It has been reported that real estate fraud in Monterey County is on the rise. The Monterey County District Attorney shared the Annual Real Estate Fraud Report for Fiscal Year 2016-2017, noting that fraud complaints are on the rise. In FY 2015-2016, there were 24 referrals. That rose to 34 in FT 2016-2017. Of those, 21 investigations were launched.
Five Ways To Protect Yourself From Real Estate Fraud
Verify License Of Real Estate "Professional"
1. Make sure that the person you are working with holds an active real estate license in California. The Bureau of Real Estate has a consumer friendly website where you can obtain a wealth of information. You can also look up and verify the real estate license. Understand your rights as a consumer and ask questions.
Link to California Bureau of Real Estate http://www.dre.ca.gov/
Confirm Ownership of Property
2. Before signing on the dotted line, or giving anyone a security deposit make sure that they actually own the property or are contracted to manage it by the owners. Rental scams are still happening. Ads that are too good to be true are on websites like Craigslist, when really they don’t have them. An unsuspecting victim sends money to them and these so-called landlords are never heard from again. Property ownership is a matter of public record. You can go to the website http://www.searchq.com/ to look up property information.
3. Shop local, get referrals, and again verify license on BRE website. Many of you remember the fiasco in Monterey County of Cedar Funding. Take precautions to protect yourself. Don't give your personal information to a website you find on-line. It is best to work with a reputable broker who is local, can sit with you face to face, and again always verify that they are who they say they are. TIP: Once you have identified a great real estate professional and verified their ability, most of us have a list of reputable lenders you can call to get advise.
Credit Counseling Agencies
4. There are companies that engage in targeted marketing campaigns that convince homeowners that they can perform certain mortgage-saving services or help repair your credit for a substantial fee. These are usually relatively simple tasks you can do yourself. Negotiating a new payment plan with a mortgage company, discussing interest rates and possible qualification for rate reductions. Fixing your credit is up to you and you can get free help with this also. Most mortage lenders can give you free advise on what you should do to raise your credit score. Don't be scammed by being charged for information that can be found free on government agency websites!
We Buy Houses AKA Ugly Yellow Signs
5. Those involved with this practice generally market their services to the elderly and those in danger of foreclosure. This practice involves aggressively calling unsophisticated homeowners. Often these homeowners are led to believe that the service that the criminals are selling is the only option available to them, and the homeowner signs paperwork detrimental to their true interests. They may get you to sign over the deed, and then negotiate a lower price than you owe with the bank, and sell it to an unknowing consumer at market value while you not only lose your home, but your credit, and any profit you may have had.
This is only a short list of scams that clients call me about often. Please do not fall victim to this. If you feel that anything sounds or feels too good to be true, or you are just uncomfortable. Speak to a real estate professional (after you verify their license). We can guide you to the right professional to help if it is something we are not licensed to advise you on.
Leslie DeLuca is a Real Estate Broker On The Monterey Peninsula. She is local born and raised, second generation in the real estate industry. Leslie owns an Indie Boutique real estate brokerage catering to first time home buyers, investors and empty nesters. There isn't a real estate problem we can't answer, or guide you to the entity that can.