choices!

Teacup Lane February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm

One time while back in our home state Hubby drove me around to look at my childhood homes. One home we lived in for five years while I was in 3rd to 8th grade was so changed I couldn’t identify which one it was. Hubby drove up and down the street while I tried to figure out which one it was. One of the neighbors got suspicious of us and asked if we needed help. Just like you did when questioned… we explained we were looking for my childhood home. All the house numbers had changed over the years – it was over 50 years ago I lived there and the homes had gone through so many changes on the outside. I never was sure which house it was. LOL!

Parnassus February 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Great stories, both in the post and the comments. A lot of people mentioned making up bizarre lies when “caught”–actually, the best plan is just to say how much you admire the house, then the people usually become nice and ask you in.

The worst spot I ever got in house exploring was when the house started collapsing on me! I recently told that story here:
http://roadtoparnassus.blogspot.com/2011/11/abandoned-house-adventure-in-fair-haven.html

hookedonhouses February 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm

What a story! Thanks for the link to it.

Katherine @ Grass Stains February 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Julia, that is so funny! I barge into every open house I see, and I’ve certainly walked through MANY a house under construction … regardless if it seemed like they didn’t want people doing that or not. But I’ve never been caught! Loved your stories.

Jill February 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm

35 or so years ago, my friend had seen a house at an open house that she really liked. We decided to go knock on the door on another Sunday afternoon to see if they’d show us around (we were new to the house hunting thing.) The owner answered and, surprisingly, let us in. It soon became apparent that we’d interrupted a bit of ‘afternoon delight.’ They must have been desperate to sell because she even showed us the master bedroom, including rumpled bed containing rumpled husband!

Nora February 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm

My obsession with houses started when I was a child. There was a new development being built in my town and the selling agent left the door unlocked to the fully decorated model home. My girlfriends and I would go there everyday and play “this is our home”. We never disrupted anything but sometimes moved things around where we thought they should be. He finally caught on and began locking the door. Oh well, fun while it lasted.

Jenny February 9, 2012 at 3:10 pm

LOL that first one is hilarious! When I was 13/14 and my sister was 16/17, we used to drive out to the “nice” neighborhoods to go to display homes. I loved houses, floor plans, etc. We’d dress nicely and we’d have a whole story planned that we were picking up floor plans for our parents. They had sent us to look for a house. LOLOL! Why we couldn’t just be ourselves, I’m not sure. But it was so fun!

Jessica February 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I often daydream about nice strangers offering to take me on a tour of their huge house. :) I sometimes drive through super-nice neighborhoods, slyly taking photos, and worry about looking like an obvious stranger. Especially in my Honda. :P

I’ve not really gotten in trouble for house-looking, but once my mom and I drove to a house that was for sale (and definitely out of my parents’ price range) just so we could see it in person. We were planning to just walk slowly by the outside, but after parking, the owner spotted us looking and thought we were potential buyers. We went with it and got a tour of the place! He even offered to let us stay the weekend sometime when he was out of town so we could test it out. He must’ve been desperate to sell.

Nina@ninasarena.com February 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I have a similar story as yours, I looked at a newly built (but finished) house that was in a neighborhood I desired. The house still had the For Sale sign outside and the door was unlocked. Well after a few minutes a lady came inside and started to talk to me about the house…asking questions as to whether I liked it or not. I assumed she was a salesperson and I proceeded to tell her my true opinion…it was nice but…… I dont recall what I thought was wrong with it but there were several items. Unfortunately after all that, I found out the lady I was talking to was the new owner! BAHAHA um…oops!

Christina from Dallas February 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm

My husband and I are interested in “ghost hunting” so we heard about a haunted house that was empty not too far from us. We stopped by and parked out front one day and began prowling around. As we were prowling, the police showed up and asked us what we were doing. I was mortifed since I am a rule follower but we told them the truth, That we were” ghost hunting .” I was thinking to myself that there was no way they were going to believe us. Turns out, the cops already knew about the “haunted house” and a lot of people stopped by to snoop around. On top of that, the police officer said his wife was a ‘ghost hunter ‘ also and they actually gave us permission to go inside and take pictures. Whew! That was close!

