About one year ago, I had a Buyer who relocated to Southern California from another State. She was looking to settle down in the San Gabriel Valley area. After speaking with her and reviewing her financials, we began the home search. We came across a Short Sale Listing in El Monte, CA that was listed for $215,000. If anyone knows The San Gabriel Valley Market, 1 years ago, even in El Monte, a SFR at $215,000 is DIRT CHEAP! Given that it was a Short Sale Listing, we know Listing Agents tend to list them lower to attract more Buyers and the Sellers don’t really care too much on the price because they just want to get rid of the property and at this point will be walking away with $0 anyway.
There was an Open House to be conducted that Saturday & Sunday between 9AM-3PM. My Buyers and I arrived at the property that Saturday at 9AM with a swarm of people waiting to see the home. Unable to gain access and waited for about 40 minutes, we decided to leave. As an Agent representing my Buyers, I needed to find out what happened and what we can do to find a solution and get my Buyers in to the home. After many unsuccessful attempts, I received a text message indicating that the Tenants refused to cooperate with the Open House and the open house will need to be postponed for another weekend.
The information I was gathering intrigued me. NOT because the Listing Price was questionable or that the Tenants didn’t want to cooperate as I’ve seen this happen many times. It was when I drove by the property the following Tuesday and saw 3 BIG signs saying “HOUSE NOT FOR SALE”. The questions to myself were, what is going on? Do we have squatters? OR are we getting bamboozled? It was the latter.
I did some Title searching which made me believe the property is rented as the property owner’s mailing address was an address other that the subject property and the subject property was listing For Rent a few times in the past. So for Tenants not cooperating and placing how not for sale signs, perhaps, held some accuracy. STILL, The Property Owner could have rented it out, didn’t tell the Tenants and perhaps needed to Short Sale because they no longer can afford the Mortgage but wanted Tenants to keep paying rent? Who knows but my mind was running with one too many What If’s!
- Listing Price was at $215,000 for a SFR in El Monte, CA with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Can easily sell for $475,000+
- Advertised Open House didn’t happen nor were we notified that it has been postponed
- Listing had no interior photos
- Property had signs saying “house not for sale”
After reporting all of my findings to my Buyers, they still wanted to try and submit an offer subject to interior inspection since it seems like it was a deal of a lifetime. So, we submitted the offer at $220,000, $10,000 deposit, and with a 45 day Escrow. It took about 1 week for offer review and decision. (normal timeframe) While in that 1 week period, I had someone from The Listing Office call me to inform me that the Listing is a Short Sale and they are not necessarily looking for a Buyer with the highest offer BUT a Buyer who is willing to wait for the Short Sale process to be approved and that the Short Sale Lender may counter at a higher price. Since I had communication with the Listing Office, I felt a lot more comfortable.
After the offer review stage, we received a counter offer that Escrow is to be opened immediately and Buyers deposit must be submitted in to Escrow with 48 hours after offer acceptance. (This is not typical but its happens from time to time) My Buyers were excited and I was astonished. With a SFR property in El Monte, CA boasting of 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, at that time would have been easily sold for $475,000+. At a $215,000 Listing Price, I would think surely CASH Buyers would push us out. As pessimistic as I sounded at this knowledge, I delivered my Buyers the great news. Buyers were excited and cannot wait to successfully purchase this home so they can settle in Sunny SoCal.
My Buyers wrote out a check payable to the Escrow Company for $10,000 and handed it to me for delivery. Typically we would have a messenger deliver it or we can even mail it. Wiring was an option too but for whatever reason, we decided on a personal check for the EMD. As I continued to think about the situation, I called the Escrow Company for their address as the Internet showed two addresses. One in Cerritos and one in Long Beach. I was never able to reach Escrow by telephone however email correspondence were fairly quick. I sent an email requesting to drop off the check. The response was, our addresses is at XXXXX. If no one is available, please slip it underneath the door.
By now, I got really anxious and thought, golly, if this was FRAUD, and if this happened to my Buyers, I would be really pissed off. Reverting back to my Buyer regarding my new findings, they began to worry as well. On the flip side, I was also torn on WHAT IF this deal was really this good and I advised my Buyer otherwise and they will lose out? Mutually, Buyers decided, there were too many RED FLAGS and to not move forward with this property.
After the second day in to contract acceptance and specified on the counter offer, I actually got a call from “the escrow” company stating if we do not wire or drop off the EMD today, our purchase will be void and they will select a new Buyer. Can you imagine all the emotion that came in to play? Again, I started doubting against my advice.
FAST FORWARD, yesterday, I came across a property for Sale on the same street. To my curiosity, I did a little research on the Short Sale property my Buyer submitted an offer on a year ago. Not to my surprise, there are many complaints against the Broker and his Brokerage. From the accusation I’m reading, There has been 7 people who filed a complaint between 4 properties the Brokerage had listed with $804,498 taken from these individuals without an exchange for a property. What this Office did was accept multiple Buyers to purchase one property, have them deposit their Earnest Money Deposit in to escrow and vanish.
I can only imagine how many more people out there have been affected by these type of stings and just never reported them.
Luckily for my Buyers, they dodged the bullet and for everybody else out there looking to Sell or Buy. Be smart and conduct your due diligence. Hire a reputable Real Estate Agent and ask questions. Look online to see if previous Buyer and Sellers rated them or gave them a review. If a deal seems too good to be true, proceed with caution, ask questions, and go with your gut feeling on how trustworthy each person seems on every spectrum of the transaction. This goes from Seller, Buyer, Escrow, Title, Loan Officer, Real Estate Agent, to Home Inspectors, Contractors, and even unlicensed assistants.
Below is the filed Accusation. Ive blocked out some addresses and names because I don’t like putting people on blast!