It began with an e-mail.
The sender said he is a businessman writing from Singapore after reading about a more than $8 million foreclosure in this blog.
This Mr. “X” wanted details and in a subsequent telephone conversation disclosed his plan of buying more such properties in Manhattan to “park” cash with no expectation of an immediate return.
The property he wanted is in foreclosure for more than $8 million. That wouldn’t be a bad sale for me, even at half that sum.
But my antennae were up.
Having a contact like the e-mail is not far from having an unknown correspondent inform me that I have won the lottery or inherited money. All I would have to do is wire payment for a fictitious reason.
In my case, the payment was the time I spent on a bit of research, in which I ultimately invested perhaps two hours. My research involved tracking down the attorney responsible for the foreclosure (it wasn’t easy) and volunteering to send a few comps of sales and rentals in the neighborhood.
Not being naive, though always expecting the best of people, I Googled Mr. X and checked his Web site, with neither surce providing any useful information. In fact, he later told me in one of our two telephone calls that the site was deliberately lacking in transparency because his company was a front for other companies. Interesting.
He initially said further that he preferred to retain a lawyer whom I would recommend rather than his own “high-priced” attorney. Also interesting, no?
I asked him–three times–to send me something about his and the company’s background. Twice, he ignored my request. I also sought from him contact information for his U.S. contractor and attorney for me to obtain references. None arrived. His next-to-last e-mail was this:
We have spoken to our contractor who has given us an idea on how much the building is worth. . .
I would also like to know what are your charges if any for helping convey this to the lender.Thanks for your kind attention.
I assume your contractor is referring to the building’s cost, rather than its investment potential, about which I doubt he would know. I do hope that the information I have researched and provided so far has been helpful in your assessing its total value.
I’d be happy to make any offer on your behalf, for which my standard fee is [omitted] payable by either side.
As you must realize, there remains the need for me and the note holder to qualify you as the buyer, of which I am confident but of which we lack references and “paper.” Once we here have those requirements for qualification and agreement on my fee, we’re good to go.
I much look forward to providing all the assistance I can and to working with you further.
This response came in minutes to the industry’s generally standard fee, and I can’t say that I was surprised. Said he: “[omitted]% is high. We thank you nonetheless.”
Naturally, I replied (with virtually no expectation of a positive response) by asking what he thought was a fair percentage.
I never heard from Mr. X again.
The good news is that I invested very little time in the potential transaction and always had minimal hope that it would work out.
I wish I could say my experience was exceptional, but it is not unusual for real estate brokers to be promised pots of gold that prove to be cauldrons of dross, especially from distant locales.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022