Kim February 9, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Years ago, I once took a picture of a Victorian home I had seen while driving through a neighborhood and it wasn’t until I looked at the picture later, that I realized the homeowner was in it standing out front looking my direction. She probably was wondering what I was doing.

When my family lived in our old house years ago, there was a neighborhood going up next us. When the construction workers were there, anyone was free to come look inside the houses so my mom and I would walk over with our dog and take a peek inside the homes. They were fun to look at.

Jane February 9, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Like others, I know what nearly every home on our street looks like inside, how long they stayed on the market, wat they sold for, etc. to make things worse, I keep a file, updated every year, showing the rise and fall of home prices on our street through the years. And yes…I have stopped at yard saes and open houses just to see whatever decr I could (sigh).

I feel so much better after this confession.

Jane February 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm

I did want to add that I knew our rather modest home had a good history of being loved when every former owner drove by- through the years- often chatting with me as I gardened. Each asked, “Don’t you love the home?” And yes…I do. some homes just live well, like old friends, welcoming and cozy. I did wonder why the forer owners ever sold. Maybe downsizing? Moving out of state?

David February 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Wow,

After reading these stories – loved ‘em – I’m thinking there’s a lot of unnecessarily guilty consciences out there. I’ve been working on houses for years and – as long as it’s safe, not a remodel, and the homeowners aren’t one’s who would mind – have given quite a few tours.

Did a deck suspended from trees a few years ago with a big, free-standing circular stair leading up to it… people slowed down and stopped ALL. DAY. LONG. For over a month! Probably walked 20 people through it – not near the amount to whom the homeowner provided a tour.

Oftentimes it’s not possible. Sometimes it is. A few polite, respectful comments or questions about exterior work might just get you an eye inside…. though I wouldn’t ask outright.

Would hesitate to “break” into a job site when no employees are around – can be dangerous in many ways. Lot’s of hazards you may not know about but of which the workers are very aware. Not to mention – one of a carpenters biggest fears is the theft of his tools – his livelihood… many of which are left on the job site for any number of reasons.

And openhouses – simply don’t waste the agent’s time. “I used to live here.” “I’m from the neighborhood and looking for ideas on how to make MY home more competitive in THIS market.” Agents see this all the time. And neighbors – if they don’t already dislike you – should understand your taking an interest in how your own house relates to the market. Just be honest. I’m sure they did their own research and “comps.”

Andrea @ Big Creek Cottage February 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Every year we visit the Florida Gulf Coast (love) and when we visit Appalachicola…I make my poor husband drive around and around a particular neighborhood near downtown and try and take pictures of the homes wihout getting caught…..we always do……they have to wonder because I make him go around the block if I don’t get “the” picture…..why don’t they start having a house tour each year when I visit…maybe I should contact the chamber of commerce and get them on that?

Heather February 9, 2012 at 6:49 pm

In my much younger days, I was at a party and had to use the restroom. The host pointed me to the hall bath. There was a second door in the bathroom, and I was curious to see what was on the other side, so I cracked it open for a peek and found the back end of a dresser. As it turned out, it was a door leading into his roommate’s bedroom! Even worse, he had a large picture propped on top of the dresser and leaning against the door, which of course slid and came crashing down. I was soooo embarrassed!

With regards to going to a neighbor’s open house, I do it all the time. I’m upfront with the realtors and just let them know that I wanted to see how the house for sale compares to my own in the current market. I’ve never met a realtor who seemed put out. Afterall, if you are checking out the market, for a realtor it might mean you could be a future customer!

Jenny February 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I forgot another odd thing that happened. When we bought this house 7 years ago, it was for sale by owner. We had our own agent. We had bought the house and we were waiting for it to close. It was empty, as the owners had already built a new house. We wanted new flooring put in before we moved in, so our agent got permission for the carpet lady and me to come into the home to measure and look at samples.

