Have you heard the one about the crook who looked for shabby yards? We often discuss the advantages of keeping the home in top condition -- especially the exterior. A clean, well-kept yard not only increases value, but it also gives the impression the owner is present and involved in its maintenance. I was reminded how detrimental extremely poor "curb appeal" can be when a rental management company representing an absentee landlord allowed renters to trash a home in Tacoma, Wash., several years ago. It turned out that at least one person was taking notes -- and hoping to take the owner to the cleaners. In this case, James Andrew Ryan pleaded guilty to four counts of forgery involving fictitious quitclaim deeds. In each instance, Ryan went looking for what he judged to be run-down homes with unkempt yards. He wrote down the address and researched the owner's name through county records. Ryan then forged the owner's name on a quitclaim deed and finished it off with a bogus notary publ...
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