Park City property owners say their land was listed for sale without their knowledge
Park City Board of Realtors CEO Jamie Johnson said more sophisticated fraud tactics mean real estate agents need to dig deeper to make sure sellers are legitimate.
Kevin Mcgoey bought a lot in Park City in 2017. He plans to build a house and move there when his daughter graduates from high school in New Jersey.
One evening on Instagram he saw a sponsored post advertising real estate in Park City.
“So I clicked on it, and it brought me through to a website, and the website had different listings in Park City,” Mcgoey said. “And then I just swiped to the left to see what the next property was, and the next property was my land. And that’s when I had like a heart attack.”
His lot was listed for $2 million, and could also be found on Zillow and Realtor.com, with drone shots commissioned by a real estate agency.
Mcgoey said he subsequently got the agency to remove the listing.
“I think as the owner of the property originally, I wouldn’t lose the property," he said. "It would really be the buyer that would be screwed. But obviously I would definitely get entangled in some kind of legal thing.”
He said the current state of the local real estate market may contribute to the fraud.
“I think all of these real estate agencies — they’re just tripping over each other to get a listing. And so I guess the due diligence suffers," he said. "There’s probably not a ton for sale. And then there’s a lot of money in it, right? What are the commissions on these like multi-million dollar places?”
In another case, an Old Town resident said an empty lot they own adjacent to their home was listed for over $4 million. They weren’t aware it was marked for sale until a friend, who happens to be a Realtor, pointed it out.
Park City Board of Realtors CEO Jamie Johnson said they’re aware of the fraudulent activity, and are working to educate agents.
“I think the thing that’s hard with especially vacant land is there’s nothing to really show or to show up to," Johnson said. "So one of the recommendations we’re starting to ask them to make sure that they — the seller — can give detailed information about the parcel, maybe the number, the property tax information, exact location.”
She said more sophisticated fraud tactics mean real estate agents need to dig deeper to make sure sellers are legitimate.
“Independently researching their names of the seller and making sure you get a photo ID — which again, somebody can give you a photo ID and it not be legit," Johnson said. "So then in turn, asking them maybe for a Zoom call or an opportunity to see their face. Which a lot of times, if the Realtor does that, then they quit returning the phone calls, they quit having the conversation, because they know that they’re onto something.”
Real estate fraud isn’t exclusive to Park City. News reports from around the country highlight real estate agents falling for similar scams.
Last week the district attorney for San Luis Obispo County in central California issued an alert to local real estate agents, claiming there have been numerous criminals posing as property owners.
People can protect themselves from similar crimes by using fraud guard, a tool available through the Summit County Recorder’s Office. By recording a name with the county, it can give people an early warning if fraud is being committed in their name.
Johnson also recommended property owners set up a Google search alert for their address.