Real estate scams – Is it too good to be true?

by | Sep 19, 2023

“Home is the nicest word there is.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Purchasing a home can be the most exciting AND nerve-wracking experience of your life. Real estate scams can turn what should be a wonderful experience into a financial crisis. These scams often target people looking to buy or rent property. For unsuspecting victims, the impact of this can be devastating. Scammers misrepresent themselves as legitimate parties in the negotiation, promising amazing, easy, and fast deals.

Searching for the perfect property can be stressful, so knowing how to look out for real estate scammers is essential.

Look for a lack of proper documentation.

The first red flag indicating a possible real estate scam is the lack of proper documentation. A “seller” may want you to sign documents that do not represent the actual terms of the transaction. Be sure to ask for proof of ownership of the property you are inquiring about. It may belong to them or another person/business authorized to sell the property on their behalf. They should also have documentation to show this agreement if this is the case. Pay close attention to all the paperwork provided and question anything you do not understand.

Do not be pushed to “act now.”

A scammer will want you to sign the paperwork and close the deal immediately. They might request a bank transfer to hold the sale of the property, saying that it is in high demand and you could lose out. If you feel pressured to act fast at any time during a negotiation, please take that as a warning that something is not right. If possible, meet the sellers or landlords in person rather than simply an online tour. If you live far away and are relocating, visit an agent near you and have them help you to confirm the listing.

Beware of unrealistic offers and promises.

The saying “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” rings true far more often than not. Unrealistic promises and below-market prices are red flags. Do your research before you start communicating with sellers.

Pressure to send money is a red flag.

One of the most common real-estate frauds is asking buyers or potential tenants to send deposit money immediately. Scammers will give you every possible reason for this, but do not send them money unless you have confirmed everything. You should always have a legal, signed contract or lease before making any payment.

Confirm emails, names, and companies.

Protect yourself from real estate fraud by double-checking the email addresses and any business information that appears on the documents. Do not sign anything unless you confirm their identity and business legitimacy. With a scam, you may notice inconsistencies between the documents and what you can find online.

Contact the seller and confirm the information.

Be vigilant at all times. Scammers are very adept at changing things up within a changing market. Never feel pressured to take a questionable action when house hunting. 

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