Today, I wanted to take a few moments to talk about some scams that are occurring in the Orange County Real Estate market so you can fully protect yourself and your investment.
The most common forms of real estate fraud in Orange County are equity fraud, flipping, and equity skimming. Here is what they are:
Equity fraud - this occurs when someone forges a property owners signature and obtains a loan against your home. Basically, they steal your equity. If your identity has been stolen at one point or if it has been stolen and you don't know you could be a target.
Flipping - This occurs when someone buys a home and resells it at an inflated price based on bogus appraisal values.
Equity skimming - The occurs when an owner sells a property to a bogus buyer well above the appraised value.
Most of these can occur to you if your identity has been stolen. Historically the elderly and economically challenged are targeted for these scams. There are however a few ways to protect yourself:
- If you receive official documents showing any type of transfer of property call the county recorder immediately. You can also check the grantor/grantee search on their site here.
- If you didn't get your property tax bill this might be a sign that someone has changed your address with the county and might be up to no good. In Orange County your property tax bill should be mailed in October. If you don't receive your bill you should call the tax collector and inquire.
- If you ever receive mortgage documents or payment coupons for a loan that you didn't apply for someone might have stolen your identity and you should contact the lender right away.
- Always get your own appraisal. The whole purpose of an appraiser is to get an independent opinion of value, so make sure you or your lender finds the appraiser not the seller or sellers agent.
This week I had a few moments to speak with Josh Smisko of The Smisko Law Firm in Orange county about potential hazards to homeowners and buyers. On top of equity fraud, flipping, and equity skimming he also mentioned something he runs into quite often with homeowners who are behind on their payments. These days many home owners want to obtain a loan modification but have no knowledge of how to do it. Once a homeowner is late on their payments they are often approached by companies who will charge $500-$1000 to help you get a loan modification. Most times these are just sales people trying to make a commission. Josh's advice, if you want to obtain a loan modification just call your lender and ask for it! If you are not successful contact a real estate attorney. Don't use a company that isn't a law office. Not only are attorneys licensed and legally held to ethical standards but lenders will respond differently to an attorney then a company just working on your behalf.
I hope this was helpful and if you ever have any questions one of our realtors can help you or point you in the right direction very easily.