The real estate market is booming right now, and a good deal is hard to come by. Find one that seems like a great opportunity, and you may find yourself wondering if it is too good to be true. This moment of pause is for good reason. Unfortunately there are some unscrupulous among us that are taking advantage of this market and using pressure to encourage potential buyers to jump into a deal without doing some basic due diligence first.
But how do you know if the deal is a great deal or a fraud? In a recent example, a woman is facing criminal charges after stealing more than $300,000 in fake real estate deals throughout Florida. The woman would allegedly list properties for sale and pose as the owner — even though she was not. When potential buyers would voice interest, she would act as a title agent working to facilitate the closing and take the down payment and other fees. These funds never went towards the sale and instead state authorities claim she took off with the money.
Are there any red flags that a property listing is fake?
There are a few that should catch your attention. Some of the more common include:
- The numbers seem off. Anyone selling real estate is looking to make money. If the listing seems like it is too low to result in a profit, it could be a fake.
- Excessive pressure. Yes, the market is hot, but extreme urgency is a signal that something is wrong.
- Inconsistent photos. Does it look like the photo was copied and pasted off of Google maps or photos from different parts of the property look like they do not go with the same home? Another tip: copy the photo and put it into Google reverse image. Review the results and watch for the photos to match other listings that do not match the one you are considering.
Also take note if the seller asks you for personal information like social security numbers or bank account information before letting you see the home or claims to be out of the country and unable to meet in person.
How can I protect myself from a fake listing?
Never underestimate the power of a thorough title search. This legal tool can help you see who the true owner of the property is and can also provide information about any liens or other issues that would hinder the transfer of ownership.