Working in a line of business where it's a necessity to have your cell phone number plastered all over signs, newspapers, and the internet can lead to some pretty interesting phone calls.
Earlier this month, I received a phone call from a gentleman located in Idaho. He identified himself as a 2nd cousin of an elderly lady who lived in Santa Cruz County. This gentleman, who I'll refer to as Mr. Smith, represented that this lady, who I'll refer to as Mrs. Jones, was like an "Aunt" to him.
Mr. Smith began telling me that he was going to help Mrs. Jones sell her property, valued upwards of $1.1 million dollars, so she could downsize into a smaller home and have some cash on hand to help with medical expenses.
My impression of Mr. Smith was not high after listening to him for a couple minutes. I think Mr. Smith thought of himself as a smooth talker; but what ended up coming out was a convoluted idea of how he thought I should help Mrs. Jones sell her home but never actually meet with her. In the end, of course, Mr. Jones thought he was entitled to 7-10% of the proceeds that could be wired to him directly for his "role" in facilitating the sale.
Nothing felt good about the situation Mr. Smith was describing. I tried explaining to him how our marketing works, the care that we have for our clients and the importance of placing his Aunt's property on the local area MLS. Mr. Smith was insistent we procure and represent the buyer and sell the property off market for $1.1 million even though "it is worth much more than that." I couldn't explain to Mr. Smith enough how that was a serious disservice to Mrs. Jones.
By now, my internal alarm bells are ringing. Mr. Smith hasn't given me an address and gently evades the topic when I repeatedly ask, but eventually he gives me his Aunt's name. He ends the phone call with lots of encouragement, saying he's confident I will get the job done because he's chosen meafter all. He plans to email me pictures of the estate so I can get promptly to work and find a buyer.
Angel and I had lengthy conversations about the absurdity of what Mr. Smith was trying to do.
Sell a property without ever actually meeting the seller? Not typical, but OK we've done it before with out-of-state clients.
Sell a property without ever having ANY contact with the seller and wire funds to a third party? I don't think so.
But the ultimate question: What if this is actually a real person and someone is trying to take advantage of her? Surely, we must do something to alert this Mrs. Jones. The whole situation didn't sit right with me.
Mr. Smith was true to his word and did send me photos of what looked like a lovely gated, estate property with a pool, pool house, and wonderful views. Yes, I'm sure it was worth more than $1.1 million.
I decided to research Mrs. Jones and, sure enough, was able to locate a property that matched Mr. Smith's description. Angel and I decided the right thing to do was to drive out to this estate and try to make contact with the owner to warn her of what Mr. Smith was trying to do.
Angel and I went out on a Friday morning, pulled up to the home and rang the gate multiple times. After about 10 minutes of no answer, I didn't feel right just leaving so I ventured over to the neighbor's house and asked if they knew Mrs. Jones. The neighbors, of course, were extremely skeptical of me when I explained why I was trying to reach Mrs. Jones. I was asked to present identification and credentials. Ultimately, though, I think the neighbors could see that I had nothing but good intentions and called Mrs. Jones.
It turns out Mr. Smith was actually related to Mrs. Jones and had recently visited from Idaho to help care for Mrs. Jones who was having health issues. But everything else Mr. Smith had represented was a lie. He was trying to take advantage of his own relative and commit what amounts to elderly abuse and fraud.
Mrs. Jones was, as to be expected, shocked and hurt by my recount of events. Nobody should ever hear that their own family is trying to steal from them. The neighbors were appreciative of our efforts and asked if most other Real Estate Agents would have done the same thing. Angel and I explained that we can't speak for the rest of the Real Estate community, but for us, because of the high standard in which we operate our business and the genuine care we have for our clients, it wasn't an option to walk away and hope that nothing bad happened to Mrs. Jones. We needed to make sure that nothing happened to Mrs. Jones.
It was a great way to start our 2016 out in a positive direction.