Friday, August 27, 2010

Renters Beware

I would first like to thank Terry Hogan at the Olney Gazette for listening to my concerns and writing an article about this problem. Please read the following article about Craigslist scams on rentals:

Real estate agents are warning residents to use caution when using Craigslist to search for houses to rent, saying some of the properties they are trying to sell have ended up on the online site as rental properties.

A Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection official says he is aware of this type of scam and warns users to be careful when using such Internet sites.

Attempts to reach Craigslist for comment were unsuccessful.

Denise Fox, an Olney Re/Max agent, said she listed a house for sale in a Mount Airy senior community on several websites, including Craigslist.

She said someone used the pictures she had posted on her listing and posted the property as a rental property, "listing it for a ridiculously low price to make people want to act quickly."

Although she did not list a second property in Frederick on Craigslist, it appeared online as a rental, she said.

She said people began driving up to the house, looking to rent it. She eventually placed a sign in the front yard stating that the property was not for rent and the Craigslist ad was a scam.

She said both incidents were similar — the person posing to rent the property said he had to leave the country quickly and therefore was unable to find someone he trusted enough to leave the key with. After receiving an application, complete with personal information, and a security deposit, he would make arrangements to send the key.

"I believe they must be getting money out of this, because they continue to do it," she said.

She said her clients, especially the couple living in the senior community, were shaken up by strangers knocking on their door.

Fox said she likely will continue using the free, online classified site.

"I will carefully monitor it, and if any of my listings show up I will flag them, and Craigslist will pull them immediately," she said.

Michael McGreevy, branch manager at Olney Long and Foster, said agents in his office also have found their listings and photographs as rental properties on Craigslist, and the listings typically follow the same scenario — hot property; need deposit quickly; will send the keys overnight.

"At least once a month I have an agent come tell me that they are getting phone calls for one of their listings that was listed as a rental on Craigslist," he said.

He said the problem has been going on for more than a year, but has become more pervasive during the past six months.

Joe Buffington, manager of Olney Re/Max Realty Centre, said the company has asked its agents to monitors Craigslist carefully.

Buffington said that if something is too good to be true; it probably isn't.

"You need to find out who you are renting from and who owns the house before you hand over any money," he said.

Eric Friedman, director of the county's Office of Consumer Protection, said that although the county does not have a lot of reports of this type of scam, it is aware of it.

"You just have to be careful," he said. "Craigslist is like the wild, wild West, as is eBay. A lot of good things happened in the wild, wild West, but there were also a lot of pitfalls. You never know who's at the other end of an online transaction."

He said all rental properties must be registered with the county's Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and landlords must be licensed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Post Credit Deadline...Whats Going On?

If our real estate company is any indication of the real estate market post credit....

Things are going to be OK. So 12 days into the world of "no credit" real estate, we have created 13 new contracts (about 1/day). The credit was a very helpful and good thing, but it wasn't the only reason to purchase a home. Jobs and good interest rates are by far and away the 2 biggest incentives for buyers.

I don't believe that these 13 buyers were procrastinators, nor do I think they were unaware of the credits available if they had only put in their offers 2 weeks earlier. These are buyers who are making LONG TERM decisions based on a multitude of factors. That is a great sign! Sure $6500/$8000 is a lot of money, but its not enough incentive for buyers to buy the WRONG home. And that is OK.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lessons from Roger Bannister

"Mind over Matter", "Be a thermostat not a thermometer", "Act don't react". These are all a few of my favorite quotes. And they revolve around the mind's ability to make our body do things that other folk's bodies cant', won't, shouldn't, couldn't...

Sir Roger Bannister is immortalized in history as the man who broke the 4 minute mile barrier. It was such an amazing accomplishment at the time. Within 3 years of breaking the record, 16 other atheletes did it as well. What Sir Bannister did was free people's mind. No longer could people say, "Sub 4 min. IMPOSSIBLE".

In the real estate business I see the exact same thing. Our industry, economy, and society constantly create obstacles to the way business has been done. Conversely, the industry, economy and society constantly create opportunities. So what are we going to focus on? What can't be done or what CAN be done?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Competition is good but Competence is better

There are some debates out there about raising the bar for real estate professionals. I run a successful real estate brokerage with very professional agents who are good at what they do. Furthermore, my business model relies on my ability to grow and attract talent to our company. So the more agents who can get their license, the better off I will be. Right? WRONG!!! But the more agents consumers can choose from, the better off they will be. Right? WRONG!!!

Between 2002-2006 our industry went through a major growth spurt. Real estate became a very attractive profession for some very unprofessional individuals. Some will argue that the easier it is to obtain a real estate license, the more competition their will be in the marketplace. Therefore, the consumer will get the best price for service and everything else will be fine.

Here is what really happen: Due to massive competition some buyers and sellers were able to save on real estate commissions upfront. However, many of these buyers and sellers are feeling the pain of a massive long term financial mistake. This is what we call penny wise and pound foolish.

Yes competition is a great thing. However, many consumers trust that the local licensing boards have set the bar high enough that any real estate licensee they choose, will be a good one. The current market situation is showing everyone that not all real estate licensee are experienced and equipped to represent their clients properly.

So lets correct the assumptions: The more COMPETENT agents consumers can choose from, the better off they will be. Right? Absolutely