I recall an evening a couple of years ago when a couple who I had recently sold a house to called me. They told me they a nephew drove a new car they purchased for their Key West down here from their home up north. He had parked under their carport and went back home.
They said a week later they were contacted by the Key West police. Their new Key West car had been involved in a hit and run accident after the nephew had returned to his home. Someone had got inside their house, found the keys, and drove the car more than a mile away to get involved in an accident. The car was returned to the covered parking space where it belonged.
I asked the obvious question: who had keys to the car? The couple did not know. They said the lady's Key West hair dresser had recommended a painter who did some work inside the house for them had access to the keys to the house as did the pool service man. My mind raced back to several prior conversations I had with the lady where she related stories about the hair dresser who she adored.
My buyers asked me if I would go to their house and remove the key to the house that was supposed to be in a lock box near the front door. I immediately went there. As soon as I got to the place I inspected the car. All four sides of the new car had damage. A chain had been wrapped through the trunk to keep the rear bumper from falling off. I took photos of the damage and then went to the lock box to remove the key. It was not there.
I got on my phone and called the owners. While we were talking I noticed a guy walking down the sidewalk and up to the house. He was in his 30s or 40s and had an open beer in his hand. He had that just-off-the-streets look that I am familiar with. I checkout the Monroe County Sheriff's online crime page every morning. I see guys that look like this every day of my life either on the page or walking the streets of Key West. I asked the guy "Do you live here?" He replied "I'm doing work for the owners." I told him I was the owners' real estate agent and that they sent me to fetch the key. He reached in his pocket and decided he did not have the key. He said to wait a minute and then walked around the house to the rear. Several minutes elapsed. I knocked on the door. No answer. I talked with the owners who were now mildly distressed. The owner suggested that I go home. He said he would come down (from more than a thousand miles away) and sort things out. Then the guy opened the front door and said to come in. Although the house had been freshly painted and furnished, it reeked of cigarette smoke. The smell of recently over-fried hamburgers lingered in the air. Every light in the house was turned on. The volume on the TV was on full blast. It was obvious this guy had moved in-to stay.
I asked the guy "Do you know how the car got damaged?" to which he replied "No." He turned away and walked toward French doors that opened out to the pool. His hands jerked up to his head. He grabbed his hair and ordered me to get out and said to come back in five minutes. He needed time to think.
I think it is very important that new owners hire licensed and insured contractors and other business professionals who may access to the inside of their homes or access to a car. Most real estate companies offer once a week home inspections to make sure a Key West dream house is safe and secure. Like I said "There are good people and some that are not so good. The bad people sometimes give the rest of us a bad name."