On Sunday, April 10th, as I proceeded to inspect my vacant residential listings, I noticed something wrong as I approached one particular listing. I noticed multiple windows were open. At first, I thought an agent may have left the windows open by mistake, but I had no indication from the listing service that an agent had recently shown the home. Maybe the owner had requested work done on the home and forgot to inform me. Regardless, I proceeded to park my vehicle in the home’s driveway and began to approach the front door. As I got closer to the front door, through the large front windows I saw moving shadows inside the house, and soon after that, what sounded like a large dog began barking at me. I quickly retreated to my vehicle and dialed 9-1-1.
The Lee County Sheriff‘s Department arrived quickly – within a few minutes. The first deputy to arrive went around and behind the home while another deputy approached the front door, then all hell broke loose. I heard the first deputy yell at someone inside the home and soon after, as the second deputy attempted to open the front door, a huge pitbull lunged forward, forcing the deputy to display his service weapon. Much to his credit, the deputy was able to take the matter under control and spared the dog’s life. In what seemed to be controlled chaos, the home was swarmed by numerous other Lee County deputies and from where I stood, I could hear commands coming from the deputies for the intruder to get on the ground. Shortly thereafter, the intruder was handcuffed and placed in a squad car, and the dog was removed from the property with the help of Lee County Domestic Animal Services.
But this story does not end there. While at the scene during the investigation, a neighbor informed the detective that there had been a silver car in the driveway a short time before I arrived. The detective informed me of this, which led us to believe there were others involved.
Fast forward to sometime between 9 and 9:30 PM on the same day, I went back to do a second check on the home and as I was driving up, I noticed a silver PT Cruiser sitting in the driveway. Once again, I called 9-1-1 and within minutes the first Lee County deputy arrived, taking the accomplice into custody.
Here is where it gets creepy. I was informed by the detective that the home intruders had information of me and my listing on their iPhones from Realtor.com. They had also looked up information on the owner, which is a Florida LLC, based in Fort Lauderdale. From what we can deduce, the idea the intruders had was to move into the home and produce a fake lease, which would then turn the situation into a civil matter rather than criminal one. What the intruders did not expect is that I would be making my rounds on a Sunday.
I later found out that the Silver PT Cruiser was stolen and the intruders intended to move all of the personal belongings in the car into the home to establish residency. The detective told me this is becoming a huge issue in both Lee and Collier Counties.
I want to take this opportunity and ask my fellow agents to please be very careful and to think twice before entering a vacant home. This could have turned out much worse had I not paid attention to the red flags and gut instincts that alerted me. I can only imagine what would have happened to me had I entered the home without knowledge of the dog or the intruder.
Let your broker, a fellow agent, receptionist or family member know where you’ll be while inspecting or showing a vacant home. Always trust your instincts and never enter a home or close a front door behind you if you’re alone. And when it’s possible, take a fellow agent with you if you do not feel secure enough to go on your own. There is no shame in taking backup with you, or even canceling a showing if you do not feel comfortable or know/trust the person you’ll be showing the home too.
Please stay safe. In the end your life is worth more than your listing.
R. Alex Souza, Broker / REALTOR® – Signature Brokers