Would you buy from a criminal?

franksmom_2010June 29, 2013

Long story short, we found a property that we're very interested in for a number of reasons. This would be a weekend/investment place, so NOT a primary residence.

We were looking at the tax records, and saw the owner's name. We did an internet search, and it turns out he's currently in jail, and has warrants out in several counties for a variety of felonies. None of these are violent crimes.

We did several other searches to make sure that this is really the same person selling the property, and we're quite certain that it is.

My main question, is that other than the deal falling through on his end (for whatever reason) what risk would be involved in buying from this guy? Assuming we did all of the other due diligence things like a title search, etc., what steps could we take to protect ourselves from all of the possible scenarios? I'm thinking it would be a good idea to at least involve a real estate attorney.

My mind is kind of racing with all of the (bad) possibilities. DH thinks I'm overreacting a bit.

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Well, was he a con artist, money launderer, drug dealer, or embezzler? You say no violent crimes, but I'd be more concerned about these ones than violent ones, actually.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 8:03PM
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Burglary and failure to pay child support.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 8:14PM
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Well, other than his undesirable friends showing up on your doorstep looking for him, I can't think of anything.

I had a friend who rented a home and the former tenant was a druggy. They found needles everywhere, and they had 3 small kids at the time. I think I'd be most concerned that needles or drugs were hidden in the home.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:06PM
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"Burglary and failure to pay child support."

I can understand why it would make you feel uncomfortable. Even the best real estate transactions have their druthers. Nobody wants to have an irate seller bother them at a later date, let alone a criminal coming back to see if you changed the locks.

If it makes you more comfortable, perhaps your agent or a real estate attorney can meet with the seller on your behalf. Let them take care of the details but keeping you in the loop at another location. We did this with our last house purchase because the agent for the seller was being a jerk. Our attorney talked to them and relayed what they said and we answered back through him. If we'd had to communicate with them directly the sale might not have gone through.

So long as all the taxes/liens are paid, the only other thing I'd do is make sure the house is secure. Change the locks, reinforce any weak doors, and make sure the windows are secure. You might even mention to the police dept that you are the new owner and voice your concerns. With a burglary rap, I'm sure he was no prize to have in the neighborhood.

If you do those things then I don't think you should have anything else to worry about.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:53PM
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Most of what I would worry about would show up in a title search. I would be concerned about any liens on the property due to the failure to pay child support, and if he was the only owner of the property. He may have been married in the past.

These things could cause a problem for him and a headache for you if they need to be resolved or some how delay things. I wouldn't worry too much. You said it was a weekend place so it's not crucial you move in at a certain time like it would be with a primary residence. And just think--your purchase might just help some mother and child/ren get the child support they are owed.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 6:56AM
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Most properties have plusses and minuses, I'd consider this a big minus. Damaged goods, so to speak.

Unless it's ultra special and unique (nothing comparable in the area), I'd personally look elsewhere. Why deal with a situation and a seller like that when you don't have to?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 10:31PM
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"Why deal with a situation and a seller like that when you don't have to?"

What we know is that the seller is in jail for burglary and lack of child support.

How this has any bearing on what he will be like as the seller of a house is beyond me.

Perfectly nice people without a single traffic ticket can be horrible sellers.

The only thing I'd be concerned about, based on the information that we've been given, is that the seller would know exactly how to break into this home. So I'd change the locks, put locks on the windows and install a security system, especially since the new owners would leave the house empty for long periods of time.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 11:12PM
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Well he was arrested for burglary so he can't be that great of a criminal.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 10:17AM
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Sophie Wheeler

I'd consider it a big opportunity to score a home for a cheap price. He obviously needs the money and won't be occupying the home for the foreseeable future.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 12:42PM
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Thanks so much for all of the great ideas!

What little we know is that the property is currently being leased, so we don't know if the guy has ever lived there, when, or if he ever actually lived there. We have a lot of questions about the property, and plan to meet with the realtor soon.

I had also considered that this may be a great opportunity for all parties-he'll get some cash to pay some bills, and we'll get a cool property.

And I totally agree about sellers...we bought our current place from what we thought were half-decent people, and the whole transaction ended up being the most bizarre and stressful transaction I could imagine. It didn't help that OUR realtor was a flake, too.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 10:21PM
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A clean title should be your only concern. If the house is in a bad neighborhood, where you would be worried about breakins from former drug clients, I wouldn't buy it, but then I wouldn't buy any house in an area like that. Otherwise, that's what a security system is for.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 3:31PM
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This is very easy!
The worse person to buy a home from is the federal government (paperwork, lack of disclosure, misrepresentation). Anyone else represented by an agent, you have title insurance and done your due diligence is just a person with tough times.

Would you buy a home cheaply from Mike Tyson, Michael Vick, Martha Stewart, etc.? All have criminal records and I wouldn't have a problem purchasing their property while they were in adult long term sleepover camp.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 5:44PM
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Time to get a GOOD RE attorney. Is it possible the government (local or state) could sieze or lien the property to cover back support? Don't rely on the agent(s) or title company for any legal advice, which you really need right now before making a decision.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 5:20AM
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That's what title insurance is for.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 5:54AM
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As others have said, it would be a non issue for me.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 6:44PM
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