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PSA: Vacant House Scam

Last week a member listed a vacant, but staged, home in North Albany. Since then, the member has been contacted by four different contractors to confirm the house’s sale as they had been contacted by someone claiming to be the new owner and wanted work done on the property. All four of the contractors were either landscapers or tree service companies.


The member informed them the house had not been sold and asked for the contact information of the person claiming to be the new owner. While the “owners” had different names and phone numbers, they all had the same story: They recently bought the home and were out of town for a month but wanted the work done while they were away.


Two of the contractors called the member because they were suspicious when the caller tried to get their bank account information.


After the member talked to some fellow brokers, this appears to be a precursor to squatting. By having work done in their name, and changing utilities over to their name, the squatters seek to establish “ownership”. They also send Amazon packages to themselves at these vacant homes.


A realtor then shows them the house, thinking they are real buyers, and the “buyers” find a way to leave a window open or keep a door unlocked so they can gain access after the showing. When law enforcement shows up, the squatters have the bills and bids in their name which apparently automatically bumps it to a court issue so they can’t just be evicted.


What do they gain as they are apparently NOT the owners of the home? In some cases they are looking to get paid off by either the buyer or the seller to vacate.


To take precautions with this home, the seller and the member are making regular sweeps of the property to ensure it is secure. The seller also called the utility companies and had them add a note to their accounts to ensure it is them before the utilities are transferred to the new buyer.


For more advice on steps to stop potential squatters read this article: https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/how-to-keep-squatters-from-taking-over-your-home/



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