Caveat Venditor THE CYBER STALKER
(and other frauds)
The Cyber Stalker, the latest incarnate of a long line of real estate conmen (and women) who make their living through obfuscation and deception, some of whom wrongly see little wrong with what they are doing.
The deep gray and deception that pervades the digital media in most of its forms and particularly its murkier offshoot social media has given a new lease of life to many of Brisbane’s known property lesser lights and spawned an equally unsavoury new variant, the cyber Stalker, a snake oil salesmen of the digital age.
Knowing so little is known or able to be proven about digital marketing’s effectiveness and the mountain of untruths being propogated about it, this new age fraudster are out in the market peddling the lie that all properties can now be sold for their full value with just digital and social media advertising.
They’re not peddling the lie because it has (or could have) any substance (near term - they know very well that any real market traction for digital beyond at the entry level is at least 5 years away - more for the $million+ market controlled by the social media wary baby boomers), they’re do it because it can’t be disproven.
They also do it safe in the knowledge they are preaching to an eager, cash cautious or even contained market that would love a new, easy, cheap way to sell their property, that elusive impossible dream.
The cyber shysters are milking this for all its worth and incredibly even highly intelligent people however sceptical of the cyber agents offer will sometimes still give them a go anyway, wrongfully believing they’ve nothing to lose.
They’ve got a lot to lose and would tread a lot far more carefully if they knew how much and why.
Besides being largely vacuous, the cyber agents fake promise is often very damaging. Several of our clients (and we’re not alone) have recently fallen victim to one particularly slick exponent of this latest market fiddle who has arrived on the scene promising the known world and every one we know of has come off badly as a result.
One client (from Pullenvale) would happily string the agent up, its polished deception (that even stretches to amazing glossy brochures in support of the fanciful dream) having cost them a year of their lives, the opportunity cost of $2million not being in the bank for all that time, $10,000’s in unnecessary additional costs (‘special’ photography, unwarranted staging, digital speciality marketing etc), the cost of maintaining an empty acreage property with manicured gardens for the year the agent had their lives on hold, and ultimately after all the expense and trouble, having to accept a lower price than we had for it a year earlier in a much tougher market.
Another vendor just to the North would be happy to provide the rope because until they wisened to the agents game they lost a good sale, 6 months of their lives and $30,000 in additional unnecessary marketing - yes the cyber agent has no problem hitting owners up for the very same marketing they were assured they wouldn’t need once the cyber cons promised manna from heaven fails to materialise, this usually after the property has already become stale in the market making the investment far less effective than what it would have been at the start.
At least three others we know who have fallen into the same seductive trap are slowly being ground down in the agents well oiled sausage machine, a psychological blow torch applied to them in the form of a steady stream of negative news on how the market has turned down so sharply to quickly push down their price expectations as the agent races to get the owners to crack before they click (to the agents game), which they sometimes do.
This latest form of market opportunist whilst thankfully in the minority is in addition to and sadly not instead of that other perennial market pariah, the ‘Sale Spoiler’ whose practised ‘talent’ is to profit from stealing other agents sales, or failing that, at least stopping or making it difficult for them to happen.
Whilst a notorious one of these bottom feeders is now appropriately behind bars (on a related matter), there are more out there, their modus operandi like their cyber con counterparts capitalising on an owner’s frustration with market reality which they turn to their own advantage (and therein to the owner’s extreme disadvantage).
They like their cyber shyster counterparts are parasitic attrition specialists and their practice market destroying.
Where they differ from the cyber cons however is they also stalk buyers with the alluring promise they can buy any property they have interest in cheaper through them than through the listing agent who introduced it to them (who acting for their principal in the seller is tasked with obtaining the optimum price for the property.
Once one of these grubs picks up the scent of a sale that may come together through the efforts of the agent it is listed with, they intently set about showering the owner with news of how great the market has suddenly become and how their property is now cheap in the market.
At the same time they pepper the buyer with tales of just how tough the market is but as an aside slip in how thankfully there are some pragmatic sellers out there like the one who is about to take their listing away from their current agent who is trying to sell it for more than it’s worth to give to them because they absolutely have to sell.
They then throw in that the buyer really should take a look at this new listing because it may suit, not letting on of course they know full well the buyer wants to buy it and even will act shocked at the incredible coincidence should the buyer mention they do - which most won’t even if they have clicked on to what the agent is up to as the tantalising promise of getting the property much cheaper through the rogue agent is a very compelling one.
Recently the owners of a $2million+ house on the non-river side of Laurel Avenue, Chelmer fell victim to the scam at just what cost we (and they) will never know. An interstate buyer we had who had made an opening offer of just under $2million for the property which they were ready to increase was intercepted by a past master of this fraud who true to bad form promised the buyer he would not have to pay over or even have to pay $2million for the property if they bought it through them while at the same time using a past family association convinced the owners that they could get more for the property (than what they knew was already being offered) than we could.
The rest is lamentable history. Several months and a lot of advertising money and angst later, the property was sold to the buyer we had the initial strong offer from, not just for a six figure sum less than our first offer, but many $100,000’s below what the buyer had been prepared to pay to secure the property.
Whilst it may seem that both the buyer and the interfering agent won out in the scam (and the owners and our expense), the reality is everyone lost. The seller of course lost the most in paying that ultimate price that so often comes with listing your property with a friend instead of the best person for the job (so rarely one and the same).
The buyer complicit in the scam also lost because they’ve got to live with what they did in an area that takes a very dim view of such behaviour. We lost of course for doing our job property (working for the seller who employed us) in being temporarily disenfranchised of a properly earned commission, and the area as a whole lost because its property values were negatively impacted by the rogue agent’s underhanded behaviour in effecting a sale at far less than its true value (this not for the first time, another in the past a $multi-million house in Brookfield).
Yes the lowlife agent who used a family association to get his foot in the door and then rob the owner (which the owner none the wiser at the time even paid a $50,000 commission for) will ultimately pay for the deceit because while the deed itself is water off the particular individual’s back, the local community that knows the truth about what really happened and how (vastly different to the fictional defensive account on the agents website) will be far less forgiving, likewise the courts when the matter finally gets there (and the media attention that should generate).
Sadly, such conduct whilst unconscionable is not explicitly illegal. It shouldn’t surprise that this agent has other form, having operated out of the boot of a car since barely dodging bankruptcy (also not for the first time) after a serious brush with authorities allegedly executing what ex-staff swear was a blatant phoenix activity, closing down one business under one name at midday and opening another under another at 12:01, cleaning them and a long list of other creditors out of many $100,000’s in the process, much of which we are told remains unpaid today.
It’s been interesting to watch this particular individual assume the lead role in the pernicious spoiler agent practise from the previous king con whose advanced age and mountain of skeletons in the closet has caught up with him.
All industries as we know have their bad eggs and whilst it is impossible to totally rid society of them, we can at least still try (as we are here). By trying we can at least slow them down, or even deter some.
If we don’t try, they’ll feel emboldened to sink to even low depths. That would be to everyone’s detriment, including their own, not that they will ever understand how or why that could be.