Their Offer Was Accepted. The Only Problem—the House Wasn’t for Sale.
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Their Offer Was Accepted. The Only Problem—the House Wasn’t for Sale.

One real-estate agent almost got scammed, while another broker discovered his client murdered someone in the house he was trying to sell

Tue, Feb 28, 2023 8:49amGrey Clock 4 min
Q: Have you ever found yourself in a real-estate deal with a stone-cold criminal?

Katin Reinhardt, real-estate agent, The Oppenheim Group, Orange County, Calif.

My client was looking for a house in Floral Park. We struck out on a couple, and then one pops up on the market. He sends me the listing and says, “I absolutely love this house.” It’s big, it’s got a pool—everything he wanted. It needs some work, but for $2 million it was pretty darn good.

I contact the agent, from a reputable company, and he says there are no open houses for the weekend. My buyer wants to put in an offer on the house so no one takes it, contingent on inspection, and the agent is like, “Fine. You guys come here, we’ll do the inspection on Monday.”

We drew up an offer and they accepted in four hours. It was an all-cash offer, with a 10-day contingency. I kind of knew something was weird when I got a text from the listing agent saying, “Hey, would you mind wiring the money directly to my seller’s account?”

It was a $2 million house; the deposit on it was about $70,000. I say, “Absolutely not—let’s all get on the phone.”

The seller sounds absolutely normal, like, “Hey, I’ve been burned before when someone has backed out.” We said it had to be a verified escrow account, and the seller says, “OK, that’s fine, I don’t mind.”

On Monday, we get to the house for the 5 p.m. inspection, knock on the door, and some guy comes out in his underwear. No shoes on. I’m like, “Hello, sir, we’re here to do the inspection.”

And he says, “What are you talking about?”

I said, “Didn’t your agent inform you? We’re in escrow with you guys.”

I pull out the contract—it had his name and everything—and he was like, “What in the actual hell? You guys gotta leave. I’ve never listed the house. I just bought it two years ago, and I’m not planning on selling.”

We called the agent, like “What’s the deal, bro? Did you ever go inside the property and verify the seller?”

So what happened was, the scam guy called the broker’s assistant and said, “I’ve worked with you guys before. I’m out of town. I need to sell my house. Let’s put a listing together.”

The agent’s only contact with him had been via email and one or two phone calls. The guy sent pictures from the last time the house was listed, doctored to look brand-new. The agent calls the seller—this scam artist—and can’t get hold of him. No communication. My guy was ready to wire $70,000 to this escrow. Thank God he didn’t.

I had to do a full police report. I went over to the house and apologised. I said, “We had no clue, and my client absolutely loved your place, yada, yada. I know you’re not trying to sell your house but If you ever want to, we got somebody here that would pay cash for it.”

Scott McManaway, broker, The Agency, Denver

I got a call, this couple wanted to sell their house. I went over there and met with the husband; the wife was out of town. We toured the house, had some good conversations and he said, “OK, you’re the guy for the job, let’s do it.”

One of his caveats was, no sign in the yard. He was like, “My neighbors hate me and I hate my neighbors. I don’t want them to know my business.”

We get it on the market, get the ball rolling, get it under contract fairly quickly. The buyers are going through inspections, when the title company calls me and says, “Scott, we have a problem—there’s a bond lien on the property.”

I call my client, and he goes, “Oh [expletive], they put a bond on the house.” And then, as simple as you and I are talking now, he goes, “I’m out on bond for murder. I didn’t realize they put that on my house.”

It turns out he had killed a guy in the house. Later, I googled the address of the property, and it had been all over the news. I tried to keep my composure. I said, “All right, we can get through this. We’ve got to figure out what the bond is worth. Do we have court dates we have to worry about?”

Then, unbeknown to me, he takes a plea deal and gets locked up right away. It turns out his wife, who was somehow involved in this, had fled the state. She got arrested and was brought back to Colorado. So both of my clients—the husband and the wife—end up in jail at the same time during our transaction.

They got shifted around to different correctional facilities. There was delay after delay. I finally had to let the buyers know what was going on, like, “Crazy scenario! Both my clients are in jail, but I promise we are going to get this closed.”

Two different jails, two completely different processes. I called in some favours from attorneys. I’m able to get the wife’s side of the paperwork signed, but I had to wait till the husband got to his final spot, if you will. I brought a mobile notary with me to the prison. We did the whole walk-into-prison, empty-your-pockets, walk-through-the-X-ray-machine.

We go into the visitation room and two minutes later, this big metal door buzzes open and in comes my client, big smile on his face. He says, “Hey Scott! You got it done!” Comes over, gives me a big bear hug. We signed the closing docs and he stood up and hugged me
again and said, “When I get out of prison, I’m going to reach out to you. I want to do real estate.”

—Edited from interviews


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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


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