“Beware the manipulative investment buyer,” warns a reader from Sunset Heights who has an interesting home-selling tale to share from the late-summer market: “Yes, I fell for it. The listing went up and 20 minutes later, a dream offer. Over list price. As is. Wants to add on, not tear down. Closing quickly, with two weeks free leaseback. I began looking for homes in my new area. Fell in love with one and put an offer on it.”
What could possibly go wrong?
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Tricks and Scams
An investor in a possibly nonexistent real-estate venture headed by his friend Billy Frank Davis tells Chronicle reporter Mike Tolson that Davis didn’t let on to his friends that other friends had also invested with him: “He didn’t want word of mouth. Bill’s image was always the most important thing to him. He always portrayed himself as a very successful and wealthy person. Everybody thought Bill had money.” On Monday, the disbarred attorney pled guilty to a single count of wire fraud in connection with a Ponzi scheme that bilked his friends and golfing buddies at the Champions Golf Club, the River Oaks Country Club, and the Braeburn Country Club out of $7.8 million. According to Tolson’s report, however, the losses may have been much higher than that.
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: A LIKELY STORY “Exact same thing happens every time I list my garage apartment on the MLS. Someone grabs the info and posts it to craigslist. I’ve always thought these folks are misguided but legitimate Realtors using it as a way to lure apartment seekers who don’t already have their own agent. They see the ad on CL, call the ‘agent’ and she takes them to the property and collects the buyers-side commission. However, it could be more of the scenario that Katie P describes, which is much more malicious.
Earlier this year, I got a knock on my door from a person who wanted to see the apartment, even though the MLS [listing] had been removed a few weeks prior. He was not too pleased to find out the property was long gone. I found the ad on craigslist and called ‘agent Samantha’ to find out more about the property she listed. She was more than just a little flustered and told me that she wasn’t sure what properties her assistant had posted to craigslist. After a few minutes I informed her that the property was no longer available and she needed to remove the ad.” [Kepdogg, commenting on The MLS Rental Scam Going on Now in the Heights]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN EVERYBODY WANTS TO RENT OUT YOUR HOUSE “Your Realtor should know about this. It is not uncommon. It happens regularly to MLS listings.
A friend of mine in Meyerland had the same thing happen. It seems they wait until the MLS rental listing status shows pending or leased, which often means the Realtor’s sign is gone from the yard, but the house might still be vacant for 30 days or so until a legit tenant moves in. That’s their window.
In my friend’s case the scammer went as far as to look up his name on HCAD and get a g-mail email address that made sense. Same song and dance: he was in London on business; below market rent, etc.
The police, FBI, etc. will not do anything. The scammers are usually not local. The scammers sit at their PC’s all day long and do this over and over and over looking for that one gullible renter who will send a deposit to a complete stranger via Western Union. It’s hard to believe it ever actually works, but I guess if you do it enough times, someone will fall for it.
The best thing to do is leave the Realtor’s sign in the yard until someone takes occupancy. That should be a giant waving red flag for anyone who shows up to look at the house. If you want to go a bit further, leave a note on the front door saying something along the lines of, ‘Don’t be a victim of online scams. This house is already leased’ or ‘Don’t be a victim of online scams, the only way to lease this house is to call XYZ at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.'” [Bernard, commenting on The MLS Rental Scam Going on Now in the Heights]
How do you discover that the house you’re renting out has become the focus of a scam? Well, If the scam’s targets show up on your doorstep, that’s one clue. The owners of the Heights home on Rutland St. pictured above found themselves in that situation last night. So this morning one of them sent Swamplot this tale, hoping readers will have some helpful advice to offer:
We recently bought a bigger house in the Heights and listed our current house for rent on the MLS. All went well (had a lease signed with a great tenant in just three days!) until last night. This friendly couple rang the doorbell and told me that they had been texting with the owner of the house for a week about renting it. She told them she was on a mission trip in Washington DC and couldn’t show them the house right away, but that they should come by the house and look in the windows. If they liked what they saw they were to send her a deposit check. I was flummoxed since I am the owner and had signed a lease two weeks earlier with someone else. I had heard about this happening with rentals listed on Craigslist but didn’t think the scammers would take it to this level. They had posted fraudulent listings on several sites, including Trulia.com and HotPads.com. They listed it for less rent than the real posting and said we’d take dogs and cats.
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TROLLING THE TOWN FOR TRUMP CHUMPS “The seminar, one of seven held in the Houston area this week, attracted people hoping to find a gold lining in the economic downturn. Banking on the Trump name to draw crowds, the classes promoted a method of house-flipping some Houston financial advisors call a high-risk sleight of hand, difficult to pull off without a measure of deception. Trump didn’t make an appearance: the class was taught by his ‘No. 1 instructor,’ Stephen Goff, who says he has flipped 200 properties with great success. ‘People ask me, “Steve, if you’re making so much in real estate, why do you travel the country teaching people?”’ said Goff, wearing a charcoal suit and a button-down shirt the color of money. ‘If it was in your heart to help people, and Donald Trump asked you, what would you do? I got on the first plane.’ Goff led the seminar in the call-and-response style customary to revival meetings. . . . [Retired real estate agent Jayne] Pace said Goff reminded her of Houston’s ‘prosperity preacher,’ Joel Osteen, but without the same megawatt smile.” [Houston Chronicle]