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A standard Corrupt Corporate Executive scheme, a Short Con on a large scale: playing with property value to gain profit. Different versions exist, but in its most simple form it involves using nefarious means to drive tenants out of their homes, and generally lowering the property value of a neighbourhood in order to make room for a new building project.

This trope is a good, if somewhat overused, way to get a bunch of ordinary people involved in the story.

Not to be confused with Landmark Sale.

See also Shady Real Estate Agent.

Examples of Real Estate Scam include:


  • The Corrupt Corporate Executive Big Bad in You Don't Mess with the Zohan tries to make the New York Israeli and Palestinian communities fight each other so he can buy off the neighbourhood and build a mall on top of it. When creating a conflict doesn't work out, they hire a group of neo-nazis to vandalize the neighbourhood.
  • In Police Academy 6, the crimewave is alongside an old bus route, which would soon be the route of a train line, making the property prices skyrocket.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the conspiracy to buy Toon Town and turn it into a paved highway.
  • Blazing Saddles: The railroad line currently being built has to be re-routed through the town of Rock Ridge. Big Bad Hedley Lamaar comes up with a scheme to drive out the town's residents and acquire the land cheaply, then sell it for millions to the railroad company.

 Hedley Lamarr: Unfortunately, there is one thing standing between me and that property: the rightful owners.

  • The film Local Hero plays around with this trope.
  • Superman -- Lex Luthor's plot to buy up all the cheap land in the desert bordering California before blowing up the fault line and turning that desert into beach front real estate.
    • Same song, different beat in Superman Returns. Lex wants to create a new continent in the Atlantic Ocean, destroying half of the US in the process, and then sell it at a premium.
  • The movie Hot Fuzz -- this is a subplot (at least Sgt Angel thinks it is).
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
  • Subplot out of Evan Almighty -- The main character Evan, who is a congressman, cosponsors the destruction of a natural forest for urban development.


  • A major part of the plot of the Tim Dorsey novel Triggerfish Twist.

Live Action TV

  • The Deputy Prime Minister in Ali G Indahouse plans to raze Staines so that Heathrow Airport can be expanded.
  • CSI: Miami has a murder take place in a neighborhood that turns out to be a plot to lower property values.
  • A standard plot on Leverage.
    • One example that stands out is "The Miracle Job" -- a priest is assaulted by gang members, who were paid by a real estate mogul trying to buy up the land his church (which is in danger of closing) is on. The gang tries to prevent the church's closing by faking a miracle... which backfires, as the mogul's now going to build around the "crying statue" and turn the place into a faith-based moneymaker.
    • Also used in "The Snow Job", by way of Crooked Contractor.
  • Amoral Attorney Maurice Levy from The Wire constantly suggests his clients from Organized Crime turn to real estate; they do. One of the background subplots is that drug money is being funneled to State Sen. Clay Davis, who then tells Stringer which buildings are due to get revitalization grants so Stinger can buy them while they are still dirt cheap.

Tabletop Games

  • A weird variant in one of the Shadowrun short stories from Wolf and Raven: a Corrupt Corporate Executive is conspiring with racist gangs to drive out or kill elves living in a particular neighborhood. The twist is that he's not trying to buy the elves' property cheap, but to change the demographics of the neighborhood, so it'll be the ideal location for test-marketing his company's products. Same methods, different profit motive.

Video Games

  • "Nothing brings down real estate prices like a good old fashioned gang war" -- said by Avery Carrington in Grand Theft Auto Vice City and Donald Love in Grand Theft Auto III.
  • In Saints Row 2, one of the minigames available is 'Septic Avenger', where you ride around in a septic-truck and sprays property with crap to lower the values. Ironically, this is feasible because of Ultor's reconstruction of the once-embattled Saints Row district, turning it into an upscale office-park... and creating a severe shortage of low-price housing. Meaning that hard-working low-income families are willing to buy a cheap house even if it's covered in crap. (The realtor-term is "Fixer-upper".)

Western Animation

  • Happened in "The Itis", a first-season episode of The Boondocks -- Ed Wuncler shuts down a vegan restaurant that's across from a public park he wants to buy, and turns it into a soul food restaurant (run by Robert Freeman, natch). By the end of the episode, the restaurant's closed down (thanks to a lawsuit from a former customer) and Wuncler owns the park (thanks to the lowered property values created by the restaurant and its effect on the neighborhood).
  • Futurama has many examples of this, the most notable being the Scammer Aliens in Bender's Big Score.
  • The episode "Karate Island" of SpongeBob SquarePants is about this.
  • This seems to be the main motive for Scooby Doo villains, usually about scaring people away from the old amusement park/neighborhood/whatever so that the owner would have to sell the land.
    • For example, the Where Are You episode "Spooky Space Kook".
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