A public service announcement

(a true story of real estate bat shittery)

I was working on a TBT post for yesterday, pulling photos of the house the day we got the keys. I spent some time looking through lots of pictures and pulling the ones that I thought would best illustrate what the Pink Lady looked like when we became her caretakers.

For some reason, I didn’t take any pictures of the garden level kitchen before we started working on it, and I wondered if the old listing for our house was still up – you know, the with SOLD in big bold letters where the asking price used to be. Figuring I could still find the old listing, I googled our address. And that’s when things got interesting.

A house two doors from ours has been on the market for a while. It’s a cheap-o flip with a giant price tag, but taste  is subjective thing – so whatever.

(the flipper of that house ripped out an intact Kilian Brothers mantel, the wall where it stood for 120 years is now a featureless exposed brick wall. But again, taste is on the eye of the beholder).

(also, exposed brick in a brownstone? It’s the avocado green kitchen of our times.)

The part that concerns me is that the address of the house in question was actually our address, while the interior photos and the description belonged to the house actually for sale. The exterior photo was of the house next-door.

I called the broker listed, who didn’t seem to think this was a big deal at all. Well, when you’re dealing with real estate agents, who as a group belong in the same realm as used car salesman and personal injury lawyers*,  it is a huge deal. Last time this happened (yes, this is not the first time a  broker used our address for a listing) I ended up with an agent breaking into our house with a client in tow, parading through our home before realizing they were in the wrong house. Yes. that actually happened last spring.

I kept scrolling down the Google results and found another listing, this time for our house and the listing agent was the person representing the seller when we bought the the Pink Lady.  It seemed to be a new listing, virtual tour and all (with the old photos I was looking for). The listing included a random price (not the asking price at the time we purchased it)  and a listing ID. WTF, right?

I called up that broker and left her the meanest voice mail I could muster, which I’m sure sounded pathetic, because I have a cold and my voice is about 3 notches lower than usual – or maybe that made me sound like a rich old lady with her lawyers on speed dial? Anyway, that listing came down right away. Given her lack of skill when we were dealing with her, I’m inclined to chalk that one up as a mistake. The other listing however – the one for the house 2 doors away – I believe is more malicious. I took several calls to get it taken down, including threats of getting lawyers involved. By the end of the day yesterday, the listing was gone.

One would think that that for as much as brokers like to say it’s all about “location location location,” that the ONE THING they should get right is the address of the property they are selling. I was told by a few people who deal with brokers on a regular basis that this is more of a systemic practice. I don’t understand how listing the wrong address benefits them, but I do live in a neighborhood where harassment is rampant, and the calls, flyers and knocks on the door asking whether the house is for sale are constant. There is a lot of shady stuff happening in Brooklyn real estate. Scruples, it turns out, are in very short supply. 

Regardless of whether it’s a honest mistake or something more, I know this much: it’s illegal to advertise a property for sale without the consent of the property owner.

So here is the public service announcement part of this post: if you live in an area where real estate is bananas, such as brownstone Brooklyn, you might want to Google your address on a regular basis. You never know, someone may be advertising your house for sale.

What do you do if it happens to you? If you are a resident of New York state, you can file a complaint against the broker and the real estate agency here. You should also contact the office of the Attorney General and the local real estate board. If you see the add on sites such as Zillow, there is a button to click to report fraud. I suggest you do that, too. It goes without saying you should keep frame grabs of the ads.

This concludes the public service announcement.

* of course, not all real estate agents are bad. My mom was one, as was my mother in law. A dear friend  is an architectural historian  (and a real estate agent).  The nice folks behind House By We, who represented us on the purchase of our house, are professional, competent and honest.

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