In a dangerous and unpredictable world, a person’s home is their last sanctuary. A total stranger can very easily violate that sanctuary.
That’s why I’ve never had a problem talking to people who are trying to sell their home By Owner and asking them one simple question:
Are You Crazy?
In recent years, there has been a troubling increase in the number of con artists, rapists, thieves, and other criminals masquerading as prospective home buyers in an attempt to gain access to a property, or worse, its occupants.
As an experienced real estate agent in our market, I’m trying to do my part to make the home selling and buying process smoother and safer for all involved.
I can’t understand why anyone would ever let a total stranger into their home. What is your family worth?
Don’t you realize you are allowing total strangers into your house? Would you let the cable guy or a repairman in without an appointment?
What about the random people who will drive by your home and call you at all times of the day, asking to see your house? Are you going to immediately let them in?
Here’s how a typical phone call to a For Sale By Owner goes:
‘Hello, I saw an ad for your home this morning and was wondering if you’d be around tomorrow around 2pm to show it to me?’
‘No, I can’t do that, my husband and I will be at work.’
‘Fine, how about 6pm?’
‘Great. See you then.’
Over the course of my real estate career, I’ve heard about this scam getting played hundreds of times on naïve homeowners. A creative criminal can come up with dozens of things to say to you, while you’re too busy focused on trying to get your home sold.
As real estate agents, a lot of emphasis goes into protecting and training us to be safe, and even we still get hurt, robbed or sometimes killed. That’s why it’s easy for me to ask you, ‘Are you crazy?
Don’t let strangers into your house.’ Why would you risk your life or the lives of your family just to sell your house!
In the past few years there’s been an increasing number of crimes across Atlanta and nationwide, targeting homeowners who were trying to sell a home, but instead ended up falling victim to a horrible crime.
Here’s how it happens:
When trying to sell a home on your own, you’ll usually post the home on websites like Zillow, Craigslist, and any other similar website, hoping to attract a potential buyer.
What you don’t know is that by doing this, you also put your family at risk of being a victim to numerous rapists, burglars, sexual predators, murderers, and other criminals who visit these same websites looking for potential victims.
Haven’t you heard in the news lately about all the people who’ve been shot, robbed, and even killed because they were trying to sell something simple ,like a cell phone, iPad or video game system over the internet? If a criminal is willing to kill you just to steal your cheap, used electronic device, what do you think they’re willing to do to get access to your entire house and all it’s contents?
But that’s another story. Let me go back and describe for you exactly how these crimes occur:
You get a phone call from a total stranger who’s calling about the home you have for sale. Or they could be calling about the open house you advertised online.
They ask you a few questions about the home, pretending to be a possible buyer.
Then they ask if they can come over for a private showing.
You happily agree, thinking this person could really be the buyer you’re hoping for.
In reality, the person on the other end of the telephone has other plans in mind for you.
By attempting to sell your own home, you are basically announcing to would-be criminals exactly where you are and unknowingly turning yourself into a target.
In the past few years, there have been HUNDREDS of reported incidents of crime against people trying to sell houses, both here in Atlanta and around the country.
Over 100 people have been killed trying to sell a home in just the past 5 years alone.
Here are just a few of the stories. Feel free to Google any of these stories. I’m not making this stuff up.
March 2014 – Atlanta, Ga.
A 32 year old female is viciously beaten, sexually assaulted, and robbed after advertising her home for sale on the Internet. Officials discovered that the single female had recently advertised an open house at her home that she was trying to sell. On the night after the open house, three suspects kicked in the door while she was at home alone with her three year old daughter. They assaulted her, demanded money, jewelry and stole electronics…all in front of her minor child. She believes they may had been in her home earlier that day, pretending to be a possible buyer. No suspects have been identified, since the attackers used a fake name when they stopped by her open house.
February 2014 – Atlanta Ga. (Buckhead)
A young woman is tied up and forced to watch as her husband is severely beaten by assailants who had arrived at a private viewing that had been arranged for two individuals that had contacted them from an ad they had posted on Zillow. After being taken on a tour of the home, one of the suspects brandished a firearm and demanded cash, jewelry, and car keys from the couple.
