Business & Real Estate

The boy Nextdoor: Introducing the real estate wunderkind some residents mistook for a scammer

Bob Lane” width=
Melissa Hartman/Town Crier
Bob Lane gained local attention after a Springer Trees neighborhood resident posted a picture of him on Nextdoor, questioning whether he was a scammer. It turns out the 18-year-old was going door to door as a part of his real estate license training.

A resident of the Los Altos Springer Trees neighborhood authored a post on the online Nextdoor site Aug. 23 with the title “Possible real estate scam.” Below the resident’s explanation of how a young man came to her door that afternoon asking if any neighbors were interested in selling their homes, she included a screenshot from her Ring security camera – a grainy image of 18-year-old Bob Lane.

The resident, who requested her name not be used, said she did not intend “to open a can of worms,” but she thought it curious that Lane was handing out Alain Pinel Realtors business cards that were worn (possibly from floating around in his pockets, she speculated) when the company had been acquired by the New York-based Compass Realty in March.

Neighbors posted replies expressing their gratitude for the warning and their alarm at the potential dangers of a scam.

“We had the same lad ring our doorbell today as well, asking the aforementioned questions,” a Covington Road neighbor commented. “I sent him on his way.”

A few Nextdoor commenters chided a fellow resident who threatened to “kick (Lane) squarely in the (privates) when (he) sees him.”

Embracing youth

As it turns out, Lane is far from a scammer. He’s just an ambitious young man with dreams of a career in real estate.

In the air-conditioned Town Crier office last week, Lane sat up straight – dressed more formally in a suit than in the Ring video image, where he was wearing a polo shirt and shorts because of the summer heat – and grinned, chuckling over the misunderstanding and how it unfolded.

Lane wanted to apologize to anyone in Los Altos whose home he approached and whom he made feel uncomfortable. Although he said he must have knocked on “at least” 10,000 doors over the past two years, he admitted to still perfecting his sales introduction.

The recent high school grad’s pitch starts with his connection to his aunt-turned-mentor, realtor Therese Swan, and subsequently details the transactions she has closed in recent days. In Los Altos, that meant discussing a sale that just closed on Lundy Lane. The further he traveled from Lundy Lane, the more people likely grew suspicious because they weren’t sure where that was, Swan theorized from her seat across the table.

“When you go to a stranger’s door, and they have no idea who you are, they’re literally terrified,” Lane said. “It’s hard to be charming. You have to reassure them that you’re not a threat.”

Lane, a Sacramento native, is used to taking people by surprise. Moving out at age 16 meant learning to fend for himself and finding ways to ensure his own success, which he accomplished by painting curbs before taking on the world of real estate. First, the teen did odd jobs for homeowners. He moved on to painting the curb numbers for an entire neighborhood of approximately 750 homes, Swan said. When Lane secured the contract for that major job, it led him to believe he had the skill set to enter the industry his older brother was using to put himself through college.

There’s been just as much positive feedback as negative from homeowners, Lane said. From curb painting to his current real estate course training with Los Gatos-based Compass agent Swan – who now has ensured she and Lane have updated business cards – Lane has enjoyed the social aspect of being an unlicensed agent and is set to take his final exam next week.

Passing the licensing test means less door-to-door work, Lane said, looking over at Swan.

“We’ll see,” she said.

Undaunted by a dashed dream

Lane hoped to follow his brother to USC, he said, and they dreamed of being the next “Property Brothers.” When his application was rejected this year, he was disappointed. After a short grieving period, he decided to attend community college, take a year to earn his real estate license and save money until he is eligible to attend UC Santa Barbara through the Transfer Admission Guarantee program, which offers a secure spot to all California community college students who meet certain standards.

Lane’s plan, Swan pointed out, is the exact opposite of the recent college admissions scandal that has touched affluent towns like Los Altos Hills. Her nephew is working hard to support himself by doing things the traditional way, the way she was instructed to act as a real estate agent before the internet boom.

“I started my business by knocking on doors,” Swan said.

After a pause, Lane spoke up.

“It runs in the family,” he said.

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