The pesky problem of real estate fraud

For most California house hunters, buying or selling a home typically creates joy, not headaches. Unfortunately, however, some consumers find themselves in situations where realtors, contractors and other professionals have not carried out honest practices. What constitutes as real estate fraud, and can consumers in the housing market take proactive steps to avoid it?

Whether the problem lies in the hands of the mortgage broker, realtor, loan officer or other real estate professional, addressing problems and finding adequate solutions can become quite the hassle. The website for The Counselors of Real Estate offers industry professionals and consumers a list of common real estate issues, first blaming the often oscillating nature of the global economy. Housing affordability is another common culprit, as tight credit requirements keep many from buying permanent homes. High rent in many cities places some households in a financial bind, unable to take the big step of paying monthly mortgages.

In addition to today’s common housing struggles, the Los Angeles County website provides other types of problems involving real estate fraud. According to the county’s list, real property crimes are a major concern; using false representations, criminals may steal equity from homeowners in order to commit loan fraud. The elderly are a particular target for housing scams, as they have often built up equity in their homes. Dishonest home improvement contractors scout out these homeowners and offer their skills at inflated prices. Others may offer to refinance these homes at unreasonably high rates. The LA County’s website also warns California residents of corrupt escrow agents, notary publics and other real estate professionals with ulterior motives — the county also urges the public to maintain good judgement when presented with binding contracts, and to always turn to trusted professionals for advice.

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