by Sarah Ashton, Broker Associate
Ashton Kirchner Group, Keller Williams Realty Fort Myers & The Islands
There is currently a Real Estate scam going on (likely again) that you need to know about. Unscrupulous folks are contacting reputable Realtors requesting assistance selling their property. Not a terribly unusual request however most Realtors know their sellers or are referred to sellers by past clients so an out-of-the-blue request raises flags already.
Very often the property is a vacant lot. Vacant lots by definition are vacant so you can’t go to the door and knock to introduce yourself. If the scammer is successful, the Realtor will have communication with them about the market value of the property and define the process to get the property listed and sold. Without fail, the listing price will be one attractive to the current market so it will be a quick sale.
I have been approached twice in the past month to represent the seller of a vacant lot, both of which were scams – one was a Sanibel lot and a second was a Pine Island lot. In the case of the Sanibel property, it is owned by a person who resides in the United Kingdom. In communicating via email with the scammer, I asked two questions – 1. How did they get my name? and 2. Who would be their legal or accounting representative in the U.S. for their foreign tax obligation? That is when the communication stopped. The second, Pine Island lot was shown to be owned by a person in Georgia (U.S.). In working through the internet my associate was able to contact the rightful owner to ask if they were indeed selling their lot and the answer was no.
Both these situations were regarding vacant lots however there have been a number of reports about properties being “stolen” by being sold by non-owners. These folks are sophisticated as are their schemes and methods.
So what can you do to protect yourself and your real estate? Periodically do an internet search on the address of your property. If the property is listed through the MLS, the property will pop up and be shown as an active listing. Then get to the listing brokerage and the police. With some doing, they may be able to find the person(s) who are looking to steal your property and the money.
On a lighter note – Sanibel and Captiva are coming back! The islands are looking better as more and more debris is removed and more and more of our island businesses are opening up. It will be a long road but it is no longer coated in gray sludge! Have a happy and safe holiday season and I look forward to seeing you back on island!