Japanese singles sue flirty real estate agents for not-so-sweetheart deals

A group of 12 single Japanese people are suing real estate agents for feigning romantic interest in them to trick them into buying a property, or three.

In this latest romance scam, the Japan Daily Press is reporting the victims are suing 14 companies including real estate agencies and insurance firms for approximately $US1.95 million ($A2.18m).

The singletons were allegedly targeted through online dating sites and once the romance commenced, they would then be encouraged and coerced into buying properties.

After the deal had been signed, the real estate agent would swiftly abandon the relationship.

A lawyer for one of the victims, Shinichi Hirasawa, told Japan Daily Press the agent had “taken advantage of the romantic feelings” of the victim.

“This is a flagrant scheme because the victims were made to purchase real estate, sometimes at prices 30% to 40% above the market rate.”

Sales expert Sue Barrett told SmartCompany the approach of these real estate agents “isn’t sales, it’s just deception”.

“It’s not selling at all. These people are out for victims, not prospective customers… They’re scamming people to give them money at their expense. It’s a case of buyer beware,” she says.

“[In sales] You can be flirtatious and you can be charming, but if your intentions are dishonourable and you’re trying to manipulate people, then no, it’s not okay behaviour.”

Barrett says salespeople can use charm to engage with a person, but communication needs to be “open and transparent”.

“As a woman in business, personally speaking, the last thing on our mind for most of us is to be misinterpreted in any way. You can be personable, but you don’t want to give off other signals and have confusion.”

Barrett says this type of deception is similar to a trend in the United States which was eventually outlawed called barrier selling.

“Essentially it’s manipulating people and backing them into a corner where the only answer they can give is yes,” she says.

“The insurance industry was notorious for barrier selling. They would ask customers leading questions to which the most logical answer would be yes. They’ll ask several questions which require affirmative answers and trick people into agreeing to purchase something they don’t want.”

Barrett said this type of selling led to cooling off periods to be legislated.

“If you want to be an honourable business person, you have to be clear about your intentions. Make sure you’re putting forward what it is you want to achieve,” she says.

Sales Acuity founder Stephen Chow told SmartCompany salespeople without adequate training often resort to flirting to progress a sale.

“There are of course instances where this works, but the long term success of a salesperson is really only achieved through relationship integrity,” he says.

“We know that exceptional salespeople have an underlying sense of purpose and a set of principles centred around ethical selling behaviour, and this drives their decisions and actions.”

Chow says a better approach than flirting is for people to be engaged, smart and enthusiastic.

“Our research shows that exceptional salespeople are socially skilled, enthusiastic and energetic. They capture attention and interest by creatively differentiating themselves from others. They position themselves as an expressive, memorable and compelling force in the room,” he says.

“Critical to the success of any sales encounter is the first four seconds… Body language, tonality and what they say in these very first moments are crucial and when it is delivered just right – it looks like charm. When it’s not – it comes across as repulsive.”


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