Well, I pull up and the owner is in the garage having a garage sale. I felt kind of strange about it, but I asked if I should just go in through the garage door. She said yes. The carpet lady was there a minute later. We started looking at the samples and talking, when the owner gal barges in all pissy. She was mad that we had come and that she thought the agent was coming. She wanted to know how we would have gotten in if it weren’t for her. Luckily, the carpet lady has the info. to open those realtor locks, since she works on so many homes. The homeowner was so rude and mad. I felt so embarrassed. However, she did give the agent an ok for us to come and the house was empty! What would we have done to it?

This same lady had the nerve to pull up to our house the day after closing (we had already changed the locks) and ask if they could have the fern plant on the porch, the bird feeder in the back and a few things they left in the basement! LOL! Obviously we didn’t want them, so that was fine. But very odd!

Miss Charming February 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Great post, Julia! When we were building our home I would stop by every day after school to note the progress. A future neighbor actually called the cops on me one day. I couldn’t believe it. I was visiting the house in a mini van with four tiny children in the middle of the day, every day–and they thought I was suspicious!

Brandy February 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I do the same thing…just online. I’ve joined countless realtor’s websites, just to check out MLS listings in interesting places or neighborhoods. Unfortunately, I occasionally get calls from those same realtors trying to sell me a house (busted!). I’ll pick out a house I love and “decorate” it in my head, kind of like outfitting a dollhouse. It is so relaxing! I don’t have the money to buy right now, but, hey, is it wrong to dream? My biggest wish is that more realtors would include rough floor plans with homes, especially older homes that often have unique layouts, so one could actually visualize the spaces.

Heather February 9, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Oh, I thought of one more story, except this time I was on the receiving end of being “snooped.” One morning, my car wouldn’t start and my husband worked too far away to ask him to come back home to get me so I could go to work. Knowing my long-time boss’s routine, I called him to see if he could go a little out of his way and pick me up. He was accommodating, but I noticed that I didn’t have to give him directions to my house! He admitted that he and his wife had checked out our house when we bought it a few years earlier!

Becky February 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm

It must be a gene. Relate totally to these stories! But my most embarassing moment (still makes me blush 38 years later) was in high school when a friend’s family was building a new house and I went through it with her. I gushed, “I’m not going to marry any man who can’t give me a house like this!” So sexist! So 50′s! So … embarassing, every time I remember it! Thankfully, I know the difference now between loving houses and loving people …. :)

Wendy February 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm

You mean you aren’t supposed to go to open houses just out of shameless curiosity? It says open. Around here, everybody does it!

I’ve never been caught snooping (though I’ve done plenty of it at old houses). But I do know what it would feel like because for the last couple of years, since I sold my grandmother’s house that I grew up in, I’ve had a recurring nightmare that I’m there in the house and suddenly realize it isn’t mine anymore (I inherited it when she passed) and that the new owner is coming in the door. Mortification! Desperate scrabble for excuses! Horror! Julia, I have to say I wouldn’t like to live that one out in person.

Rebecca February 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm

We live in a neighborhood where about three houses down from us runs a street that has houses on a cliff with ocean views. The housing tract is mandated one story, so we can’t see a thing. These mid-fifties ocean view homes are always being torn down and I am constantly checking out the amazing views. One night I took my son for a “walk” with the camera and a tripod, opened a gate to the back of a nearly completed property to take sunset pictures. My son bolted … no stomach for my life of crime. I got some great shots. Don’t let them tell you crime doesn’t pay.

KKTaylor February 9, 2012 at 11:52 pm

My mom walked through our neighborhood on a daily basis for exercise. One of the homes belonged to her boss, who she didn’t get along with, and his young wife. I don’t know why mom assumed they weren’t home but she began peeking through the slats in their backyard to get a glimpse of the swimming pool. Of course the slats were small and she had to go from slat to slat to get a good view. Suddenly she heard the wife call to her, “Joan, can I help you with something?” Haha, mom was mortified.

