Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Democrats, Republicans and Other Scammers

More fun and games today in Georgia. The 2008 campaign is still running here - today, Bill Clinton came to town (I wonder if he'll eat at Houston's Restaurant again?) and spoke at Clark Atlanta University in support of Jim Martin. John McCain and Mike Huckabee have already visited town on behalf of (race-baiting, handicapped-bashing) Saxby Chambliss, and Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani also have trips planned. Al Gore will be here Sunday to stump for Martin.

But none of that matters to me because I've finally got tenants in the Unsellable Condo in Vinings. The place has been empty since I evicted the former tenants last July. I've spent untold thousands of dollars fixing the place up - new hardwood floors, newly tiled bathrooms, etc - and in September started running ads on line and in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The response has been underwhelming. I got a few inquiries from qualified prospectives early on, but they passed and then I started to get a lot of people who's main questions were "Is the security deposit negotiable?" or "Do you accept Section Eight?" (whatever that is). I also got a lot of folks who were all talk but no action - I learned quickly that those who talked a lot about lease/purchase options and selling off their other real estate investments typically never called back - and, even more frustratingly, I had a fair number of "no shows:" people who asked to look at the condo but then didn't show up at the time that we had set.

But the worst were the outright scammers. I got an email last October asking about the unit, and I sent a very nice description back, including some photos of the place, and asked if they wanted to take a look. Here's the reply I got:

Good Morning,

My name is pastor Lynn Deutsch, (ZION MINISTRY) I am coming for a conference from the United Kingdom and I will like you to tell me the condition of the house and how much it will cost me to rent the apartment for the period of 6 months and all the bills included, I have to pay before my arrival. Get back to me asap so my co-ordinate can send payment to you asap to secure the flat upon my arrival. Hence, the interior and exterior pictures of the house will also be appreciated. Thanks And God Bless You


Sounds great, right? A British pastor willing to pay a full six months up front, including "all the bills." What could go wrong with that? Except that I've already heard about this scam and know how it goes - next they tell the victim that their congregation or whatever doesn't want them handling the payment but wants instead to deposit the full 6-months rent directly into the landlord's bank account, and request the account numbers to facilitate the transfer. And then, once they get access to the bank account, they proceed to clean it out. Thanks, Pastor Deutsch, but I wasn't born yesterday.

I got another suspicious email from a "B." asking "what are the requirements?" for leasing the premises. Interesting . . . she had a Nigerian-sounding surname and asked no questions about the condition or appearance of the unit - instead, the question goes right to the financial (I presume) "requirements." I did not reply (Pastor Deutsch got one reply from me before I caught on), but then I got to wondering "did I just profile a person based on their name?" If I did, I apologize, B., but you really need to learn to do a better job of differentiating yourself from scammers.

And then after that, the replies to my ads, both legitimate and not, just sort of faded away and I began to despair about ever renting the unit out again. Until last week, when I got an email that sounded much more interested and legitimate than the others. We met, I showed them the unit and they liked it.

They're moving in this Monday. She's a teacher at an elementary school just up the road from the unit, and he's a Cobb County police officer (he pulled up in a squad car the day they visited, and he got called off twice by the radio dispatcher while they were looking). Their references checked out and their finances appear fine (ever though they're both civil servants - I gave them a $50/month discount in consideration of their employment). The best part is they seem like genuinely nice people, and expressed an interest in staying in the condo for a couple of years.

So, a long wait, but hopefully worth it. Now it's up to me to be the best landlord that I can possibly be.

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