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Shady Real Estate Agent

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And if a client wants a house, we find him one. If it's a house in a lonely place with no amenities, we stress its antiquity, call it a period piece- and don't mention the plumbing! And if a house looks straight into the gasworks, we talk about amenities and facilities and don't mention the view. Hustle your client into it - that's what you're here to do. All sorts of little tricks there are.
Mr. Scuttle, real estate agent, Mrs. McGinty's Dead

A seemingly friendly and helpful character whose job is to help people like newlywed couples looking for their first home to find the best possible domicile, but whose deceptive behavior and underhanded tactics screams "real estate fraud" to the viewer.

Whether he's a real Con Man selling a counterfeit deed or just a deceptive and misleading entrepreneur, you can be sure that, as soon as they clients signed the papers, the characters will be cursed with leaking roofs and drafty windows... or worse.

The shady real estate agent "forgets" the keys to the rat-infested garage with the rotting roof beams so the clients can't inspect it. They "misplaced" the former owner's engineering report on the foundation (so the owners won't learn about the hidden cracks). When the clients ask to see the attic (where the timbers are riddled with termites), the agent "suddenly realizes they have to leave for an urgent meeting." Just before they rush off, they tell the clients that "there's loads of interest in this house, you'd better make an offer quickly!" And it also happened it "completely slipped their mind" that the former owner killed their whole family here and they still have not been caught. Oops...

See also The Con, The Alleged House. Compare Honest John's Dealership.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Frieza and his Planet Trade Organization from Dragon Ball acts as this. He sends the Frieza Force into a planet and liquidate it so he can sell the planet back to the highest bidder.
  • Dragon Goes House-Hunting has Victor, a vampire who briefly takes over Dearia's role as Letty's contractor while Dearia goes off to visit an exhibition. However, almost all the houses Victor recommends are practically unlivable—the first one, for instance, has cracked walls, leaking rooftops, infested with pests, and is built on the back of the "landlord" who can wander off at any moment, taking the house with it. Whenever Letty or Nell express concerns about the abode he's offering, he always try to wave it off that "it's by design".
  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: Japanese real estate agents are legally required to tell the truth about what happened to the previous tenant (murder, suicide, hauntings, etc.) But this only applies to the tenant immediately before the new customer. In one chapter of the manga, a decidedly shady-looking real estate agent employs a man to live in dubious properties just long enough to trigger the loophole.
  • The character who launches the events of Little House with an Orange Roof qualifies, by selling the same house to two families, who are then forced to live together.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Julia, the main character of La Comunidad, is a real estate agent tasked with the job of selling a luxurious flat within a dingy block, but she's a sleazy Professional Slacker who takes advantage of the job to use and live in said lavish apartment even though she should be keeping it in pristine state for possible buyers.
  • Grouch Marx plays a subdued version in The Cocoanuts — while he doesn't resort to outright fraud or chicanery, his descriptions of the real estate lots of Cocoanut Grove definitely take some... creative liberties.
  • Ghostbusters (1984):
    • The female real estate agent trying to get the heroes to buy an old firehouse as their headquarters.
      Real estate agent: There's office space, sleeping quarters and a full kitchen.
      Peter Venkman: It seems a little pricey for a "unique" fixer-upper. What do you think, Egon?
      Egon Spengler: I think this building should be condemned. There's serious metal fatigue in all the load-bearing members, the wiring is substandard, it's completely inadequate for our power needs, and the neighborhood is like a demilitarized zone.
    • Ray, on the other hand, falls in love with the place immediately, and since they used his family property as collateral to get their seed money, the other two have to go with his wishes. Besides, the pole is pretty sweet.
  • A whole room full of them in the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross. See Theatre for details.
  • Lethal Weapon 3: Inverted. Murtaugh asks Leo Getz to help him sell his house. Leo, unfortunately, is a bit too law-abiding for Roger's good and the two people who are interested enough to see the house are scared off real quick when Leo mentions the multiple damages the Murtaugh house has suffered as a result of the villains of the previous two movies trying to kill Roger. The scene ends with Murtaugh angrily hollering at Getz that he didn't had to tell them those details.
  • The agent who sold the house to Tom Hanks and Shelley Long's characters in The Money Pit. The former tenant was the one who talked them into buying it, and though she fit the archetype perfectly, she wasn't an agent. She and "Carlos" were scam artists who made their money by flipping distressed properties.
  • One is mentioned, if not seen, in the film Se7en. When Detective Somerset goes over the Mills household for dinner, multiple trains passing nearby make everything in the house shake. At one point Mrs. Mills mentions that when they were looking at the house, they thought it was great, but wondered why the realtor would only let them stay in it for 5 minutes at a time. Now they understand all too well.
  • Vivarium: The real estate agent is revealed to have forced them to adopt an alien baby in the Eldritch Location of Yonder, leading to their deaths, and may be an alien himself.

