Wild Lease Scam – Can the Market Get Any Crazier?

I love the real estate market – there’s always a great story to be told, and a new experience to be had. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any crazier, they did. Here’s the story…

I recently represented a young lady in the purchase of her first home. Being a first time home buyer, we were looking at small homes that were financially distressed – we were bargain hunting. We found the perfect home in east Dallas, a 1950’s era 3/2 that was in short sale for about 60% of the value it had appraised for just two years ago. As we toured the home, we could not access the garage – it was locked and the key did not fit. When I later inquired about accessing the garage, I heard the craziest story ever:

After the owner vacated the property, a person we’ll call Joe ConMan noticed that it was vacant. He proceeded to pose on the internet as the owner of the property. He entered into a lease agreement with a unsuspecting young couple, newly married with a small child. He collected the first month’s rent and the damage deposit. On move-in day, the Tenant could not get access to the house. Joe Conman has the Tenant call a locksmith, and then meets them at the property. He cons the locksmith into believing that he is the property owner, gets him to open the house, and then leaves – vanishing to never be seen again.

The Tenant begins moving into the house when a neighbor comes over to investigate. Having not seen either the owner or the owners agent, he calls the listing agent to confirm that the house had been leased. A very surprised listing agent then called the police. The Tenant was forced to vacate the property, and lost the damage deposit and rent they had paid to Joe ConMan.

I learned a couple of lessons from this story. First, get to know the neighbors around your listings, especially if they are vacant. The actions of a consciencious neighbor kept this situation from getting any worse. Second, keep a close eye on your vacant property listings – you never know when something crazy like this might happen to them.

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