A homeless man offers to buy a $350K condo, then goes missing

A condo buyer fails to transfer the money to buy a loft in the high-profile Stinson School. Then police announce he's been missing for days.

Bruce Paton, 74, was found safe and went out of town 'by choice,' Hamilton Police say

A condo sale at the Stinson School fell through when the buyer failed to transfer the money for several days after he'd said he needed to move in. He was reported missing soon after. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

When Simon Gron heard from his realtor that someone wanted to buy his condo at the Stinson School, he jumped. The buyer was willing to pay $350,000 for the unit, but had a caveat:

He needed to move in within days. 

Gron didn't get the best vibe from the buyer when he knocked on the door for a quick tour with Gron's realtor, Harry Stinson.

"He sort of had a glazed-over look," Gron said. "He didn't look to me to be cleaned up."

But Gron brushed his sense aside. He'd only met him for a few minutes while he took a look around the apartment, after all. And he'd heard from Stinson the buyer was providing financial details to a lawyer involved and getting ready for paperwork-signing. For his part, Stinson thought the buyer "came across as very credible — very convincing and credible." 

"Maybe it's just some old guy," Gron said he thought. "The story was that he'd sold his house, that he had cash. Maybe it's just an eccentric older guy who just wants to buy a place." 

'A complete soap opera'

Gron signed his end of the paperwork, and he and his girlfriend packed up their belongings in the span of four days. They moved into an apartment in the building while they waited to close the house they've bought.

Out of all the people in Hamilton, I think I'm the first to sell my place to a homeless man.- Simon Gron, seller of a condo in Stinson School lofts

Except when the swift closing date came, when the buyer's $350,000 in cash was supposed to be transferred to the lawyer, the money didn't come. Phone calls started flying.

The buyer had a "series of excuses," Stinson said, including medical reasons why he couldn't get the money transferred. They pushed back the closing date. 

"When a person is supposedly under the knife, you give him an hour or two," said Stinson, who converted the historic school to condo lofts a few years ago.

But the days passed. Nothing from the buyer.

Bruce Paton was missing for several days before being found "safe" and out of town "by choice," Hamilton Police say. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
Then last Tuesday, Gron's girlfriend saw a photo in the news of the guy who was supposed to buy their condo. Bruce Paton, 74, had been missing for a few days. Earlier in the year, he'd been staying at the Good Shepherd men's shelter. Paton was even interviewed by volunteers with the 20,000 Homes campaign, which aims to house the chronically homeless. 

Gron was flabbergasted.

"Out of all the people in Hamilton, I think I'm the first to sell my place to a homeless man," Gron said.

Stinson was stressed, too. 

"This went from being a swift, elegant transaction with credible people to being a complete soap opera in the span of 48 hours," Stinson said.

'We haven't had the chance yet to sit down and talk'

Now things have settled down, somewhat. Stinson found another buyer for the condo, and if he hadn't, he told Gron he'd buy it himself. Gron can go ahead and close on his next house. 

"All is on track now," Gron said Monday. "What a relief!" 

And over the weekend, police found Paton. He's safe, and is out of town "by choice", said Hamilton Police spokesman Det. Const. Mike Hall.

Paton's partner of 18 years, Heather Moore, said she heard from Paton over the weekend. He told her he'd gone to London to try to work out some financial headaches with his pension. 

She said she didn't have any comment on the saga of the condo deal.

"We haven't had the chance yet to sit down and talk," she said.

There are a lot of confusing details left.

"We don't know to this day if it was [Paton's] intention to close, if he had any money," Stinson said. "It was about three to four days that this whole thing went from legitimate to weird." 


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