Kristen February 9, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Julia, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but this is the first time I’ve posted a comment! Great site! I won’t deny that I am regular on zillow.com – I, of course, love looking at houses that are for sale, seeing pictures of wonderfully staged houses and watching the housing marketing trends. Sometimes, though, I will look at the “zestimate” of houses that are not on the market … and sometimes these houses happen to belong people that I know. Sometimes I just can’t help myself – after going to someone’s house for the first time – I have to look on zillow and see details, which, yes, does sometimes include what they paid for the house. Once, while at dinner with friends, we were talking about a mansion, no joke, that we had been to with them for a church party. They were joking about how much it must cost, and, without thinking, I chimed in “Oh, it’s worth more than that – I zillowed it!” … apparently not everyone looks at zillow because I got some very strange looks. I guess I learned to keep my guilty house pleasures to myself after that. :) And, thankfully, we were with close friends who didn’t hold it against me!

hookedonhouses February 10, 2012 at 7:18 am

Ha! Love it.

Jessica February 10, 2012 at 12:42 am

DH and I got married in my hometown, and it just so happened that the house I grew up in was for sale. One day (I can’t remember if it was my wedding day or if we just happened to be in town for prep) I was driving by with my mom and we saw the homeowner outside. Something possessed me to have her stop and I went up and asked if he could show me around–it was so completely unlike me. He showed me around and I pretended I was just looking, didn’t say that I had grown up here. They still had my mom’s curtains hung up in the living room! Not much had changed, but the things that had I didn’t like, lol. They painted the master bedroom a dark color that made it seem half the size and they took the bathtub out of the upstairs bathroom, meaning the only bathroom where you could bathe was now in the basement. Needless to say, we didn’t buy it, but I will still occasionally go to the realtor’s website for my hometown and see if it’s for sale.

The Little Red Shop February 10, 2012 at 1:25 am

Ha! Nope, but I did grow up using houses under construction as giant jungle gyms.

: )

Julie M.

Lisa T. February 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Yup, me too! Had an embarrassing moment when a truckload of construction workers pulled up while I was playing in a giant pile of sand in the side yard. More embarrassing since I was like 11 or 12 at the time. I high-tailed it out of there through the woods.

I’ve been looking in newly constructed, for sale homes forever. I have a friend who if it’s not dead-bolted, will use a credit card to get in. I haven’t done that, but I did set off an alarm trying to get in a side door when the front was locked. Was embarrassed but also a little peeved that the alarm would go off just by me turning the handle. Silly thing.

Donya February 10, 2012 at 4:50 am

Suddenly reading all of your posts I don’t feel so strange anymore (which is great). We have a saying in my household…this car stops for all open houses and my poor hubby of four years is now hooked too. He even gives up football to go with me. Then he tells my mom, yep she ‘dragged’ me to go look at ANOTHER house! Lol

Juju @ Tales of Whimsy.com February 10, 2012 at 8:21 am

Great question. I’m downright brazen.

Candy February 10, 2012 at 10:19 am

I’m totally OK with neighbours comming to my open house. The more traffic the better. It makes buyers think it’s a hot property. LOL . You never know – they may have a friend or relitive that wants to move to the area. Oh, and I have been to almost every open house in my neighbourhood as well, but only through open doors.

Cindy February 10, 2012 at 10:43 am

This is the Best. Post. Ever. with the Best. Comments. Ever!

I’m so glad I’m not alone in my house peeping obsession! Maybe we should start a club, like ‘House Peepers Anonymous’ or something. LOL

Loved reading these stories!

hookedonhouses February 10, 2012 at 11:47 am

I agree–best comments ever! They’ve been keeping me so entertained. I’m loving these stories! :)

Carolyn February 10, 2012 at 10:59 am

One of my favorite quotes from much loved author Mary Stewart, who had a long career from the 1950′s to the early 90′s, came from her book “The Stormy Petrel”:

“I doubt if there are many normal women who can resist looking at houses. I believe, in fact, that when a house is up for sale more than half the people who look over it are not prospective buyers, but merely ladies who cannot resist exploring someone else’s house.”