Dr. Eugenia “Jeanne” Calle, is beated to death by a man pretending to be a potential buyer of her luxury $800,000 condo on the 20th floor of the Aqua building (West Peachtree and 10th Street). At age 57, just two weeks into retirement, Jeanne wanted to sell her condo so she could move in with her fiancé. Her alleged attacker confessed to police how he spent 20 to 30 minutes in her home, asking questions and pretending to be a potential buyer, before hitting her on the back of the head with an unknown object, dragging her into the pantry, and taking a diamond ring off her finger, along with $68 in cash and her credit cards. He was later arrested after using her credit cards to shop at numerous stores in Atlantic Station and Buckhead.
August 22, 2006. A 35-year-old man knocks on the door of a home for sale, pretending to be a homebuyer. The homeowners are not at home, but he’s able to talk his way in by claiming he just wants to take a quick look at the home. Instead he rapes the homeowner’s 19 year old daughter.
Police believe Oliver Hooper, who had been dubbed the “real estate rapist”, visited a dozen other homes for sale in the area, posing as a potential homebuyer while looking for additional victims. He was sentenced to 50 to 100 years in prison, but the damage he caused was irreplaceable.
April 8, 2011 – 27-year-old Ashley Okland is found dead inside a empty house she was trying to sell, after being shot twice by an unknown assailant. Even after following up on over 700 leads, being featured on Crime Stoppers, and offering rewards up to $150,000, this case still remains unsolved as of April 2014, with no suspects identified.
Nov. 3 – Cobb County. Atlanta Ga.
Cyndi Williams, 33 and Lori Brown, 21 are robbed and killed at a home they were trying to sell to a total stranger. It’s later determined that their attacker robbed them so he could get money to pay his car note. Both victims had been robbed, stripped naked, and shot in the head after he forced them to give up the PIN numbers to their credit cards.
Sept. 20, 2010 – Vivian Martin, a 67 year old cancer survivor is found dead inside a home that was deliberately set on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime. She had last been seen leaving to meet a stranger who had called trying to see a home she was trying to sell. She had been robbed of $56, strangled, and set on fire by two men pretending to be home buyers.
March 7, 2008 – Shawn Yates is convicted for the rape, beating, and attempted murder of a woman he fooled by pretending to be a prospective homebuyer. During trial, the victim tearfully told the jury how she had pleaded with the attacker to spare her life and the only way she was able to survive the brutal attack was because she pretended to be dead after he stabbed her in the neck and said he was going to kill her.
July 8, 2006 – 40-year-old Sarah Anne Walker was hosting an open house in a community considered safe by many, when she was stabbed 27 times by a convicted felon who also robbed her of her watch and jewelry.
I could share dozens of additional stories. How many do you need to hear about?
Go visit the police department in ANY part of metro Atlanta, have them run a crime report for your area and you’ll quickly learn how fast home invasions, burglaries and even worse crimes are happening all over the city, especially by people who think it’s safe to advertise their homes for sale without the help of an agent.
And these crimes are not just taking place in the bad parts of town. Criminals aren’t stupid. They get online and see you advertising a home for sale in a nice, upscale area and they start thinking about all the money, expensive jewelry, and electronics they would love to come take from you, even if they have to take your life in the process.
Think about it, if they’ll rob and shoot a gas station clerk just to get 20 bucks, what do you think they’ll do to you, when you open your door with a big smile on your face, thinking they might be a possible buyer for your home?
People are crazy and you never want to be left alone in your home with a total stranger who saw your ad over the Internet. Even smart real estate agents NEVER show homes to random strangers who call us on the phone. You never know what could happen.
In the end, making the decision to sell your home By Owner is totally up to you. If you don’t have a problem letting strangers into your home and dealing with whatever could happen, by all means, we wish the best for you.
To reduce security risks for our clients, we carefully prescreen all prospective buyers before arranging a showing, to ensure they are both sincere and financially qualified to purchase any home we show them.
We make copies of their id’s, have their credit pulled by a reputable mortgage lender, and guarantee that any potential buyer we bring to your home, is ready, willing, and qualified to purchase a home.
As a real estate agent, I would never sell my own home By Owner, and that’s likely because I’ve seen firsthand what could happen to unsuspecting homeowners. There’s just too many risks involved, and not just your safety.
If it were up to me, I’d probably tell you, “Why don’t you do the right thing and protect your family and let us help you sell your house quickly, safely, and for more money. You have nothing to lose.
But the choice is yours. If at any time, you decide you could benefit from the services of a client-focused real estate team, dedicated to selling your home for top dollar, please give us a call.
We would love to sit down with you, help you explore your options, and see how you could get your home sold for top dollar, even with a great real estate team on your side.