A screen capture of the fake home listing ad listed on the real estate website Trulia.

by Brendan Sample

With a median home value of $572,000, according to Zillow, houses in Chestnut Hill are typically known for having high prices. That is why plenty of red flags were raised last week when a house at 606 W. Mermaid Lane was listed for sale at just $38,000, with the seller only wanting cash from a first-time homeowner.

It seemed like a deal that was too good to be true. The Local first contacted the agent, who was only identified as “Mrs. Seifert,” who quickly hung up and never answered her phone again. When the Local contacted the owner, he was surprised to learn his home was for sale. The listing was, it turned out, nothing more than a scam.

The listing for the sale was active on Zillow’s website on Monday, July 29 through the next day, but was taken down by Zillow within 24 hours. The description detailed how the seller wanted a prospective buyer to pay via a bank deposit and had to do so within an hour of agreeing to the purchase. The original listing did not provide a name or contact information for the homeowner, but instead only mentioned the agent with a phone number that is now out of service.

According to the false listing, “I’m selling my home so inexpensively because my family and I own many properties across the country. Once a year, we sell one or a few of our homes to first-time buyers for under $50,000. This is done as a give back and to bless a family or individual that needs it. I am not interested in hearing from anyone with representation or anyone that has previously owned a home. So no third parties, no realtors, no lenders, no investors, no agents, no wholesalers, no attorneys and no one that has ever owned a property.”

The real homeowner, Greg Dykstra, was surprised to discover that his house was up for sale at all, as he had no plans to sell in any capacity. He originally bought the property in 2011 for $670,000.

While the listing did make it past Zillow’s initial screening process, it did not stay up for long after it was posted. Much of the wording of the initial description was similar to other fraudulent listings the organization has encountered before, which led the customer support team to ultimately remove it from the website.

“Zillow goes to great lengths to police activity and fully inform our users of the existence of scams and how to protect themselves,” said Viet Shelton, a Zillow spokesperson, in a statement to the Local. “Our customer support team monitors activity on the site in a number of different ways, and if a listing is found to be fraudulent, it is removed from Zillow. The firm has a “Beware of Scams and Other Internet Fraud” page on the site, telling users to look out for red flags like requests for wire transfers and long-distance inquiries, and directing them to our fraud and scams page, which provides valuable information about how to avoid fraudulent listings.”

Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com or 215-248-8819.