You’ve probably spent years working hard, building your credit, and crimping and saving to come up with a down payment. And now – finally! – you’re about to purchase that home you’ve long been dreaming about. The last thing you want, then, is to become a victim of fraud when buying a house. Unfortunately, it’s more common and easier to fall prey to than you may think. Every year, thousands of homebuyers are reported victims of fraud, and many others never report it because they are too embarrassed. To help you avoid becoming a victim, we offer these 5 signs of fraud when buying a house in South Florida.
1. Refusal to Meet Face to Face
Today, especially since the advent of COVID-19, a lot of business is conducted remotely and online. But when you’re buying a house in South Florida and getting ready to hand over tens of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars, the seller should be willing to meet with you face to face. A refusal to do so could be a sign of fraud.
“[N]neglecting to meet the seller or real estate agent in charge of selling the property in person, can be a huge mistake. If they’re always saying that they’re too busy to meet up, cancel on you at the last minute, or tell you they prefer doing business on another platform, be very wary. It’s likely that they aren’t who they say they are, and they want to scam you out of your hard-earned money.”
2. Refusal to Tour the House With You
Similarly, if the seller or her agent refuses to tour the house with you, lookout. This may not actually be a sign of fraud – people are, after all, extremely busy – but you should be on your toes if it does happen when buying a house in South Florida.
According to industry pros, a seller’s refusal to show you the property herself should at least make you uncomfortable. “This is because it may mean that they’re not the ones in charge of selling the place, or that the property isn’t even [for] sale to begin with. If the seller recommends that you visit the property on your own, stay on high alert. Make sure that they take you and give you a tour of the place, so you can inspect the property and guarantee that the seller is telling the truth.”
Another sign of fraud when buying a house in South Florida that should put you on high alert is a cosmetic cover-up of a major problem. An example of this would be repainting or drywall repair to hide or disguise water damage, which often means severe and toxic mold/mildew problems.
Your best bet to avoid falling prey to such cover-up is to find and hire a trusted, reputable inspector who can determine whether cosmetic fixes are hiding any underlying issues. Certainly, you’ll want to get references, but your South Florida agent can be a great resource for finding a top-notch inspector. To find out more, just call 954-278-9353.
4. Indications of Wire Fraud
And then there’s the much too common wire fraud. So when buying a house in South Florida beware of any indications that wire fraud is being attempted. It works like this . . .
“You get an email, phone call, or text from someone purporting to be from the title or escrow company with instructions on where to wire your escrow funds. Fraudsters set up fake websites that appear similar to the title or lending company you’re working with, making it seem like the real deal. Scammers use spoofing tactics to make phone numbers, websites, and email addresses appear familiar, but one number or letter is off – an easy thing to miss at first glance.”
So the unsuspecting buyer follows the directions and wires the money, assuming all is well. But the buyer has in fact just become a victim of escrow wire fraud. The fraudsters/scammers make off with the money, and the defrauded buyer has little if any recourse.
If you suspect this kind of fraud, call your lender to make sure the wiring instructions are legit. Your South Florida agent will also be glad to provide any help you may need.
5. High-Pressure Tactics
A final, and often fairly obvious, sign of fraud when buying a house in South Florida is high-pressure sales. The seller or agent (or both) may be the source of this. But if they pressure you too much or are too insistent, they’re likely hiding something.
You should see “flashing big, yellow warning signs all over the place is if the seller is pressuring you too much to take their deal. A lot of times, real estate agents work on commission, which is why they may be eager for you to finalize the sale. However, if they’re being a little bit too insistent (for example, if they tell you to buy now to get a better price, or they warn you that there are other people ready to buy), you should walk away.”
Best Way to Avoid Fraud When Buying a House in South Florida
Being armed with this knowledge can go a long way toward preventing you from becoming a victim of fraud. Still, there’s something more you can and should do. And that is to work with an experienced South Florida real estate agent. Your agent will know about all the scams and signs of fraud out there and can help steer you away from shady deals. Don’t take a chance when buying a house in South Florida: contact us today at 954-278-9353.