A real estate agent has a granola bar, hand sanitizer, bottled water and toilet paper in her car.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

Essential items for your car (because smells happen) 

Agents need to be prepared for anything, from spills to smells, all while keeping their clients happy and hydrated.

May 8, 2023
5 minutes

Key points:

  • Snacks and water are a must for a long day of showings.
  • A well-stocked first-aid kit — or at least some Advil — is good for emergencies. So is a whistle, for personal safety.
  • And no one wants to step into a smelly car or house, so don't forget candles and deodorizers.

Bottled water. Hand sanitizer. Granola bars.


But a sledgehammer? A whistle? And something called "Poo-Pourri"?

Not a bad idea.

Their must-haves may be different, but every real estate agent has a list of essential items to keep in the car, and along with them, stories to tell.

Preparing for emergencies of all types

Quin Ashley, an agent with John L. Scott in Seattle, is the one who now travels with Poo-Pourri in addition to the hand sanitizer, toilet paper, wet wipes and water that he keeps within arm's reach when he is ferrying a client around.

"If we're going to a showing and the client has to do Number Two, you don't want the whole house to smell," Ashley said. "Especially the bathroom."

He hasn't had to use it just yet, he said. But just in case — the same reasoning behind the $100 first aid kit he keeps in his car.

"I haven't had any emergencies," Ashley said, "but it came from me sitting down and thinking about if I was in a buyer's shoes, what emergencies might come up."

Stocked with snacks for staying power

Hedda Parashos, of Palisade Realty, Inc., drove clients all over San Diego (and now Orange) counties for years, and knows well what keeps them happy and focused.

She has always stocked goodie bags with an array of "super junkie" and healthy snacks, making sure to ask in advance if anyone has any allergies. She also keeps trinkets and coloring books for the kids.

"My goal is to get them into a home," she said of clients. "And if they're running around and looking at houses, they can stress out when they have kids. So it's good to include the children."

Those snacks aren't just for the kids, but for the men who may not have the shopping staying power that their wives do. It's not sexist, she says; it's just her experience.

"You lose men's attention," she said. "I noticed that women can always out-shop the men. They are excited, on the hunt, on a mission. The men are very specific. After four or five houses you lose their attention because they're hungry."

Hence the junk food, the water, and the Starbucks coffee.

One more item Parashos keeps close? A whistle, for her own safety. It only took one uncomfortable drive for her to learn that she needs to carry a quick and effective deterrent.

Covering all the bases

Get into Mike Urban's car for a home tour around Boston, and you may sit on a small sledgehammer. He found it in the woods behind the first home he ever bought — which was in foreclosure — and keeps it around for sentimental and sensible reasons.

"I always tell everyone to get a mini sledge," said Urban, who is with eXp Realty. "They have their signs and think they can just shove them into the earth. But not here on the East Coast."

Other Urban must-haves: Water, shoe coverings, hand sanitizer, a blanket. Blue painter's tape for hanging "no shoes" signs and marking spots for paint touch-ups.

And like Ashley with his Poo-Pourrie, Urban is prepared for smells. He travels with cologne so he can add a spritz to get the smells of his own kids — and sometimes clients — out of the car. And candles for open houses.

"People sometimes cook a ridiculous meal before an open house," Urban said. "You'd be surprised."

Toting tools, towels and toys

Much of what Paul Reddam of Compass Real Estate in Austin keeps in his car is from lessons learned driving around with his kids. Hence the crackers, nuts and granola bars in the glove compartment.

But he also has his own must-haves: A measuring tape, a screwdriver, a rubber mallet, an umbrella. And Advil.

Some of the items are well-used, from when his kids (now 12 and 9) were little, and still come in handy, he said. Like the old towel he keeps in his trunk in case of spills. "Spills are inevitable," he said, like the time a client knocked over a planter and soaked the floor at a showing.

He also drives around with a soccer ball that he has kicked around many a lawn while parent-clients toured the home.

"You want to help with a kid if you can," Reddam said, "and block for the parents so they can see the house."

More and more clients are driving separately, post-pandemic. But for those still riding with agents, it pays to be prepared.

"You are pretty much an Uber driver," said Ashley, in Seattle. "It can be nerve-wracking, but you are building a relationship."

Parashos agreed. Those coloring books and trinkets make kids happy to go on the hunt with their parents — which helps her build a bond with clients.

"They ask, 'When are we going to see Hedda?'" she said. "The little things are worth it."

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