iBuyer Beware! 

By Patti Stueckler 

In the 1990 movie, Pacific Heights, Michael Keaton plays a psychotic squatter who terrorizes a San Francisco couple while living in their home.  The husband and wife, played by Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith, decide to help pay for their recent home renovation by renting out a basement apartment to a charming young man. Before long, the tenant has terrorized the couple, destroyed their home, and nearly killed them.  Of course this is just a movie about a nightmare squatter.

But could you imagine trying to sell your vacant home and ending up with squatters?

Well, that’s exactly what’s happening with the increase of iBuyers throughout the country.  iBuyers refer to startups that charge a seven percent fee but allow sellers the convenience of selling quickly with all-cash offers. Various cities in states like Arizona, California and Texas offer these alternative real estate selling models like Opendoor and Offerpad, where buyers can access a home without a realtor. 

A recent Inman article, ‘Invasion of the iSquatters: What happens when iBuyer self-tours go wrong?’ details the problem.  Author Veronika Bondarenko states that realtors are discovering disheveled homeless people camping out in homes and locking out potential buyers. She also cites cases of squatters cranking up the utilities, damaging properties, and getting arrested. 

“When you can get a code online and walk into a house, you’re going to see a whole new stream of squatters that take advantage of the situation,” said Cybersecurity Analyst Robert Siciliano in the Inman article.

The current Maryland market has not really been affected by iBuyers. However, in these other markets, realtors have had to become much more vigilant about their safety during home tours.