Russian Spies: How to Tell If Your Real Estate Pro Is a Secret Agent

Accused Russian spy Anna Chapman"The Spy Who Sold My Condo" may be a plausible title for the next Bond flick. It turns out that two of the 11 people arrested in possible connection with a Russian espionage ring were ensconced in another high stakes world – real estate.

Anna Chapman, a svelte 28-year-old (pictured) who is quickly taking center stage in this international drama, is reportedly the CEO of, a real estate search engine for Russian-speaking house-hunters. The other woman, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, is an agent for, an online real estate brokerage.

By all accounts, both women were personable, friendly and engaging – the paragon for any real estate agent worth his or her salt.

So how can you know if your real estate agent is really who they say they are?

We spoke to Rob Hahn, a real estate insider and HousingWatch contributor, to find out how consumers can protect themselves from phony real estate agents:

Get Their Records
Whether you're on the market to buy or sell, "make sure you get something objective" to base your decision on. Virtually every real estate agent is a member of their Multiple Listings Service (MLS) and has access to performance data. While this information is not commonly available to the public, you should feel comfortable asking your agent for access to their transactional history, Hahn says. And if they refuse, take your business elsewhere.

Ask Around
Listed on all of your broker's recent transactions is the name of past clients and any other agents involved in the deal. You'll need to ask permission to speak with past clients, Hahn says, but any agent who values transparency would make the extra effort to find them. Also find agents who have worked with your broker in the past and gauge their reaction to your questions.

Embrace Social Network Stalking
"What you're looking for is consistency in their story," Hahn says. And there may be no better place to find holes in their story than on the Internet. Follow them on Twitter and read their Facebook updates. A lot of agents these days have blogs, Hahn says, and they serve as great repositories of information. Do they claim to be a local expert, but make no mention of the neighborhood on their site? That may be cause for alarm. Do they have any recommendations on their LinkedIn profile? Combine real-world sleuthing with online snooping, and you'll be surprised what you come up with.

In the end, it may not matter if your broker is a secret agent, so long as they're a competent broker. Just make sure they can deliver in their day job.

And if you think Facebook and Twitter are a waste of time, just ask Anna Chapman, whose risque photos were mainly lifted from her social media accounts:

Washington Post gallery
New York Post gallery

Also at AOL Real Estate:
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See how to calculate mortgage payments.


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