Alabama Realtor shocked when squatter greets her and potential buyers at home showing

An Alabama Realtor who has shown hundreds of houses recently experienced something she had never encountered throughout her career in real estate. A squatter was living in the home she was showing.

Courtney Hartsfield, a Realtor from the Tyler Hughes Realty Group with Horizon Realty based in Madison, Alabama, was showing a house to out-of-state clients May 16, when she had a shocking encounter with a man living in the home, which was supposed to be vacant.

When she arrived at the property, about 15 minutes before her clients did, she “immediately” felt something was off.

An Alabama Realtor found herself in a first-time situation when a squatter was occupying the home she was showing to clients.  (iStock)

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“Sometimes the listings will tell you if a home is unoccupied, so you have more flexibility to show it whenever,” Hartsfield told Fox News Digital in a phone interview. “Normally, there’s also a lockbox on the front door, but these entry instructions were that the front door would be unlocked.”

Hartsfield said those instructions alone were something to raise eyebrows. She has never shown a house where the front door was left unlocked.

There were incidents leading up to her arrival that made Hartsfield feel a bit wary about showing the property, including the strange entry directions. Hartsfield usually travels with someone else, like one of her brothers or father, when showing a home as a safety measure, but that day she didn’t have anyone to accompany her.

“Straight out of the gate, everything was already weird in the day. I was with people I had never met before. I was in counties that I don’t live in, and I did not have a ride along with me. So, already that day, my guard was up. I just was thinking anything can go wrong,” Hartsfield said.

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When Hartsfield arrived at the house, she followed the directions that were provided and went to the front door of the property, but to her surprise, it was locked.

When she called the number of the listing agent, she was met with an answering service, another factor that she considered unusual.

Hartsfield said the company stated it managed communications with many listing agents, so it would pass the information about the locked door along and told her to await further instructions.

When Hartsfield arrived at the home, she quickly found herself unable to enter with the front door locked.  (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“Then a text came through about two or three minutes later to a number I was not able to respond to, but it said ‘try the side door.’ When I went around to the side door, the whole handle had been dismantled. It looked like it was jerked out of the side of the door,” Hartsfield recalled.

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“I just barely pushed the door, and it creaked open. I just thought, ‘I’m not going to enter this home from the side by myself.’ And, immediately, I just knew something was off,” said Hartsfield.

After waiting for her clients to arrive, Hartsfield led them into the home and quickly noticed the house did not appear to be vacant.

“When we took one step in the kitchen, not only did I see some pots and pans and things like that, but first I smelled the smell of food, something had been cooked within the last day or so. It just had a really strong smell,” Hartsfield explained, noting there were crushed Starbucks double shot cans scattered about.

Upon entering the home with her clients, Hartsfield said she announced herself multiple times. After several minutes of calling out, a man loudly cleared his throat from another room, prompting Hartsfield and her clients to slowly exit the home.

At this point, they came face to face with the man living in the home for the first time. He ran out the front door, yelling, “What are you doing here? What do you want?”

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Hartsfield described the man as someone who looked to be in his late 30s. When he exited the house, she said he looked “disheveled.” He also appeared to be “extremely paranoid” and “sweaty.”

“I personally did not want to enter the home, especially if he was not going to leave the premises, but again, I have people who have traveled eight hours overnight,” Hartsfield explained. She further shared that the house was a top choice for her clients before this encounter.

So, they continued to move about the house with the man inside, observing more strange factors.

“There were three bedrooms. Two had beautiful furniture in them. The beds were made. They were totally untouched. Both of the bedrooms had [what] looked like young women’s boutique clothes. A lot of the clothes I remember seeing had tags on them,” said Hartsfield.

“There were two bathrooms. One bathroom had a gorgeous remodel I was so excited to show them. It was disgusting. He was not holding back. He was not trying to tidy or anything like that,” Hartsfield explained. “Then there was a third bedroom that had a ton of it looked like maybe an elderly person’s paperwork and memorabilia, pictures and all those things. And now a lot of that seemed very disorderly, like maybe things had been tossed about. Somebody had dug through those things and things like that.”

Hartsfield reluctantly continued to show the house to clients with the man still inside, but found many of the rooms, such as the bathroom, to be messy.  (iStock)

The showing lasted a total of 15 minutes, and Hartsfield only came across the man one other time toward the end of the tour.

“There was a gorgeous window wall. It was kind of like an enclosed sunroom. It was just stunning, so I wanted to save the best for last,” Hartsfield said. “I did not see him again, though, until we entered that room. The whole time we [were] looking at bedrooms and looking in restrooms and stuff, I had no idea where he was.”

When Hartsfield asked the man how long he had lived at the property, he responded, “Not very long.”

She also asked if he was the owner of the home, and he said he was a “distant relative of the delusional homeowner.”

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After leaving the home, Hartsfield tried reaching the listing agent multiple times to inform the agent the house was not vacant after all and share her experience, but she was never able to make contact.

She also contacted police, who told her that even if the man admitted that he was not supposed to be at the property, they could not enter the home without the permission of the homeowner, who Hartsfield believes had been living out of state.

Hartsfield said the home has since been “temporarily removed from the market.”

After going through this experience, Hartsfield provided tips for homeowners and those in real estate.

“For homeowners, I would say my best tip would be if you are going to go ahead and move out of state and your home is going to be sold after you’ve left or if you are a distant relative, and you have a family member’s home that is tied up in probate, have someone keep a regular close watch on the property,” she explained, sharing that those homes are “easy targets.”

On the real estate side, Hartsfield advised to always be prepared to defend yourself if needed.

“If someone is going to be showing a home in an area that they’re unfamiliar with, or with clients they don’t know, really be prepared to possibly have to defend yourself, just have your guard up,” she explained. She noted she found comfort in the fact she had a loaded weapon at her side throughout this encounter. She is legally able to do so in Alabama.

“Hopefully, you never have to touch it or do anything, but nobody knows,” Hartsfield said.

“If you have discernment that something’s off, especially if you’re a seasoned real estate agent, and you kind of know how this gig is supposed to go, do not enter the home alone.”

Ashlyn Messier is a writer for Fox News Digital. 

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