Billy Makedonsky thought hed found the perfect retirement home for his 75-year-old mother. Better yet, buying it required just a few mouse clicks.
His only concern about the bank-owned house with the terracotta driveway and barrel-tiled roof other than the fact hed never bought a home online before was this caveat on GoHoming, the site auctioning off the property as is: Please DO NOT DISTURB the occupant.
Turns out he had good reason to be worried.
For $159,000, what Makedonsky got was a house wrapped up in multiple bankruptcies, foreclosed in protested proceedings, and shrouded by allegations of fraud. The home is also the residence of El Portals former mayor, Joyce A. Davis, who said she wasnt about to leave it in the middle of her comeback campaign.
There were signs up all over El Portal: Elect Joyce Davis for Mayor, and she was squatting in my home, marveled Makedonsky, a 41-year-old flight attendant.
Makedonskys tale is just one buyer-beware among many in the digital age, when reams of distressed and bank-owned properties are added daily to online auction sites, making the business of vulturing real estate cheaper and more accessible. The flipside: Establishing clear title and control of the home, which some cash buyers have never set foot in, can mean sorting through a thicket of foreclosure filings, fraud allegations, bankruptcies, other mortgages, association liens, creditors and combative tenants.
People dont realize theres a lot more to it than ponying up some money, said Dennis Donet, a Miami foreclosure defense attorney.
Makedonskys adventure began in August, when his mother gave him permission to spend her nest egg on the house just around the corner from Horace Mann Middle School despite warnings on the private site GoHoming, now called HubZu.com, that someone was still living there.
Worried that occupant was a real estate euphemism for crack heads, Makedonsky drove to the Northeast Dade village of El Portal and knocked on the door. He was relieved to find not some strung-out vagrant, but Davis, El Portals 69-year-old former mayor.
So he bought the house, thinking he would offer Davis $1,000 to leave, a transaction known in the business as cash for keys.
She didnt go for it, said Makedonsky, who sued in October to evict her.
Davis says in court filings that she is a widow living on a fixed income with nowhere else to go, that she is the victim of fraud, and that Makedonskys claims that she is squatting are bogus.
I dont care what hes calling me, that doesnt make it true, said Davis, who ultimately lost the Nov. 6 election to Mayor Daisy Black, netting just 18 percent of the vote.
Davis, who was El Portals vice mayor from 2004 to 2008 and then mayor until 2010, has so far been successful in fending off Makedonskys eviction attempts.
Makedonsky received a judgment for removal of tenant from Judge Shelley Kravitz on Nov. 13. The next day, Davis filed for protection based on her ongoing bankruptcy case, which can halt eviction proceedings. Her motion was dismissed, but Davis filed an emergency motion Nov. 27 saying she was the victim of fraud.
Kravitz then issued a stay, putting things on hold pending the results of a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.