Do I need to say more? I do most of my snooping online now. One of my favorite childhood memories was exploring new houses under construction in the neighborhood with my dad, who had trained as an architect. I grew up to design houses and work for a builder and walk around construction sites. But my favorites are still older houses, and I’ll often walk around wonderful old neighborhoods with camera in tow and try to take pictures surreptitiously. And yes, I love the early evening when the lights are on and you can get glimpses of rooms inside. Too worried about getting caught to go sneaking in, though, unless it’s a house in the early stages of construction. I guess I’ve never had the nerve to be a Nancy Drew, though I have a friend who’s brazen and has gotten caught more than once peeping in windows.

Mikalah February 10, 2012 at 11:39 am

My husband and I are both house snoopers… we’ve been known to drive around at night so we can peer in windows with lights on (from the car). We probably look super creepy! Once though, we were walking around a lake that has tons of gorgeous houses (exercise while you check out beautiful homes- love it!) and we were commenting on the homes as we went by them. At one of the houses I said “I love that place, but the porch is a really ugly color. They should paint that.” My husband started giggling nervously and elbowed me- turns out that someone was actually sitting on the porch and heard everything I said. Awkward!

Lisa T. February 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm

My husband and I usually take a week off around our wedding anniversary. We dine out a lot and do fun stuff, but don’t usually go out of town that week. One of the things we like to do is go by the super cool house I was living in with a couple of room-mates when we were dating. It’s in a historical neighborhood next door to a B & B. Built in the 1920′s it had seen better days when we were living there.

All of us would tell each other how we would change the place if we owned it. The elderly lady who lived there had been taken advantage of by some handy-men before she died. They had sprayed that pop corn ceiling stuff all over the place (even over light fixures). There was stinky carpet that we ripped out with out asking permission, to expose the hardwoods. Ripped off wallpaper and painted. But there wasn’t any insulation in the walls and the heating and AC were ancient and ineffective! Some of the first gifts my husband bought me when we were dating was a fan in the summer and slippers in the winter :-).

The kitchen was a room that had been tacked on to the back of the house at some point and didn’t flow with the rest of the house at all.

So a few years ago, we are driving slowly past the house and I see major remodeling done and still in progress. The front door is open! I convince my husband to stop. (He is such a good sport!) and we knock. So glad we did. We ended up meeting the new owners and getting a full tour of the house and all the renovations. I of course explained who I was and it was such a thrill.

Molly February 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm

The last time we were house-hunting, we went out one Sunday with our realtor to look at houses before the open houses opened. For one of them, the listing agent had told him that there wasn’t a lock box or a sign, because it wasn’t in the MLS yet, but the owners would leave the key under the mat (you can see where this is going, right?). So we got the key out from under the mat & went in and looked around, took some notes, etc. etc. We left and our realtor paused on the porch to make some notes on his printout of the listing… then he looked at the house number and realized that we had just been in THE WRONG HOUSE.

To this day I wonder if the people who lived there ever noticed that somebody was in their house that day. The house was really clean–I don’t know if they were expecting company or if they were just clean people, but it certainly looked showable. And I thought it was neat that it was the kind of neighborhood where people felt comfortable leaving their keys under the mat.

missy February 10, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Love hearing everyone’s stories. Makes me feel like less of a freak. My husband and daughter make fun of me because I know so much about the interiors of the houses in our neighborhood because of my nightly walks. They call me The Stalker. If people don’t want you looking in their windows then they really should get some blinds or drapes!!!

Pat Smith February 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm

All the time! And a nice high van is good for night time drive bys!

jodi from new jersey February 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm

This story is not exactly peeping, just a testament to my house love (insanity?). A couple of years back,in 2010,there was a Country Living House of the year on display smack in New York City’s Financial Center. I tried to get there,it’s just a 50 minute train ride, but never made it . It was a “green” modular home showhouse. That was the end of it, so I thought. Later that year, I was away in the mountains of New Jersey with 5 of my childhood friends. We take a long weekend away every year. Anyway, the lobby of the resort had a brochure about the area. There in the book was the Country Living House of the Year! After the time in the city , it was moved to Jersey–less than 5 miles from the resort ! I don’t have to tell you how fast my butt was in my car to go see it. I had to persist because the real estate lady said it was just sold–but you know I got inside.Of course it was beautiful. It blew my mind that they could just move a whole house. I got my own private tour, too , for free! Thank you, Sharon Lynne Gorman of Mountain Resort Properties, Inc. Still makes my heart go pitter patter.

