FLOWER MOUND, Texas -- After paying $16 to file a one-page claim to an empty, $340,000 home in an upscale Dallas suburb, Kenneth Robinson moved in furniture, hung a "No Trespassing" sign in the front window and invited television cameras inside for a tour.
He quickly turned into something of a local celebrity, creating a website -- http://16dollarhouse.com -- where he sold an e-book and offered training sessions for would-be squatters. And while real estate experts and authorities say he's misusing the law, Robinson appears to have inspired dozens of imitators to move into Dallas-Fort Worth area homes -- some of which were still occupied by their owners.
But Robinson's time in the house ran out Monday.
Bank of America wants possession after foreclosing on the home last month, and a judge on Monday gave Robinson until Feb. 13 to appeal or move out. Rather than wait to be evicted, Robinson slipped out before sunrise Monday, skipped a morning court hearing and refused to say where he was moving next.
"It's been a huge learning experience," he said in a phone call with reporters.
On his website, Robinson describes himself as a savvy investor who's part of a "paradigm shift" in which people have taken over abandoned homes. In his "adverse possession" claim filed in court last June, he promised to pay taxes and homeowners' association fees while living in the house. He kept the lawn outside mowed, and the front clean.
Robinson spoke to The Associated Press last week while standing at the front door of the two-story, 3,200-square-foot home with a backyard pool. He declined to discuss his background or say how much money he made from book sales or seminars related to his takeover.
He said he started his website -- which describes him as "poised, measured, insightful and wise" -- to keep the media and others from misleading the public about his story.
"They think some bum off the street came and paid $15 to get a $300,000 house by filing a piece of paperwork," Robinson said. "That is not the case. That is the sum of what happened."
Robinson's website says he's not a lawyer and isn't offering legal advice but has done real estate research.
Real estate experts say he's got the law just plain wrong.
Adverse possession statutes can be found in most states, said Brian C. Rider, a real estate lawyer and professor at the University of Texas. Someone who has openly taken charge of abandoned land for an extended period of time -- using a driveway on a neighbor's property, for example -- could try to claim that land later, he said.
But it takes a long time to establish those rights -- typically 10 years in Texas. Until then, anyone trying to stake claim to a piece of property owned by someone else is just a squatter, Rider said.
Arlington, Texas, real estate attorney Grey Pierson said the law is often used to resolve disputes between homeowners over driveways, lawns or other property with shared boundaries -- not to take someone's house.
It's not clear how long the home in Flower Mound was empty before Robinson moved in. Its last owner, William Ferguson, bought the house for $332,000 in 2005 and appeared to run into trouble making payments about three years later, according to county records. Ferguson did not have a listed phone number, and the records don't indicate where he moved.
County clerks in North Texas said they have seen such a spike in adverse possession filings that they've stopped accepting the claims without prosecutors' approval. In a handful of cases, squatters entered homes that weren't abandoned, but left empty for a few days.
"We just had people making bad decisions, taking a portion of the law and applying it in a way that was not legal," Tarrant County clerk Mary Louise Garcia said.
In one case, an Arlington travel nurse came home in September to find her locks changed and two TVs missing, according to a police report. Authorities say Anthony Brown came to the front door and told her that he had claimed the home and she was trespassing.
When the nurse asked Brown for his paperwork, he offered to return the home for $2,000, police said. Brown, who was arrested in October, does not have an attorney listed and did not respond to messages left on his cellphone.
Tarrant County constable Clint Burgess said authorities have interviewed a handful of people claiming "adverse possession" who said they spoke to Robinson. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Robinson attended a December eviction hearing for two charged with burglary. Robinson said then he was attending to show support for the couple.
He says now that he doesn't want to be an example to others.
"The truth is I don't want people to think that they should go out there and do anything based on what I did," he said last week. "Whether they do it or whether they're not is solely up to them."
Robinson hasn't been charged with a crime but police said they responded to several calls from his neighbors. One neighbor, Chris Custard, attended Monday's hearing and was smiling after the eviction was ordered.
"We're going to throw a party," he said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
Rebounding Real Estate Markets: Top 10 Turnaround Towns
Kenneth Robinson, $16 Squatter, Kicked Out of Upscale Home
Median List Price Appreciation: 17.79 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -16.18 percent
Inventory Change: -29.25 percent
Home Price: $2.999 million
Sq. Ft.: 5,123
After slipping out of Realtor.com's top 10 rankings for the third quarter of last year, Punta Gorda has reclaimed status as a town in the vanguard of real estate recovery. Home prices are reportedly just beginning to trend upward. But they still have a long way to go: home prices in town are 56.2 percent lower than they were in 2006, at the peak of the housing boom.
