Surging Squatters Are Latest Challenge for Realtors

Surging Squatters Are Latest Challenge for Realtors

As if the housing market crisis wasn’t bad enough, realtors have a whole other issue on their hands right now – a surge in squatters. Just ask any realtor what they think of this latest challenge and they’re bound to tell you that they’re somewhat fed up.

In the past couple of months, there has been an apparent surge in squatters living in otherwise vacant, bank-owned properties. You can see why this would be a problem for realtors. However, we’re not talking about poor families desperate for a place to live because they’ve had to move out of their previous home.

No. We are talking about a whole other breed of squatters. Opportunistic people that move into a vacant property and use it for a profit. Curious as to what we mean?

This new batch of squatters is quite dangerous, especially to the realtors trying to sell a property and get a family moved in. In fact, this situation is even more common than we once thought. Basically, quite a few of these squatters will move in temporarily and with a plan – usually throwing huge house parties or raves, charging admission, trashing the place, and moving on to the next place.

What is Squatting?

Becoming a squatter is pretty easy. You simply pick an abandoned property and move in – without permission. So, if you hadn’t picked up on it already, squatting is completely illegal. It’s basically trespassing. That means that there aren’t a whole lot of squatters hiring moving companies to help them move in.

Some squatters actually get kind of sneaky. They don’t just force themselves into an empty building or house, they actually draw up bogus lease agreements, get fake driver’s licenses, and actually turn on the utilities. Sometimes, they use the address to enroll their kids into schools, get mail, and live rent or mortgage free until they are caught.

You might be wondering how squatters actually take over a property. It isn’t that hard, to tell the truth. Often, banks hold off on placing certain properties on the market right away, which gives squatters time to move in and set up “house.” It is usually the realtor that discovers the squatters – who don’t even have to move out right away! It can take up to four months to formally and legally evict someone from a property – even a squatter!

What’s the Big Deal?

Squatters do a lot more damage to real estate than just spooking a few realtors here and there. Plenty of them do quite a bit of damage to the property. Realtors have gone into homes after squatters have left to see a big mess including things such as broken windows, missing appliances, punched walls, fixtures being ripped out, and every other thing you can imagine.

So, if you are a realtor and think there might be squatters living on a property you might be showing, take a look around before you enter the house or building. Are there signs of forced entry? And always tell someone where you are going before you get there!

Lance Grooms