Here’s a great blog post from my colleague, Mark McLean.
I agree with everything he says – he just said it before I had a chance!
By: Mark McLean
It’s a popular term that you have probably heard before. If there is a way to beat the system, someone will find it. Not surprisingly, it applies to the business of real estate too. At first I was enthusiastic about those third-party sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. Hey, if I have a listing I will promote it on as many sites as I can to get the most exposure. That’s my job. But more and more I see some agents trying to game the system. It’s as if those agents said, ” I can use this un-policed site to make money”. Can you blame a guy (or gal) for trying?
Over the last few months, the number of real estate scams I’ve seen on the web makes me shudder. Not to single out one site or another, but I wonder if third-party sites, not under some type of control, are turning our business back into the wild wild west. I can’t imagine the founders of these sites ever intended their sites to be used these ways.
We’ve heard this story a fair bit, but I finally heard it first hand from someone who had been scammed. This person was looking for a rental apartment. She saw an amazing place in her price range and the “owner” said it she could have it. She put down a deposit and went home. A week later she thought it might be a good idea to go check it out again. She phoned and emailed the “owner” but was unable to reach him. Finally she went to the apartment only to find that the current tenants weren’t planning on moving out. As it turns out, they were away the weekend the apartment was shown. Burned!
Equally, if not more distressing is the behavior of Realtors like this one; This agent logged into TREB found a couple of nice condos, used the pictures and descriptions to create a few ads and then post them as their own listings. Potential renters are calling and arranging showings presuming they are working directly with the owner or listing agents. So you might say, big deal. At the end of the day the apartment gets rented. Isn’t that the goal?
I suppose you could make that argument but why should someone take advantage of the work I did to get the listing in the first place? I didn’t give that agent permission to advertise my listing. In this case, the scammer agent was working at a resort in Mexico when I contacted her about a rental. She offered to have someone in her office attend the showing.
Poaching listings is rampant in our business and this example barely scratches the surface of the type of shenanigans that agents figure out. The DDF or Data Distribution Facility may take care of some of these problems, like the accuracy of the information, but…as one door closes another one is sure to open.
How about the agent who had a listing on MLS at one price and also advertised it on Craigslist at a different price with the proviso the buyer use him to purchase the house? The Craigslist ad also didn’t contain any of the required information that is required under our guidelines. Designation, brokerage, contact information. Do you care?
The Internet is a big place. I have to believe there are a lot of agents using third-party sites to rightfully promote their listings. That’s great. But what about the scammers and cheats who are playing the system? They know full well that RECO can’t patrol the Internet, and most agents aren’t checking to see if people are poaching their listings. And if they do, are those agents going to launch a complaint knowing that it will take 8 months to get to a hearing?
Years ago, organized real estate was established to protect the public. Rules and regulations were written to make sure real estate transactions were done fairly. Is that protection gone out the window?
Is the sharing of data, through IDX leveling the playing field or making the system easy to beat? If you are part of IDX your listings are shared on every other agent’s website. Honestly, I’m okay with that BUT I want the public to know that if they are on Joe Smith’s Website the listing they are looking at is actually mine not Joe Smith’s. I want my name at the top, not buried somewhere in the bottom. Oh and while I’m on the subject, why can’t I brand my video tours? Argh, it makes me crazy!
Have you been scammed on a third-party site? Do you have an interesting story about an agent finding a creative way to beat the system? What can we do about it?
I used to feel bad for people who got scammed by going through Craigslist or Kijiji for property rentals, but I don’t anymore.
It’s not borne out of some self-serving belief that everybody should use a Realtor, list their properties on MLS, etc.
It’s just that everybody thinks that while scams exist, they themselves, could never be scammed.
You are too smart? You would never fall for it?
Scammers have been around for centuries, and only one thing has changed: the scams have got better, and the scammers have honed their craft.
When a friend of mine fell for the old “Nigerian Bank Scam,” and, upon receiving a cheque for $2,800 (that bounced, of course) sent a wire transfer to a super-hot model in the UK that was going to move to Toronto and rent the second bedroom in his apartment, my mother freaked out and said, “Are you kidding me? The ‘Nigerian Bank Scam?’ That’s been around forever! I heard that scam in the 1950′s when I was a kid, except it was through the mail!”
I have no way of proving it, but I would estimate that more than HALF of all listings on Craigslist, Kijiji, ViewIt, Roommates.com, or any other site have some sort of fraudulent element to them. I’m not saying they’re all professional con artists, but as Mark Mclean wrote above – many licensed Realtors will “poach” listings and advertise them on these third party sites to try and get clients.
A few weeks ago, a blog reader emailed me to ask if I could check out a listing he found on Kijiji.
The listing was shown on MLS to be “leased,” but it was by a different Realtor.
Sure enough, when my blog reader contacted the person representing the property on Kijiji, that person said 1) That he was the listing agent, 2) That the property was available. Neither of which were true. My blog reader called out the person on Kijiji, saying, “I know you’re not the listing agent, and I know the property has been leased.”
The listing was taken off Kijiji, but it was re-posted a week later.
This agent, who worked for a different company than the one who actually listed the property, was just fishing for clients.
It happens all the time, and as Mark mentioned in his blog, there is no way that RECO is going to police this.
Some Realtors are bottom-barrel and have no choice but to poach other Realtors’ listings, and represent them as their own, on third party sites.
This isn’t a scam, but it’s misrepresentation.
As for actual scams, they are rampant.
You know that $5,000/month condo that’s listed for $1,200 because the owner only has one key, and it’s with her in the UK? Yeah, that might be a scam…
You wonder how people fall for this, but it happens all the time.
I wrote a blog about this, maybe 3-4 years ago.
A friend of a friend found a listing on Kijiji for exactly what I described - a $5,000/month penthouse on Bay Street, fully furnished, which the landlord was offering for $1,200, because “she was having trouble renting it.” As the story goes, the landlord had one key and it was with her in the UK, and she didn’t know anybody who could help her in Canada, so she just wanted to get a modest $1,200 per month to cover the costs.
The friend of my friend refused to let this go, saying, “What if it IS true? What if everybody else thinks it’s a scam, and nobody is taking her up on it?”
I’ve seen this same scam a dozen times, and it’s always the same. The lady in the UK will send you the key via UPS, and you’ll send her the wire transfer.
Do people really fall for this?
Well if they didn’t, then I guess these scams wouldn’t be so common-place.
At least if you work with a Realtor, via MLS, you can avoid these scams, but I’ll save the public service announcement for another day.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the UPS store to mail a key…