A Lesson in Real Estate Safety: My Encounter With a Squatter (Pics Included!)
As always, I am a firm believer in sharing my stories and experiences from the trenches with the community here on BiggerPockets. However, this case study has a twist, and things did not quite go as routinely as planned. Have you ever had a close encounter with a squatter or another unwelcome "guest" when visiting an abandoned property?
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Up until now, I had only heard stories through the grapevine and had not actually experienced it firsthand. But that changed a few months ago…
One segment of my marketing is identifying properties that are listed below market value on the MLS, although the deals found in this manner are few and far between, especially in a highly competitive market like the Dallas real estate market. However, they are there if you look hard enough — especially if the listing, for whatever reason, has expired.
That was the case with this story. The property had been on the market for well over 200 days. The seller had started out way too high on the price, and it sat for over 90 days without any traction. And I guess from there, they started to reduce the price down and receive some attention. Long story short, it looked like several buyers had fallen through for one reason or another.
The listing had expired, so I decided to reach out to the homeowner to see if they still had any interest in selling.
Contacting the Owner
For properties such as this that were at one time listed on the MLS, time is of the essence, and the situation can often be a red flag indicating a potential motivated seller.
For this reason, I employed some good old-fashioned detective work to find the seller’s contact information. After unearthing a few potential numbers, I started to make some calls. I was able to get ahold of the seller, and fortunately, he was still interested in selling, but was having a terrible experience with realtors on both sides of the aisle and wanted to go another route.
I asked the seller if they would be interested if I made an all cash offer on the property. They said they would very much be. The problem was that the homeowner was out of state — actually, way out of state, living up in Oregon. Turns out it was an estate property from several years back, and the house had been sitting there vacant for almost two years now. However, the seller was just now becoming motivated.
He was having some recent financial difficulties in his life and didn’t want to pay the property taxes for a vacant home he had sitting right here in Dallas, thousands of miles away. He just wanted to unload it at this point and get a fair offer with someone dependable who would close. We had a good conversation on the phone, and he gave me some details on how to access the property and said to drive by and take a look inside anytime. Sometimes you build a relationship with a stranger over the phone, rather than building trust via your brand, and that’s ok.
As I always do before setting foot in an abandoned property, I announced myself and let my presence be known so I didn’t startle anyone, just in case. I started off doing my typical walk through, clipboard handy, marking off segments of the house that need improvements and started running up repair costs in my head.
It seemed at one point, someone had tried to do a little bit of rehab on the property themselves. As you will see in the pictures below, the bathrooms and kitchen had both been slightly updated, and there were cans of paint laying around the house. The seller never mentioned anything like that on the phone.
As I started to make my way through the house and began taking pictures, I started to immediately identify items that looked suspicious, as if the property were not vacant — things that struck me immediately, such as a mattress on the floor in the master bedroom with a lamp, an empty plate of food and some shoes with a dirty pair of socks.
I continued to make my way through, all the while seeing certain signs of life. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something — or someone — moving. I caught the passing glance. My heart skipped a beat. That is the first time I have ever had a run-in with a squatter at a vacant home… and hopefully the last. I felt like I had seen a ghost. You hear about things like this happening, but really you never expect it to happen to you.
Fortunately, whoever this individual was left in a hurry, through one of the windows in a bedroom. Needless to say, I packed up and hurried out the house immediately. Luckily, I had already seen most of the house and had documented everything with pictures, so I was still able to make an offer on the property and get it under contract.
After this encounter, the squatter was not seen in the house again, and the house remained vacant until the day of closing with no issues. Check out some of my other case studies (with pictures!), such as this Fort Worth hoarder house or this drug house in Dallas.
Have you ever had any experiences like this? More importantly, how do you keep yourself safe when going on appointments in case something like this happens?
Let us know in the comments below.