When we think of scams, we typically think of bad emails, unnerving text messages, and things that are too good to be true. We don’t often think about something as big as a house sale. Unfortunately, real estate scams are out there, and they don’t always come in the form of timeshares.
Yes. While it’s not as common as other types of scams (the FBI report 13,600 Americans are victims of real estate or rental fraud each year) there are real estate scams out there, though there is definitely more risk for buyers than for sellers.
7 warning signs you might be getting scammed when selling your home
1. Anything that doesn’t follow the normal steps of buying and selling a home
In other words, if your buyer wants you to skip an essential step in the process, or pressures you into using a specific professional they know, it’s a red flag. In Massachusetts, only a lawyer can deal with deeds, so don’t let a buyer tell you otherwise. Similarly, even if they do recommend a certain professional to you, make sure you do your independent research and if in any doubt, use someone else. A real buyer won’t care who you use.
2. If anyone but your real estate lawyer will handle the money
Remember that any money for a real estate sale first goes through your real estate lawyer before it lands in your bank account. It does not go directly to you from the seller. If your seller tells you they’ll pay you for your home once they get the keys or anything else that avoids your lawyer, start asking some questions.
3. (For those in financial difficulty) If someone offers to stop foreclosure or modify your mortgage in return for an upfront payment
We’ve created a lot of resources for anyone in the scary situation of facing foreclosure (you can find those here), and if someone discovers you are putting your home on the market for this reason they may approach you with an offer to halt the process if you pay them upfront. Unless you are in direct contact with your lender (and you can call them independently to verify their offer), ignore these scams.
4. They’re trying to rush you
We’re all familiar with marketing that sounds like “Act now before this offer is gone for good!” But know that you’re not going to hear this kind of language in real estate, especially if you’re selling. We buy houses and offer anyone who approaches us with a suitable property a no-obligation cash offer for their home.
That offer is somewhat time-sensitive – the housing market changes and so what we offer you in April will likely not be the same as what we offer you in October if you were to approach us again (it may go up or down depending on the market), but it is not an offer that will disappear if you don’t make a decision today.
If anyone offers you cash for your home provided you accept their offer today and close within a week, be very wary. We move fast, but we can’t promise to close in less than 2-3 weeks. If their offer is unusually high, that’s also a good reason to be wary. Sometimes if it looks too good to be true, it is.
5. They literally want to pay you in cash
We offer people cash offers for homes, but note the difference between a “home cash buyer” and paying in cash. A cash buyer in the real estate world is anyone who has the buying power to pay for a property with the money they have in their bank account (i.e., do not need a mortgage). It does not mean they’re going to hand you a suitcase full of cash. A real cash buyer will still follow all the proper channels of working with a real estate lawyer, usually paying you by wire transfer, though checks are still an acceptable form of payment.
6. They don’t live in the country and accidentally sent you too much money
Some scammers pretend to be a buyer living abroad that has seen your property and totally fallen in love with it. They will buy it right now, usually with a check. After you’ve received the check, they’ll ask for the money they overpaid back and try and get you to send it before their check “clears” (which, unsurprisingly, it won’t).
7. They won’t speak to you
If you are approached by a buyer via email and they are completely unreachable any other way (including not having a real estate agent to handle things for them) that’s a red flag. Any investor will be more than happy to get on the phone with you, and any private buyer will be working with a real estate agent, whether one they’ve chosen to work with or your own.
If you suspect you are in contact with someone who may be a scammer, do your due diligence. Is there anything about them online? Are the professionals they’re working with legitimate?
You can then report them to your local law enforcement agency so they can investigate further and give you advice. If it is related to your mortgage, contact your mortgage lender and let them know about the scam.
If you are getting ready to sell your home in Massachusetts and want to do so quickly while avoiding scams, we’re here to help. We buy homes for cash in as-is condition and can close in as little as 2-3 weeks if you’re ready to move and everything goes smoothly. Simply reach out to us with a few details about your property and we’ll send you our best cash offer. We are BBB Accredited and have plenty of glowing Google reviews from people we’ve worked with in the past. To find out more about the process, click here.