Median List Price Appreciation: 9.09 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -28.89 percent
Inventory Change: -35.28 percent
At 11 percent, the Lakeland-Winter area has the highest rate of unemployment on Realtor.com's top 10. But the real estate market seems to be another story. Realtor.com says that the area was the fourth-most-searched spot by users of their listing service. Distressed home sales have fallen significantly from last year as well.
Home Price: $1.3 million
Sq. Ft.: 7,813
The local market may be on the road to recovery, but distressed home sales still are hindering the market. This French mansion is selling by way of short sale.
Median List Price Appreciation: 7.84 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -35.71 percent
Inventory Change: -41.63 percent
Home Price: $5 million
Sq. Ft.: 8,700
Sale prices in this sultry town have risen 18 percent year-over-year, as of November, quite an encouraging sign for the local market. Meanwhile, unemployment is shrinking. The rate fell to 9.4 percent in November.
This Mediterranean may have just seen its price slashed, but with a $5 million ask, it'll still cost you a pretty penny.
Median List Price Appreciation: 13.38 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -13.64 percent
Inventory Change: -35.94 percent
Home Price: $19.9 million
Sq. Ft.: 8,226
Naples finds its way onto Realtor.com's list for the first time this quarter, thanks, in part, to its housing market's 13.64 percent decline in median age inventory and 13.38 increase in median list price.
Naples offers its fair share of uber-luxury homes. This waterfront mansion, at nearly $20 million, costs $2,419 per square foot.
Pictured here is a dining room of the home (we're guessing there's probably another one considering the place is 8,000 square feet). The elaborately decorated room features what appears to be a flying saucer. Maybe it can beam up the filet mignon.
Median List Price Appreciation: 13.77 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -23.42 percent
Inventory Change: -39.66 percent
Home Price: $1.5 million
Sq. Ft.: 4,875
A drop in foreclosures in this city shrank its year-over-year for-sale inventory by a whopping 40 percent as of last year's fourth quarter. The city also enjoys the benefit of an unemployment rate that is lower than the national average.
Median List Price Appreciation: 10.78 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -26.57 percent
Inventory Change: -31.01 percent
Home Price: $12.5 million
Sq. Ft.: 7,194
In Sarasota, home sales jumped 17 percent last year while median list prices defied the national downward price decline by ticking up 2 percent. Realtor.com goes so far as to suggest that the market may have graduated to "seller's market" status, unthinkable in most housing markets across the country.
Thrust out into the Gulf of Mexico, this jaw-dropping manse practically commands its own square-shaped peninsula. But apparently personal peninsulas don't come cheap in Sarasota: This property is listed to the tune of $12.5 million.
Pictured here is the home's covered dock that parks at least two boats. Inside the home you'll find an exercise room, library and attached "oversized" verandas. Other outdoor amenities include an expansive pool and shuffleboard courts.
Median List Price Appreciation: 31.27 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -17.60 percent
Inventory Change: -35.31 percent
Price: $8.7 million
Sq. Ft.: 13,723
The Fort Myers-Cape Coral area continues to chug along the path to recovery with its median sales price zooming upward by 20 percent last year. But there's more to brag about: The area experienced the highest year-over-year increase in median list price for the fourth quarter -- 31.27 percent.
Median List Price Appreciation: 8.22 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -36.52 percent
Inventory Change: -44.02 percent
Home Price: $3.99 million
Sq. Ft.: 8,676
Year-over-year inventory plummeted by 44 percent in Orlando in the fourth quarter of last year, while list prices rose 8.22 percent. Both movements point toward a market that is truly beginning to right itself.
Fit for the big-swinging, cigar-smoking mogul, this luxury home, which recently had its price cut, puts you close to the links.
Median List Price Appreciation: 15.38 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -27.47 percent
Inventory Change: -48.10 percent
Home Price: $5.995 million
Sq. Ft.: 11,039
An area that had its housing market severely bruised by the foreclosure crisis, the Phoenix-Mesa area is mounting a recovery in a big way. While residents continue to file for foreclosure at a rate above the national average, the glut of cheap homes idling on the market has lured bargain-hunters. The area's relatively low unemployment rate of 7.7 percent also will work in its housing market's favor.
Median List Price Appreciation: 28.57 percent
Median Age of Inventory: -30.89 percent
Inventory Change: -51.44 percent
Home Price: $6 million
Sq. Ft.: 3,870
Buy in the city where the heat is on -- all night on the beach 'cause the housing slump's gone! Welcome to Miami (beinvenido a Miami)!
Miami leads the pack of cities building toward a recovery. Existing home sales in the Miami area leaped 51 percent in the third quarter compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, inventory shrank by half. Realtor.com suggests that much of the improvement is attributable to strong foreign activity in the market.
This luxury apartment may soon be the trophy home of some foreign magnate. According to Realtor.com, in May of last year, international buyers purchased about 60 percent of existing houses and condos and 90 percent of the newly built homes in Miami.