Some houses have skeletons in their closets. For Jessica Mack, the skeleton was hanging by the front door.
A first-time buyer in the Philadelphia area, Ms. Mack, 26 years old, had been browsing property listings for months before finding one in September that looked just right: a cozy Cape Cod, with a nice lawn.
“It wasn’t too big, it wasn’t too small. It was cute,” she says.
And yet for years, the house’s owner had hung a fake skeleton outside her front door in all seasons, regularly swapping out its attire. Some days it wore a white blouse, on others, a green bodysuit. The owner said she would accept Ms. Mack’s offer if she would maintain the tradition, 365 days of the year.
It was the third house Ms. Mack, a local utilities worker, had bid on. She said yes.
A typical sales contract comes with various contingencies, such as ones that allow buyers to back out if they can’t obtain financing or if issues come up during a home inspection. Now, amid a historic housing shortage that gives sellers the upper hand, some buyers are finding themselves confronted with the oddest requests.
“I’m selling a house right now that is being sold with the cat,” says Eli Karon, a real-estate agent with Karon Properties in Santa Cruz, Calif. The orange tabby has lived there for years, he says, and its owners don’t want to move him.
The house has attracted six offers and is currently under contract. “It’s definitely a seller’s market,” says Mr. Karon. (He says the cat is friendly and up-to-date on shots.)
In Chicago, Ill., real-estate agent Jamie Lemmons once sold a home in which the owners, a pair of retirees, asked for the right to continue visiting the backyard grave of their beloved golden retriever, Buffy. The buyers agreed and lawyers added an addendum to the contract stipulating Sunday visiting hours between 12 and 2 p.m.
While refrigerators and light fixtures are standard fare, some buyers demand more exotic add-ons. In one recent house purchase, Ms. Lemmons’ client said he would buy the house contingent on the seller giving up a neon Chicago Blackhawks sign he had seen during the house tour. “He said, I’m telling you, if you don’t get me that Blackhawks sign, that deal is off,” she says. The seller was willing.