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?