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The Case of the Bogus Buyer

December 16th, 2016 · No Comments · California Real Estate, Real Estate Humor, Real Estate News


Nina Hatvany, luxury property specialist in  San Francisco, and a real-estate agent for more than 20 years recently shared these stories for the Wall Street Journal : The strangest thing that ever happened in my real estate career is observing the number of people who enjoy masquerading as qualified buyers of luxury properties. Perhaps because of my background in psychology, I find these situations fascinating. About 20 years ago, I had one buyer who lived in a small apartment in San Francisco but claimed to be part of a wealthy family and to have attended Harvard with advanced degrees. She was looking for a multimillion-dollar house as she was finally inheriting the money due to her from her family. She had a well-worked out fantasy. I showed her around 20 of the most expensive homes on the market over the course of a couple of years. She seemed legitimate. And once she paid for a $300 inspection on the property she liked, and each time I was thinking, “Well she wouldn’t be spending money on a property if it wasn’t real.” But this just went on and on, and the years went on and on, and it was always special requests and never any real offers. Finally I stopped taking her calls. And I know she’s still living at the same address today.

Another buyer—who was later convicted of fraud on unrelated charges—said he was interested in a $5 million listing. One night he contacted me to see the house in the evening, which was a little difficult for me because I had a dinner reservation but I said, “Fine, I can show it to you at 6 p.m.” He gets there and says, “I want to check the acoustics of the piano…it’s very important—I won’t buy a house without the right acoustics.” He spent two hours playing the piano and ruined my plans. I showed him the house two more times and eventually noticed he’d been arriving on a city bus each time, which made me suspicious. I also heard he made another real-estate agent pay for his hotel stay and buy him several meals because he forgot his wallet. I realized it wasn’t going anywhere.

The worst case, about 10 years ago, was a woman who spent just 20 minutes in a 5,400-square-foot, $7.2 million property with water views. She said she loved it but needed to make an offer to the seller directly and I thought, “Uh-oh, this is getting weird.” But the seller was just blown away—a full-price offer in the first week of listing. And she was very personable. She asked for some things to be customized to her liking, including expanding a walk-in closet so it would have room for her furs and hats. The seller said, “absolutely.”But then days went on and the funds never came through. She said her money was overseas and it was tied up getting it back to the U.S. Every week it was supposed to come from a different bank. This went on for about 10 weeks. I had told the seller this wasn’t going to happen but he wanted to give her more time. Ultimately, he put the home back on the market and it finally sold for $6.4 million a few months later.

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