  • Bret King Mysteries: Dorset from The Mystery of Bandit Gulch is suspected of various confidence schemes and sells a Returning War Vet a barren piece of land to ranch on.
  • The Bunker Diary: Anja is an unlikeable, selfish real estate agent, seeming to lie about her connection to the kidnappings (although the actual truth is not revealed so it's left ambiguous), doing nothing to help Linus escape the bunker, and hiding food from the others when they're all starving to death.
  • Linked: Realtor George Rowley is obsessed with quashing news stories about racism in his hometown due to how it could ruin a theme park deal that would let him get rich by selling thousands of acres of land he bought cheap to resort companies and the like. However, this is also a bit downplayed, given that he does greatly care about the interests and future of the town as a whole and not just his own fortune.
  • Moonflower Murders: Adrian met his wife Cecily while he was showing her a house - and he was also squatting in a swish flat so he could appear wealthy, and using it to prostitute himself. Although he worked at a hotel by then, he also murdered Cecily when she found out that he'd killed one of his clients.
  • Newlyweds Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina are looking to move out of the shabby apartment in downmarket Fountain Court and to move into their first marital place together, ideally in a slightly better area of Rome. A plausible and helpful apartment broker gets them the seemingly ideal place in a spanking new build among other aspiring young professionals. The only problem is, all the little creaks and shifts in which the helpful estate agent assures them are down to a new build "settling" and will go away after a while. This is technically true, but unfortunately the building eventually settles so far that it collapses. After fearing Helena is dead, Falco looks the other way while enraged survivors lynch the estate agent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Marcy from American Horror Story: Murder House is a rude, bigoted middle-aged woman who always tries to downplay the fact that the house she is selling is a Murder House and never mentions that everyone who has lived there has been murdered and comes back as a trapped ghost. She still has difficulty selling it though, which is why the house is so cheap.
  • Gary on The Closer, who Brenda and Fritz enlist when they want to sell Brenda's house and buy a new one together. His catchphrase is "Gary doesn't lie!"
  • An episode of CSI: NY features an estate agent who earns his living by breaking into houses to evaluate them before his competition. Unfortunately for him the house he breaks into is booby trapped, and he ends up burnt to death by a trap triggered by a phone while trying to call for help.
  • Desperate Housewives:
    • The bitchy, unscrupulous Edie Britt is a realtor, although about the shadiest thing she's ever done related to her work is when she tries to lie about Mary-Alice's suicide happening in the Youngs' house so she could sell it. Other than that, she is portrayed as very self-absorbed and "slutty", although how villainous she is depends on the writer.
    • Downplayed with Lee, who is portrayed as not the savviest if anything and is Played for Laughs, such as lying to Angie about Mary-Alice's suicide (although Angie doesn't mind when she finds out the truth) and selling a bunch of houses to Paul Young, allowing convicts to move in.
  • Mr. Haney from Green Acres is usually an Honest John, but he did sell Oliver his old home, which is borderline dilapidated.
  • An episode of In Plain Sight has Mary's latest witness being a con artist who turned on her partners. The story opens with her pulling a scam of cleaning up a house and showing it off to a couple, getting a hefty "down payment" for it. The couple are moving in when the police show up to inform them that the house had been foreclosed on and was never on the market.
  • Midsomer Murders had one who scammed clients with the help of a Crooked Contractor.
  • One episode of Minder had a crooked slum lord who might have been based on Peter Rachman, below (or at least the two used similar methods).
  • Harold Gribble from Round the Twist.
  • ''Mongrels has Nelson become one of these in "Nelson and the AMAZING Nuts" in order to save his den. He even sings an entire song portraying a dangerous neighborhood as a beautiful paradise.
  • Murder, She Wrote had three episodes with Harry Pierce, who made dubiously legal land deals with people outside Cabot Cove, and was eventually revealed to be willing to resort to arson and murder to get ahead.
  • In the documentary series Scam City, when the host of the show goes to Las Vegas to explore what kind of scams are used to target tourists he tries to go to the apartment he rented for the duration of the shoot, only to be told that the place was motel, (this was filmed a year or so before AirBn took off) and that the person he spoke with on the phone to rent the apartment had repeatedly pulled the same scam on other people.
  • Schitt's Creek has a light-hearted version of this trope in Ray Butani. He's actually pretty honest, but he's aggressively optimistic and will put an over-the-top positive spin on the most modest of properties. For example, he refers to a tiny closet as a step-in closet and tries to convince Patrick and David that having a curtain instead of a door on the bathroom is a good thing.
  • Bob Jelly from SeaChange is not a con man, but definitely opportunistic.
  • In Survivor: Caramoan, Reynold Toepfer is the epitome of this trope. A couple other examples would be Blake Towsley in Guatemala and Sash Lenahan in Nicaragua
  • The reformed monks of Old John from the British comedy, Yonderland, after being taught how to lie, become "real estate agents". (They don't exactly know what real estate agents do or how they make a living, but they wear suits and try to sell houses... Despite having no properties to sell.)