Heltz February 11, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Confession:

In early January I was getting my mail and my neighbor comes out to chat. She says to me, “Ed died.” I respond, “Oh how sad.” while making a beeline across the street and thinking, “I can take a peek inside his house cause it is the reverse floor plan of mine.” I go over to his house and tiptoe through the landscaping. The blinds are open so I cup my hands to my eyes and have a look around. I continue looking for a few moments until I see a man sitting on the couch. I say, “Huh, Ed’s not dead, he’s sitting on the couch looking right at me.” My neighborhood takes a long drag on her cigarette and says, “That’s not Ed’s house. Ed lives next door to me.” I quickly back away from the window and get my feet tangled in his landscaping and Christmas decorations. I end up falling backward and landing in a pile of mulch. The next morning on the way to work I see tangled ornaments and mulchy footprints in the grass in front of Not Ed’s window.

Amy February 12, 2012 at 11:36 am

If you are ever caught in a new construction home pretend you are looking for you cat. It’s a family joke, as in I had to use the “here kitty kitty”!

Karen February 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm

I usually attend all the open houses in my neighborhood and identify myself as a neighbor. I think most real estate agents are used to that. I’ve only encountered one real estate agent who told me that I was a snoop, but the man who bought the house replied that the guy was an idiot and everyone knows that neighbors generally attend open houses. I like seeing remodels and updates, especially because most of the homes in my neighborhood have the same basic floorplans.

If I go to any open houses I will usually say that I’m a neighbor or that I like the neighborhood, which is the case. The last open house that I attended was in a neighborhood that I liked and it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. The house was very similar to mine, except the yard was different and it has a bit more square footage and the kitchen layout was different.

The owner of a scrape-off and new construction happened to motion me over when I had stopped by his home to get a brochure. I had no idea that he was also the builder of the home and he invited me in for a very detailed tour giving me a lot of information and details about every inch of the construction. It was surprising and I had no intention of staying there that long. The home was on the market for over $1.2 million, but he couldn’t sell it and so moved his family into it himself. It is a lovely home, but I stil prefer my older, smaller cottage.

lara jane February 12, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I went to look at a historic house — the only kind I like! — which was vacant (score!), and coming down off of the amazing front porch, I stepped wrong on the 100+ year old stairs and fell all the way down and twisted my ankle. It swelled up twice the normal size and was bruised for a couple of weeks. My friend was with me and nearly wet her pants laughing. Her cousin ended up buying the house, which was just as well, since I’d have been cursing those steps for eternity!

Jessica February 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm

When I was 17 or 18, there was still construction going on in my family’s neighborhood. So, my younger sister and I would go and walk through all the half built homes at the end of the day sometimes. (I loved houses even then! Ha)
Well, one day we decided to walk through a house that was mostly done (so we thought) except for the outside paint. The door was unlocked, so I started opening it to go in, and saw the most hideous shade of blue carpet ever! I said “look at this ugly carpet” quite loudly to my sister, when I realized that not only was there carpet in the living room, but also furniture! We shut the door and ran away as fast as we could before the new owners came could come into the room and find us there. Haha
People really shouldn’t move in when the outside of their house is not finished, to spare us nosy people embaressment. ;-)

Lisa February 17, 2012 at 9:26 am

Open house! What else are you suposed to do on Sunday afternoons?! We used to live in a suburb of Kansas City, touring open houses was a just a Sunday outing. Almost all of them were way out of our price range, but I went in with my mental notepad and took down all the decor ideas I could. It helped when it came to staging our house when we put it on the market. I did how ever, go to an open house in my neighborhood, actually, right across the street. Turns out it was an open house for realtors….ooops. I explained I was a neighbor and just wanted to check the place out. Perhaps I could refer a buyer, (wink, wink). I took a look and got out of there.
Thanks, Julia. I just love that I’m not the only one who is house-crazy!

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