I attended a webinar this week about Short Sale Fraud. As a real estate agent, I thought I knew all I needed to know on this subject but I was amazed. Here are some of the highlights.
Homeowners find themselves in a bad situation as their house is under-water and they need to sell. These homeowners need help from Real Estate agents but not fraudsters. If you as a Realtor are even involved in a fraud transaction, you are putting your license at risk.
Short Sale Flipping- As the listing agent, not disclosing to the bank that there is a better offer and then turning around in 2-3 hours to 2-3 days and simultaneously closing with the higher offer.
Reverse Staging- Making the property look worse by flooding a room or house, staining or cutting carpeting, putting holes in drywall, killing off landscape, breaking windows, stripping fixtures and appliances.
Who is Involved- All or part of the parties of a transaction can be involved:
Real Estate Agents
Top States Involved in Short Sale Flipping-
California- Los Angeles
Fraudsters thinking the states may be too inundated to bother with them since fraud is so prevalent are wrong! If the loan is Federal (FHA-Freddie, Fannie) the F.B.I. has a nationwide task force involved in uncovering and prosecuting these fraudsters. F.B.I. reports that 9 out of 10 scams involve Loan Originating Schemes.
Operation Stolen Dreams- In 2010 the F.B.I. took down a nationwide scam involving 1215 defendants, made 485 arrests. Banks were defrauded of over 2.3 Billion dollars.
The Method-The way this works is the listing agent takes a short sale listing. Agent may get several offers but does not disclose to the bank the highest offer. Then the agent presents the lowest offer and gets a short sale approval and successfully closes the escrow. Meanwhile the agent assists the other buyer to purchase the home at a higher price (typically $50,000 more) and this escrow close within 2-3 hours of the first escrow. Or it may close 2-3 days later but the secret here is that the property was not improved.
It is legal for a buyer to put money into the property and successfully close 3 weeks later but will have invoices, pictures, contractors’ receipts, etc to prove to the underwriter that this was a legal flip.
**FHA has even reversed their 90 day flipping rule but all the improvements must be proven to get the higher price. The key words here are “Substantial Improvements”
· You find out there is a simultaneous closing in escrow on the property. You as an agent may not be involved but will be drug into the investigation and possibly prosecuted as you ignored the signs.
· You take some additional funds outside of escrow. This is a no-no and never allowed.
· The buyer wants a clause to assign the name of new owner later. Banks rarely allow this anymore as they are aware of the deceitful practices.
· You get an offer and a Proof of Funds letter stating this LLC has millions or billions and is interested in buying your one SFR property. Typically corporations backed by millions+ are buying in bulk or picking up commercial properties.
Homeowners are out there and need your help. Statistics show that 70-90% of all foreclosed properties have never been in the MLS. This is astronomical and you as a real estate agent need to go out and find these homeowners and help them with their situation. Most will be glad you knocked on their door or sent them a letter to help.
Learn the mistakes so you will not be involved in any short sale fraud. Help the homeowners and remember to disclose, disclose, and disclose.
You will grow your income, become a recognized short sale expert and most of all you will build a database of fans who will remember you for life and send you more referrals. Also these homeowners will remember you in 2-3 years when they buy another home. Yes, 90% of these past homeowners will turn around and purchase when their lender says enough time has passed. The secret is to stay in touch with them so they do not forget you.
Call Kristin Hamilton at 909-557-6966 to list your home.
Inland Empire Homeowners, please call me for a Comprehensive Market Analysis to assist you with marketing your home for sale and getting the best price possible. Buyers, if you are planning to purchase real estate, let me assist you in finding the right home. Google me at Kristin Hamilton, Keller Williams Realty, Redlands, CA.