A Jacksonville home with an estimated value of $2.3 million was listed on Zillow for $21,000 less than a day ago, bringing the Northeast Florida housing market into this latest scam trend.
After the initial publication of this story, the listing was removed Tuesday afternoon. It had been up for almost 20 hours with over 1,000 views and about 100 saves.
The property on Pine Street in Avondale features a five-bedroom, five-bathroom home with more than 5,700 square feet for $21,000 — though the description notes “$21,000” is a typo and the “real” list price is “$22,000” for a cash-only, first-time homebuyer. The Zillow estimate for the home’s value is about $2.3 million, and it was last sold in October 2021 for about $1.9 million.
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The “too good to be true” price of the property is a notable red flag of a scam underway, but the description and overview on the listing solidify the fraud.
“I’m selling my home inexpensively because, my family own many properties across the country,” the listing said. “A few times a year we sell one or a few of our homes to first time buyers for under $50,000. This is done as a tax rite off for us, & to bless a family or individual that needs it, & as being a first time buyer, may not be able to get a home otherwise.”
The listing explicitly warned people with representation — such as Realtors, lenders, investors and attorneys — not to contact the “seller.” It also excluded anyone who has owned a home previously.
It also claimed the home is tenant occupied until July 24 and not to disturb the “tenants” — which is partially true. Homeowners Jan and John Hirabayashi, who is the president and CEO of Community First Credit Union, did not want to be disturbed by someone pretending to sell their property.
To top it all off, the listing required a $2,000 cash deposit via Zelle bank transfer in order to schedule a time — at least six days in advance — for “potential buyers” to view the home. A home tour also required a signature via email, photo of ID and email address, and each step of the process was emphasized as “non-negotiable.”
The scammers’ apparent goal is to wrack up $2,000 deposits using photographs from a home’s previous listing. The properties listed with this scam template are not for sale.
An almost identical scam was reported last month in Raleigh, North Carolina, by a local ABC news station.
Zillow’s website includes a page on avoiding home sale and rental scams.
A spokesperson for Zillow said it “strives to provide a safe online platform, and we go to great lengths to monitor activity and fully inform our users of the risks of scams on the internet and how to protect themselves.”
The spokesperson also said Zillow actively screens for possible fraud or scams and removes fraudulent listings quickly, like it did with the Jacksonville one Tuesday. The spokesperson confirmed the account associated with that listing was blocked, too.
Jan Hirabayashi said both a neighbor and her realtor notified her of the listing Tuesday morning.
“It was a surprise for sure,” she said. “I was confused how it could be listed, obviously.”
Hirabayashi reported the listing as fraudulent, and Zillow emailed her a confirmation of having received the report but has not followed up with next steps or a timeframe for when the listing might be taken down.
During a Tuesday afternoon interview with the Times-Union about the listing, Hirabayashi said she was standing outside and noticed a car doing a drive-by to check out the home.
“It’s not for sale!” she called to the driver while laughing.
Hirabayashi also sent screenshots from the Duval County Property Appraiser’s office to verify ownership and attempted to claim the home as hers on Zillow but was unable to — likely because the scammer has claimed ownership already.
Hirabayashi said her husband is hosting a family reunion this weekend with about 30 people expected to come, and she jokingly warned their guests that the home isn’t for sale and they hope the gathering won’t be mistaken for an open house.
“I’m just hoping Zillow does its thing,” she said. “I just finished furnishing it so I’m not ready to sell it yet.”
By 1:30 p.m., the listing was removed from Zillow, and accurate sale information from 2021 was back up. Hirabayashi said it took about four hours from her reporting the listing to seeing this action, though she was never notified by Zillow about the change.