Common Types of Real Estate Fraud

Real estate sales and purchases are the largest financial transactions that most people will ever make, typically involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. On top of that, the process can be unfamiliar and complicated. For these reasons, real estate fraud is unfortunately common.

How do you avoid becoming a victim of real estate fraud? The best way to protect yourself is by knowing the most common types of real estate fraud. Here’s a list to get your started!

Appraisal Fraud

Appraisal fraud is one of the most common types of real estate fraud, in which the seller or buyer uses a dishonest appraisal to misrepresent the property’s value. This may be done with an appraiser willing to estimate the property’s fair market value falsely. Alternatively, the buyer or seller may alter an appraisal to be more favorable.

What You Can Do

Get your appraisal, especially if the figures don’t sound right. Mortgage lenders are well aware of this practice and often insist on hiring an appraiser from an approved list.

Title Fraud

Sellers may attempt to conceal problems with the title, or simply sell a property that does not belong to them.

What You Can Do

Buyers should use a reputable escrow service and hire a professional to investigate the title before completing the purchase.

Home Equity and Home Renovation Fraud

It’s common for homeowners to get a home equity loan to pay off debts or finance property improvements. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this; being secured by the property, home equity loans often have lower interest rates than unsecured personal loans. Unfortunately, however, many predatory lenders operate in this field, and homeowners often end up paying far more than they expected.

Such lenders may lie about the loan terms, create false urgency to pressure homeowners into signing contracts before they can read them, or even sign blank ones.

What You Can Do

Be careful when taking out a home equity loan, because your home will be on the line. Don’t let lenders pressure you into signing anything you don’t fully understand.

Foreclosure Bailout Fraud

Foreclosure bailout fraud is particularly despicable, involving stealing from people desperately trying to keep their homes. Because foreclosures are public proceedings, scammers use court records to identify their targets. They contact homeowners and offer relief by arranging a short sale to the scammer, who will rent the property back to the owner after paying thousands of dollars in upfront fees. The scammer disappears with the fees, and the homeowner has lost time and money at a critical juncture.

What You Can Do

If you need to catch up on your mortgage payments, the best course of action is to open a line of communication with your lender and try to work something out.

Get Help from a Real Estate Attorney

Those who perpetrate real estate fraud take advantage of their victims’ relative lack of knowledge. The best defense is to have someone on your side with a deep knowledge of real estate transactions and law who can identify fraudulent behavior and keep it from derailing your life.

Our real estate litigation specialists can protect you from bad actors and ensure your transaction is efficient and fair. Contact our office to discuss your situation.

Written By

Hoffman & Forde, Attorneys at Law