In today's market, when your house goes on sale, you become vulnerable to the entire world.
That “For Sale” sign on your front lawn and your listing on real estate websites let everyone know that your home is for sale. While this attracts potential buyers, you could also make your home a target for people with bad intentions.
From realtors who steal undergarments from the drawers of their clients to teens who throw parties in mansions they found on real estate websites, there is no limit to what could happen in your home when you sell it.
“You've got to be vigilant when your house is for sale. You can't just sit back and assume that all's going to be OK,” real estate expert Brendon DeSimone told ABC News’ “20/20.” “Nowadays, with so much information online, some marketing remarks for realtors say, 'Vacant and ready to sell,' with pictures online. People know it's for sale, and people can tell when a home is vacant. When your home goes for sale, you're kind of living on eggshells.”
Click through to see stories of surprising things that happened to homeowners and to check out DeSimone’s tips on how you can protect your home when it’s on the market.
|Realtor Had Sex in Client's Home|
New Jersey homeowner Richard Weiner and his wife, Sandee, trusted Coldwell Banker real estate agent Bob Lindsay, from Wayne, New Jersey, to sell their home. The security-minded couple equipped the home with motion-activated cameras, moved out and waited for Lindsay to make a deal on their vacant house.
One night, when the motion-activated cameras turned on in their former home, Sandee Weiner called 911. Police arrived thinking there was a burglary. Instead, they found the Weiners' realtor in the dark house with a woman.
When they couldn’t understand why their real estate agent was in their home so late, the Weiners hit the rewind button on their cameras and discovered shocking video. They found day after day of X-rated videos of Lindsay and another agent, Jeannemarie Phelan.
“This is our ... marital bed. They just had sex on it,” Richard Weiner told “20/20.” “They're naked, walking around the room, and it's like, 'This is just incredible.'”
Outraged by the breach of trust, Wiener is suing Lindsay, Phelan and Coldwell Banker for breach of contract, negligence, invasion of privacy and emotional distress.
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey told "20/20" in a statement, “Immediately after learning of the behavior at the property by two independent contractors in January 2012, we ceased our affiliation with the agents. These agents have not listed or sold properties on our behalf since the allegation of misconduct at the home was first reported. The conduct at the home does not in any way represent how we conduct business as a company, and certainly is not reflective of the quality, commitment and integrity of our management or the more than 3,200 sales professionals affiliated with our company. We hold affiliated agents to the highest ethical standards."
Lindsay and Phelan are countersuing the Weiners, saying that Richard Weiner attempted to extort almost $1 million from them in exchange for not going to the media with his story. The Weiners have denied the story
“My clients never asked for a dime from either Mr. Lindsay or Ms. Phelan," the Weiners’ attorney, Ronald T. Nagle, told "20/20." "There was no extortion attempt there was nothing like that. And we have filed motions to dismiss those claims that are pending with the court."
Both Lindsay and Phelan declined requests from “20/20” for an interview. Lindsay's attorney, Joseph T. Afflitto Sr., told "20/20" in a statement, "Inasmuch as the disputes between the Weiners and my client are the subject of litigation, I am reluctant to try this case in the press. However, I would like to make clear that although my client entered their home on occasion for purposes that were unauthorized, the balance of the Weiners' claims are either false and/or exaggerated and can, and will, be exposed by clear and irrefutable evidence. Their participation in this public campaign to intimidate my client and the other defendants for the purpose of exacting a financial settlement is a continuation of their behavior, which is the subject of my client's counterclaim arising out of Mr. Weiner's unjustified and extortionate demands."
While realtors, in the past, have been caught on camera stealing jewelry or prescription medication, you’ll never believe what one realtor was allegedly caught doing.
Sixty-year-old realtor Stephen Brumme of Silver Spring, Md., was caught on camera going through a woman’s drawers in her home and pocketing undergarments.
The victim saw Brumme, who had access to her home in Arlington, Va., as a realtor, on webcams she set up around the house.
Brumme was arrested and charged with burglary and possession of burglarious tools. He was released on bail, and his real estate license was suspended.
Trucking magnate Nick Radoi was selling his lavish California mansion for an asking price of $12 million when teens broke in and threw a massive party last November.
According to Detective Josue Rodriguez of the L.A. County Sheriffs’ office, the teenagers targeted Radoi’s home after it was listed online. Teens tweeted the location and directions to the party at the mansion, with investigators estimating 150 to 200 teens showed up.
Radoi, who was away on a 10-day trip at the time, told “20/20,” “[The] damage on this house, it was over $1 million.”
The teens drained dry his fully stocked wine cellar, attempted to shatter a window that looked into the swimming pool, and broke into his home, stealing expensive suits and other property, including a rare, stuffed snow leopard worth $250,000.
Using the teens’ tweets and geo-tagged photos, officers were able to identify and arrest the teen partiers. Fourteen people were arrested, with charges ranging from trespassing to felony burglary, and police recovered some of the stolen property.
All of the teens entered not guilty pleas after their initial court appearances.
Last year, former NFL offensive lineman Brian Holloway’s vacation home in Stephentown, New York, which he bought in his rookie year of football, was trashed, apparently by teens who broke in and threw a Labor Day weekend party.
"They broke in from somewhere. That window was broken out. You can see the scars on the floor from where the keggers were brought through. The carpet, there was beer, liquor and everything else you can think of, so we had to remove the carpet," Holloway told ABC News in September 2013. "And they punched in the walls."
Many of the teenagers posted about breaking in and partying in the home on social media. Holloway set up a website called "helpmesave300," where he uploaded nearly all of the photos and tweets from the party, and invited the teenagers to help fix the damage.
At the time of the party, Holloway was in Florida at his full-time home. When Holloway notified police, a Rensselaer County Sheriff's office officer had already arrived on scene and broke up the party. No arrests were made.
|6 Ways to Protect Your Home When It's on the Market|
Real estate expert Brendon DeSimone recently shared some of his real estate tips with “20/20” to help protect you and your home while it’s on the market.
1. Interview potential realtors. Spend time interviewing realtors. Don't just hire the first realtor that comes in and offers you the highest price, according to DeSimone. “Ask for the last three homes they sold. Ask that seller how it was priced, how they were to interact with, where the home was and when it was sold,” DeSimone said. “Find out.”
2. Get a referral. When looking for a potential realtor, ask friends and family members to refer a real estate agent.
3. Set up cameras only if you don’t trust your agent. “You want to trust your agent. Your agent wants you to know that they can be trusted,” DeSimone said. But if you have a little bit of uncertainty, try setting up cameras to monitor your agent. “It's ... your home. It's where you have all these memories, and you're letting this person in freely,” said DeSimone. “You have the right to double check, triple check. You have the right to have cameras in there.”
4. Be home when your realtor doesn’t expect you to be home. “Show up at the open house. Show up during showings,” DeSimone said. “There's things you can do to really just double and triple check them, if you're not certain.”
5. Be vigilant. When your home is for sale, especially if it’s vacant, it is susceptible to anything, including teens looking to party. “You've got to have the alarm on,” DeSimone said. “If it's a rental property, or you've moved out, you've got to double and triple check the home on a regular basis, ‘cause you're exposed to the entire world once your home is for sale.”
6. Put away your valuables. Before your house goes on the market, get rid of your important possessions and valuables. “Put them in a safe. Put them away. And be vigilant,” DeSimone said. “If you have an alarm system, use it. If you have one of those lock box keys that the agents have, use the super locked box.”