Fondren architect says house was listed on Zillow without his permission
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jack Allin was sitting in the Indianapolis airport Friday morning when his phone erupted with texts from friends and colleagues.
Less than two years after moving into his two-story home on Woodland Circle Drive in Fondren many people were wondering why he was selling it.
“I had a dozen people sending me texts asking me what the Allin’s were doing,” he said.
Allin found out shortly thereafter that his home, a nearly 5,000-square-foot Neo-classical design, had been listed without his knowledge on Zillow.
“I was really concerned, because I own a business in the state, I have friends and serve on various boards, and selling a house so shortly after buying it suggests we might be getting a divorce or something else is wrong,” he said.
Allin, a principal with Weir Boerner Allin Architecture in Jackson, says nothing’s wrong, he and his wife are not getting a divorce and he’s not selling his home.
And he’s definitely not selling his home for the new asking price that was added to the listing Saturday morning - $15,000.
“We have no intention of selling the house. We are very happy here,” he said.
According to the listing, the owner is selling the home “because my family own(s) many properties across the country. A few times a year we sell one or a few of our homes to first-time homebuyers for under $50,000.”
The listing goes on to state that family sells the homes as a “tax (w)rite off” and “to bless a family or individual that needs it.”
Meanwhile, the home is only being made available to first-time buyers. “So, no Realtors, no lenders, no investors, no wholesalers, no attorneys, no third parties & no one that has ever owned a property. FIRST TIME BUYERS WITH NO REPRESENTATION AND NO ASSISTANCE ... ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE WE WANT CONTACTING!” the listing reads.
To purchase the home, individuals are required to send $2,000 through a bank wire.
“If you have the $2,000 and are ready and willing to do the process, without hesitation or time wasting, then call Mandi today.”
3 On Your Side reached out to Mandi at the number listed.
Mandi said she had been instructed by the owners that anyone who calls with a specific question to read the description listed on the Zillow site.
“If you still want to move forward, you can definitely give me a call back,” she said.
When we told her we had spoken to the owners, she hung up.
We texted “Mandi” from another phone and said we could not have the money until Monday.
She asked us to send the $2,000 via Zelle to the owner’s mom in the next hour. She also needed a copy of our photo ID and an email address.
We said we couldn’t have the money until Monday, and she replied, “Not holding it for you that long. Sorry. Good luck in your search.”
Allin said he reached out to Zillow multiple times, but the company has yet to remove his home from their site.
He said photos being shown were likely “regurgitated” from the listing when he purchased the home two years ago.
“If Zillow had any fraud prevention department, they would flag this immediately,” he said.
Frustrated by a lack of a response from the company, Allin posted a message on Zillow’s Facebook page early Saturday morning.
“Someone has fraudulently listed my home on sale on your site,” he wrote. “I have messaged you twice through your website with no response. It is negligent on your part that this type of activity is even possible and that you have zero sense of urgency to resolve it.”
The listing was taken down Saturday afternoon, according to Gina Cole, with Zillow Corporate Communications.
Meanwhile, the listing price had been cut from $789,000 to $15,000. A new phone number and new description had also been listed on the property.
We reached out to a buyers’ agent via the Zillow site, who said we would have to contact the sellers’ agent to have the property removed.
Cole said the buyers’ agent was not a Zillow employee, and provided a statement.
“Zillow strives to provide a safe online community on our platform, and we go to great lengths to police activity and fully inform our users of the existence of scams and how to protect themselves. Our teams use a number of different tools to prevent inappropriate content from publishing, and if a listing is found to be fraudulent after it’s posted, it is removed from Zillow as quickly as possible.”
Real estate scams are on the rise in the United States. CNBC cited FBI numbers showing that consumers lost more than $220 million in online real estate scams through October 2020, up 13 percent from the same time in 2019.
Susannah Williams, a spokeswoman with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, said the general’s office hasn’t gotten any complaints. “But we are ready to help anyone who thinks they have been the victim of a scam,” she wrote.
Victims can email the Consumer Protection division at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out the complaint form here.
Zillow’s website does offer tips to avoid scams, and urges people not to wire funds.
“Do not wire funds to anyone you haven’t met personally,” the website reads. “Scammers create convincing reasons why they need to deal remotely. Likewise, do not accept any wire funds that you did not initiate.”
As for Allin, he’s worried that someone will be scammed as a result of his house being listed.
“When it first went up and it had the price commensurate with the value of the house, I was really concerned,” he said. “But it’s now so obvious a scam and I hope no one will fall for it.”
This story has been updated from an earlier version.
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