Real estate fraud happens to someone everyday. It can take several forms. No matter what form it takes, it always leaves someone a lot poorer than before. You don’t want to be a victim. There are a few thing that you can do to help make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
The easiest form of real estate fraud happens when property that doesn’t exist is sold to someone in another part of the country or world. The first way to defend against this is to just go see the property. It may not exist, or it may not be what was described. Oceanfront property that is just a precipice is not what you want to buy. Seeing the property helps this problem.
Sometimes the property exists. It just isn’t the seller’s to sell. You can be taken on a tour of the property, and all can look in order. This type of scam usually involves several people pretending to be someone they’re not. You have an agent, a seller, a banker, and sometimes a county official to show you a copy of the deed. The only way to get around this one is to go to the bank or the county court house and ask questions by yourself. Frauds will usually surface pretty fast.
You can be shown one piece of property and sold another. The seller may be the only one who really knows you’re being scammed. He or she may be duping everyone in picture. This can happen in areas where it is rural and addresses are easily confused. Because of the detailed legal language of property deeds and address changes in rural areas by the post office, mixing up property can be done. A real estate lawyer should be able to spot this problem before the closing.
Other times, the property may be sold to two or more buyers simultaneously in different areas. It is hard to catch because everyone thinks that any inquiries are about the same deal. It isn’t until after the deal is closed when multiple deed filings are made on the same piece of ground that the fraud is exposed. Buying title insurance can help this, but not prevent it.
Defective property may be camouflaged to look like more than it is. Cracks caused by a settling foundation may be covered up so that the new owner doesn’t see them until after the closing. The same can be said for water or insect damage. Air conditioners and furnaces may be unable to be tested if the utilities are cut off.
You may have to spend a few dollars to get these types of things professionally checked with the utilities on before agreeing to close. Making the seller furnish buyer’s insurance against unseen defects is another way to keep from taking a financial beating.
Most of these latter issues are more a matter of taking care to have property properly inspected, but sometimes an effort may be made by the agent and seller to hide problems that could be deal breakers. In this case, it is fraud.