Sure Signs of Real Estate Scams and How to Avoid Them

Buying a house or a piece of property is an achievement. You may be thinking of investing in your future or finding the right home for your growing family. You’ve been working hard to save enough and be handed the best mortgage rates.

The first step is finding an agent who will help you scour through the many houses for sale in your ideal location. And you put your trust in your agent to get you the right property at the right price. Unfortunately, there are buyers who end up getting tricked when buying or renting a house.

Sometimes they end up losing the house they already own, as real estate scams have become sophisticated over the years. A report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center revealed that around 11,300 people were hit in a real estate wire-fraud in 2018.

For first-time home buyers, it’s a bit complicated to navigate the process. That is why hiring a real estate agent would be convenient and cost-efficient. If you decide to do it alone, however, be smart. Here are sure signs that you’re getting scammed.

Rental scam

Some people can be desperate to find an apartment in an expensive city, or because of a job or sudden relocation, so they jump at the first opportunity. Be cautious, though, or you could lose your rent money. The apartment could be real, but your contact may not be legally allowed to do the transaction with you. If the so-called landlord or agent demands for payment without posting further details and photos of the property for rent, or would ask for payment before you can be allowed for a visit, then stay away immediately.

As a potential tenant, you have the right to see the place and sign the lease first before making any payment.

House sale scam

This is not very different from the rental scam. Someone will pose as the owner or agent of the property. Before moving forward with your negotiation, you should validate whether the person is indeed a legitimate representative of the estate. There are also cases of a double sale wherein the false agent sells a property, receives payment, and sells the property again without the first buyer knowing about it.

But the real scam is happening online. Fraudsters hack into the email of an agent and then insert themselves into the conversation giving false instructions to the buyer. As a result, home buyers wire the down payment to the false agent usually weeks ahead of the agreed closing date.

Ways to avoid falling victim to this include: 1.) Carefully check the email addresses used in your correspondence; 2.) Be wary of rush payment demands; 3.) Beware of changing instructions; double-check with your agent offline.

Foreclosure relief scam

Leaning foreclosure sign in front of a modern single family home on a cloudy cold day

Facing a foreclosure can be hearth-breaking, and you become a target for people who want to take advantage of your situation. Some companies will claim to offer help so you can keep your home, but make sure these are legitimate offers and not some scam.

Some will ask for payment in return for them paying your mortgage. Part of the scheme is instructing you to send your new mortgage payment to a new address. They may also claim to lower your payment. All these without you getting in touch with your lender.

Your best recourse is to directly call your lender and ask to restructure your loan. Your bank or lender would rather work with you on the payment rather than acquire your home and leave it to them to re-sell it.

Cosmetic property change scam

Some homeowners are in a hurry to sell their house yet don’t want to spend money fixing structural problems. They’d make cosmetic changes to the house to cover up the problem and then sell for a lower market price. You might think you’re getting a good deal, but don’t celebrate yet.

It doesn’t hurt to do your own research and check for the home’s structural stability. Also, look for signs of infestation and plumbing problems. Make sure to visit the house personally and inspect every nook and cranny of it.

These are the common real estate schemes you need to avoid. Only deal with trusted real estate agents who know the property market in your area. Your agent should truly care about meeting your needs than just persuading you to choose from their listing.