Van Munching: The Open House blues, and credit where credit is (not) due

Dear Philip:

My husband and I put our house on the market a few months ago. This weekend our realtor held an open house, and our friend went to see the turnout. I don’t like being there when people look at my house, because it’s too upsetting.

What our friend reported back to me was even more upsetting. Apparently a few couples brought little children, who were allowed to run around unsupervised, and people seemed to use every bathroom in the house, including the one in our bedroom. When I came home, there was one hand towel in the sink, and another one thrown on the floor next to our laundry hamper. I also found little handprints all over an expensive glass sculpture in our living room.

We have nice things in our house, and are shocked that people felt free to treat it the way that they did. Should I insist that either my husband or I be there every time someone comes to see it?

Trying to Move On

 Dear Trying,

Two words: six percent.

Six percent, right? Isn’t that what the folks involved in selling your house expect to be paid for their efforts? It sounds like you have a lovely home, and six percent of a lovely home isn’t chicken scratch. So start expecting something in return.

Yes, parents who let their kids treat your open house like a playground are jerks. But you don’t have a contract with them: you have a contract with professionals who are supposed to be looking out for your interests, including the care and well-being of the major asset you’ve agreed to let them represent.

I read your email to a friend who’s a realtor in another town. Her response was — unprintable in a family newspaper. She wasn’t aggravated with you, Trying; she was furious with the person showing your house, and in the process giving her profession a bad name.

Here’s the gist of what she said: Any realtor worth their commission will prep your home before an open house. That prep ought to include basic stuff like putting paper napkins in a bathroom designated for use by anyone looking at the house. Your realtor also ought to have a co-worker on hand, so that one person is always available to answer questions while another keeps circulating through the house, to (for instance) keep an eye on the kiddies and the artwork…and to steer folks to that designated, paper napkin-stocked bathroom. Finally, that realtor should be going through the house at the end of the day, turning off lights and putting things right. As in, you shouldn’t be the one discovering hand towels dropped on the floor.

Check the length of the agreement you’ve signed with your realtor. If it’s a three-month deal, you might start looking around for a company that believes that a six percent commission should entitle you to one hundred percent professionalism.

Here’s to a quick close,


 Dear Philip:

My ex-boyfriend and I started a business, and he still holds a company credit card, even though he is no longer with the company. The card is tied to my bank account, and though so far he has always paid it, he’s pressuring me to request a higher credit limit, and….


Dear Miss:

There are times when I don’t even need to get to the end of the email. This is one of them. Cancel his card. Tell him your accountant – in today’s performance, the role of “The Accountant” will be played by Philip — freaked out that you’d even let an employee keep a company card once he’d left the business. Tell him that his use of the card opens you up to all kinds of potential liability, and that such use might constitute tax fraud.

Okay, so I don’t actually know if any of that is true, but I do know this: Your credit rating is vitally important, and risking it so as not to hurt the feelings of an ex is foolish. Admirable, but foolish. If you need to spare his feelings, tell him any fib you want — but cancel that card.

Hoping that settles the (credit) score,


 Philip Van Munching is a New York Times bestselling author of advice books, and was a finalist last year in the Good Morning America nationwide “advice guru” search. Email your questions to



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  • John

    I feel as stupid reading this stuff as the people who are involved. Any other BIG problems around to contemplate.

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