It is that time of year where real estate transactions are at their highest. And we all need to be aware of some pitfalls, practices, and threats aimed at participants.
One threat that has surfaced in our immediate area lately (and others) involves homes being offered for rent on various Internet websites that are either vacant or listed by a real estate company. A potential renter will call the number listed (generally out of state) and is told the home is for rent and to NOT call the agent on the sign due to some disagreement with their agent. Or, they may explain the home is vacant because a distant relative died. They ask for a deposit to be wired and will promptly send you the keys. Many times pictures are taken from real estate sale websites and posted on-line to entice potential renters. Be wary! Check the auditor tax records to ascertain who actually owns the home. ALWAYS call the agent on the sign (if it’s listed) to verify that the home is, indeed, for rent. NEVER wire money without verifying with your bank where the funds are actually going. IF the ad or person you call seems suspicious at all, please make a report to the local police department.
When opening your home during open houses, always remove/hide/conceal any items of value such as coins, cash, jewelry, etc. Make sure all visitors sign in legibly with their name and phone number or address so you have a record of who comes through the home. They may sign in with false information, of course, but at least requiring them to do so sends a message that you are watching. Have your agent walk through the home first to spot anything you might have missed that may be of value.
If you are trying to sell your home yourself without an agent, do NOT show the home alone. Always have someone there with you. Never give out a combination or security code to the potential buyer and always make sure the visitor cannot see you operate the lockbox or security system. And, it’s good practice to inform the visitor that you will ask to see their driver’s license and will be writing down their information before they enter the premises.
The National Association of REALTORS has also warned us of a new email scam. If you are involved in a transaction and get wiring instructions or a change of wiring instructions from your title company, lawyer, agent, or anyone else involved in the transaction, always call that person to verify. The problem has arisen out of email accounts that have been hacked and then used to either give wiring instruction or change wiring instructions to divert funds into foreign bank accounts. By the time it is discovered, the money is long gone!
Also, be aware that all land contracts, by law, are to be recorded in the local recorder’s office. If you are purchasing a home with a land contract, this protects you from the seller remortgaging the property or adding a mortgage on the property while under land contract with you. There are many cases of the land contract buyer finding out years down the road that their contract does not cover the amount actually owed on the property. And, if you are the owner selling the home with a land contract, find out why your potential buyer cannot get a mortgage. Have they talked to a lender or sought counseling on how to repair their credit situation? How long before they can reasonably expect to secure a loan? Remember, a land contract is NOT seller financing. The buyer should be expected to demonstrate that they are on the road to credit recovery and will be credit worthy within a year or two.
If you are selling without the benefit of a licensed agent, always ask for a mortgage pre-approval and contact information for their lender before accepting an offer. Make some phone calls to at least verify that the buyer is, indeed, pre-approved (vs. pre-qualified) for the correct amount to purchase your home. There have been instances of potential buyers pulling a pre-qualification from an internet mortgage site with no intentions of following through, but asking to move in during the process. In most formal real estate transactions involving agents, the buyer generally does not take possession or move in to the home before the closing of the transaction.
As appearing in the Canton Repository 6-17-16