  • Everyone but the cop in Glengarry Glen Ross fits this trope. The most shady of all of them is Shelly "The Machine" Levene, who robs the office to get the best leads after finding out he's going to be fired if he doesn't sell. That said, some productions avert this, as playwright David Mamet's stance is unclear. Given the terrible market for real estate and that the agents are mainly assigned to sell to people who have no desire (or money) to buy anything, they don't probably go beyond very aggressive selling. All of the cast can be portrayed as dedicated, honest workers who are simply being run over by the firm which owns their company, and who end up being shady, and real estate agents, but not shady real estate agents, as it were.

    Video Games 
  • Subverted with Bethany in Cragne Manor. Despite the kind of town Backwater is, and the pamphlets you find that try to pass off flaws that make the houses clearly unlivable as upsides, Bethany gives completely accurate descriptions of the houses. While she has to sell them for her job, she's not above admitting that they're terrible and unlivable once she gets to know you more.
  • In Dot's Home, Michael Murphy III continues his grandfather's legacy of scamming Black people into buying inferior houses by lying about their quality and then adding hidden maintenance costs to inflate their prices. He also starts the Keys-for-Cash promo to trick them into selling their old, run-down houses for a high price in order to pay the bills.
  • Yakuza 0 has the Five Billionaires, a group of wealthy real estate magnates who own various properties around Kamurocho and serve as the antagonist to Kiryu's "Real Estate Royale" sidequest in which he must buy up their properties and eventually beat them in a fight.

    Web Comics 
  • Dr. E. M. Balmer from Awful Hospital is an odd version of this: The "real estate" is corpses, and the customers are decomposers like maggots and fungi.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Peter Rachman is an infamous British real-life example. An MP actually coined the term "Rachmanism", meaning "screwing over your tenants", and it got into the OED.
  • In an infamous case in the UK, an agency advertised a country cottage for sale along with a lovely picture of the scenic view from one exterior angle. They neglected to mention that viewed from the other direction, there was a nuclear power plant directly behind the house.
  • Mafia kingpin Salvatore "Little Caesar" Maranzano, boss of the modern-day Bonanno crime family, owned a phony real estate brokerage and development company as a cover for his illegal bootlegging and heroin-trafficking business in the 1920s.
    • Likewise, the Colombo crime family's namesake boss even obtained the requisite licensing to operate as one.