Fake foreclosures: NH homeowners find their property listed for auction by mistake

Fake Foreclosures: NH homeowners find their property listed for auction by mistake

ATKINSON, N.H. — Local homeowners say their homes are listed as being in foreclosure, or even up for auction when they’re not. We found information on popular real estate websites that was wrong, and families tell us, getting that inaccurate information taken down can be difficult.

Juanita and Gerry Marchand know the struggle first hand.

The Marchands have lived in their Plaistow, New Hampshire home for 22 years and have no plans to move.

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“It’s crazy, my house is not up for foreclosure, we’re not going anywhere,” said Juanita Marchand.

You can imagine the Marchands’ surprise when they saw their home listed as in foreclosure and even up for auction on several real estate websites, including Zillow.com and Auction.com.

“Getting ton of texts, phone calls from people saying, ‘I want to make a cash offer on your house.’ My house isn’t for sale and I’d hang up and then all of a sudden all these texts were coming in and I said to him, ‘I don’t know why we’re getting them all of a sudden.’ And then I got one and it said I saw your house is in foreclosure and I went, ‘what?,’” Mrs. Marchand told Boston 25 News.

Both websites posted several pictures of the Marchands’ home, including their mailbox, which shows their name and street number. The problem is it’s the wrong house. They say the house in foreclosure is actually their neighbor’s home.

"Someone had to come and take those pictures and whoever it was who took those pictures didn’t verify this was the house," Gerry Marchand said.

The same thing also happened to Deb Judkins's home in Atkinson, New Hampshire where she and her husband have lived for 23 years. Zillow.com posted a picture of their home, but she says it was her next-door neighbor's house that was actually listed as pre-foreclosure. The home has since come out of pre-foreclosure, but the picture of the Judkin's home was still on the website as recently as January.

“A couple of times we had to call the police. We were reporting strange activity because there were cars sitting up the road, so yeah, it’s nerve-racking to have something like that, especially when our mortgage is up to date and people are taking pictures of your house,” Judkins said

So how does it happen? Zillow tells Boston 25 News it gets its information from public records, which it claims are not always accurate and from outside parties. In a statement, the online real estate database company told Boston 25 News, “Zillow’s data comes from a variety of sources, including public records and third-party vendors, and an error from the source data can sometimes appear on our site. Zillow strives for accuracy, and if consumers flag inaccurate data we will remove it.”

Real estate agent Staci Loeffler tells Boston 25 News, “Zillow is a site people often go to thinking all of this information that they are seeing on there is going to be correct and, unfortunately, it’s not always correct.”

Loeffler is licensed in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. She said it isn't uncommon to see a home listed inaccurately, or pictures of the wrong home, on real estate websites. She urges every homeowner to look up your property, even if you have no interest in selling.

"Search your property frequently. You should search it as much as you search yourselves on google. Just put it in and find out if the information is correct," Loeffler said.

Juanita Marchand said they have reached out to Zillow.com and Auction.com several times to have the pictures of their home taken off their websites. Zillow complied after the company was contacted by Boston 25 News.

Zillow said in a statement to Boston25 News, “After an investigation, it appears that the information provided by a third-party listing company was incorrect. We have removed the information from our site.”

The homeowners claim they asked Auction.com several times to remove the photos. The site finally took them down after Boston 25 News contacted them this month.

In a statement, Auction.com told Boston 25 News:

“We take the accuracy of the images on our platform very seriously."

Boston 25 News spoke with real estate attorneys who say missed mortgage payments can alert real estate sites to potential foreclosures as well, although it's not supposed to happen by law until 120-150 days of missed payments, depending on which state you live in.

They told us the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, is to check your records with your bank or mortgage company to confirm they’re accurate. If your property appears incorrectly on a real estate website and the site refuses to remove it, experts say you should contact an attorney.