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Tantrums and Meltdowns. When Children Tag Along on the House Hunt.


Ms. Gregory recalled clients whose young son was especially challenging. On one occasion, he stripped naked at an open house. Another time, he proclaimed his love for a home and threw a tantrum when it was time to leave. A third time, he disobeyed his mother and opened a door he was instructed not to touch, with near-disastrous results.

“The door had a sign which read, ‘do not open, attack Siamese cats,’” Ms. Gregory said. “Within seconds, the cat was lunging from its tower right at this kid’s face.” Ms. Gregory caught the cat in midair and prevented a mauling.

As a broker, “you get worried,” she said. “Are they going to hurt themselves? Will they break something? There’s liability.” There are also the runny noses. Especially during the early days of Covid-19 when people didn’t have child care, sellers were afraid to have children in their homes. “There was a stigma about that,” she said, “but you do what you have to do as a parent.”

Parents say they feel a lot of guilt — not just for their children’s misbehavior, but for dragging their kids around every single Sunday instead of giving them a real weekend. “I wish we were teaching our kids how to ride a bike instead of sitting in a car looking at houses,” said Pauline Shapiro, a Brooklyn mother of two “We lost a lot of quality time.”

In 2021, Ms. Shapiro and her husband, Rusty Singletary, saw at least 60 homes in New Jersey — sometimes six in a weekend — all with their boys, ages 4 and 6. “We’d plop our kids down in the living room with an iPad, but inevitably they’d start screaming and want to follow us around,” Ms. Shapiro said. “I’d realize later there are no closets” in the home we saw, she said. “Something I totally missed because I had to watch the kids, too.”

Some agents try to make the experience easier for parents. Libby Earthman, a broker with LoKation Real Estate in Longmont, Colo., sets up a “kid station” at her open houses with coloring books, watercolors and Play-Doh to keep children occupied. Jonna Weber, a broker with eXp Realty in Boise, Idaho, stocks her car with snacks and often gives children their own mini-tour of the home, asking them to select their favorite bedroom.

But these tactics can invite further chaos. Seon John, an Atlanta-based developer, once discovered that a buyer’s children had colored all over the living room walls while their parents toured the house.

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