There are several ‘Red Flag’ situations that Conway and Myrtle Beach area home buyers and sellers need to be aware of. Or any buyer and seller for that matter. By now most everyone knows not to share bank account numbers with self proclaimed Princes from exotic countries even if they offer to share their fortune with us.
My fellow agents and I get text messages constantly from people impersonating our Brokers in Charge. The spelling and grammar mistakes usually give it away, but often they are ‘stuck in a meeting’ and need us to rush out and buy $100 gift cards and text them the codes. Of course they will ‘pay us back right after their meeting.’ The schemes go on and on.
Today, I’m going to focus on scams that target people who are buying or selling houses as well as other situations that require some caution. I’m not saying these are scams every single time, but definitely have the potential to be. At the very least they are things that could limit a buyer or seller’s full potential for success in a transaction.
1) Wiring Money
South Carolina is an attorney close state which means buyers and sellers both close with an attorney. When you call the attorney’s office, use their main office number that you obtain from a directory, your real estate agent, or the attorney’s official website. You very well may need to wire money to your attorney’s trust account for earnest money or funds due at closing. Most attorneys will send wiring instructions via an encrypted file and/or ask you to call them (on their verified number) to confirm the instructions.
The scam is where someone might create a fake email account that looks like it’s coming from the attorney and instruct you to wire money to their account.
Don’t trust any email giving wiring instructions without verifying first. That goes double for emails claiming the instructions have changed. If there is any doubt, call your real estate agent or attorney immediately.
2) Fake Listings
Fake listings can be posted on sites such as Craigslist or they can be posted in Buy/Sell/Trade groups on social media.
There are so many people who are looking online to buy or rent, which means there are also many scammers looking to take advantgage of unsuspecting people who are often desperate to find a place to live. The listings might not look fake because the scammers will duplicate actual listings or take photos from an expired or sold listing. They provide their contact information. They might have a story about how they have to leave the country quickly for whatever humanitarian action they are about to be involved in. They hype how much activity the listing is getting and pressure you into sending them a deposit for a house you will never have access to. Lately, since finding a rental has been so challenging in our area, I’ve seen lots of posts on social media with a picture of a house with a super reasonable rent. They often go on to say that their grandmother ‘is desperate to rent before going into assisted living’ or something similar. They share a link, but in this type of scam, nothing good will come from clicking it.
It’s nice to try and help those who are looking for a home, but please don’t share ads or posts unless you know for a fact that the house is legitimately for sale or rent. And that the person posting is actually authorized to sell or rent it. Often, the actual owner has no idea that someone else is advertising their home in this manner.
3) Calls, Letters, and Post Cards Offering to Buy Your Home For Cash
This isn’t always a scam, but proceed with caution. If you will consider selling your home, at least get all the facts and options. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Whoever is offering cash to buy your house is probably doing so for their best interests. Have someone look out for yours. Consult a local real estate agent to determine how much your house is worth. Consider putting it on the open market to get top dollar. If you do receive a legitimate cash offer make sure it’s in writing and have a real estate agent and/or attorney look it over.
4) Offers to Help Distressed Homeowners
Sometimes people encounter difficult times that result in their inability to pay their mortgage. If they don’t pay within a certain amount of time, it can become a matter of public record which could result in phone calls from people or companies offering to help avoid foreclosure. Some of those offers may be legitimate. Some of them may not be.
An individual may offer to buy your house for a discount and allow you to stay and rent it back. They may contact you and offer to ‘work with your bank’ or ‘pay your entire mortgage if you pay them partial payments’ in order to get added to the deed.
This is already a stressful time. The very best way to handle it is to reach out to a trusted real estate agent or attorney who can share all the viable options. There may be programs to help keep the home. There may be enough equity in the home to sell it for a profit. If not, find out all the available options so you can choose the best solution. They key is to be the one who reaches out to a trusted professional sooner rather than later.
5) Trusting Online Estimates and Values
Appraised value. Assessed value. Market value. AVM vs. RVM. These are all types of valuation, but not all the same. You can get an ‘instant value’ by typing your address in a search bar, but it won’t necessarily be accurate. It could be higher or lower than you imagined and likely comes with a disclaimer telling you it’s not accurate. This isn’t a scam, but when it’s important to have an accurate value for your home, trust a real estate professional who knows the current local market rather than a website that’s using algorithms and general data. A real estate agent can prepare a detailed Comparative Market Analysis using similar homes that have sold most recently.
Takeaway: These are a few of the things I see most often, but if anything sounds too good to be true or even a little bit strange, consult a trusted industry professional before making any decisions or providing any personal information.
I want to be a resource so even if you aren’t planning to buy or sell a house in the near future, I’m still happy to answer any questions.