LANIKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - There’s a beautiful, luxurious home in the hills above Lanikai with a priceless view of Kailua Bay and the Mokulua islands. And you can rent it for your next vacation for $1,400 a night.
“And it’s a complete scam. Obviously, I’m not renting it.”
That’s what homeowner Tim Smythe told us. He’s not renting out the home for vacationers. But HomeAway is advertising it, with a five-day minimum.
Smythe is listing the home for sale on the Web site Zillow. His broker, Joel Cavasso of Elite Pacific Properties, was tipped off about the vacation rental listing, and asked his client if it was true. (Again, it’s not.)
The HomeAway site even uses the same exact photos and property description as the real estate listing, but the photos are flipped in reverse.
Cavasso said it’s the first time he’s had something like this on one of his properties. He said another Lanikai home was also listed on HomeAway, and also isn’t for rent.
If you take the bait and try to rent it, you’re directed to a screen telling you to email the “owner” -- a mystery woman named Roberta. Otherwise, the booking will be canceled.
We sent an email to “Roberta” and asked if dates in August were available. She emailed back that we would be able to book those dates, and even offered a ten percent discount, with a security deposit of $1,000. She sent another email with a link to book the rental, but the link did not work. The booking site URL was for “h0meaway.c0m,” with zeroes where the letter "o" should be.
We were asked several times, again via email, whether we had booked the rental. When told that the link was not working, Roberta emailed this reponse, verbatim: “I get the same problem.i think homeaway are working on improving the website. We got an email that we will have some difficulties these days.but this is the first problem we got until now.give it some time and try later it will be ok .”
The Better Business Bureau says customers need to watch for red flags, like the request for an email.
“If you’re going to a reputable online rental such as HomeAway, you would do all your communications via that website,” said Roseann Freitas of the BBB Northwest + Pacific office in Honolulu. “If they try to get you to email them separately or call them separately, that should be a big warning sign.”
Smythe has been trying to get HomeAway to remove the listing, and has documents to prove that he’s the real owner. However, he says he was told “They can’t take the listing off because it has a different address than (the home’s actual) address.”
So far, no one has showed up at his door.
“You put a deposit down and you have this all planned out and you come over here and I’m living here," said Smythe. "I’d feel so bad for those people.”
“It would be horrible. They’d be here with no place to stay.”