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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Beware the sleazy operators...

The current real estate market has proven to be a fertile field for sleazy operators - both in the real estate and the mortgage side of things. Whenever lots of people are in distress, following a natural disaster or just experiencing things like our current economic conditions, there are always sleazy people who view it as an opportunity to swoop in and take advantage.

We've heard quite a bit about the mortgage side, what with so-called "toxic ARM's" that people didn't understand to the "I can help you get out of debt" artists who end up owning some poor guy's house because he thought it was OK to sign it over to the con-artist and then rent it back until he could get back on his feet.

Now we're seeing the sleazy side of the real estate world, too. I've had clients who were contacted by some of these con artists with pitches to put the house up for lease at the same time that I have it for sale or the "don't worry, we'll take care of everything for you" pitch to people approaching or entering foreclosure. Look closely at any of these pitches and you find sleazy operators at best violating the Realtor's Code of Ethics and at worst breaking the law. One thing is consistent, they are taking advantage of people who aren't thinking clearly, due to the stress of the situation; and, they are counting on ignorance of the process and the laws involved. I advise my clients that if they hear one of these pitches that if it sounds too good to be true - guess what?

These are tough times in real estate and for mortgage borrowers. Don't let yourself become the victim of sleazy operators in either field. And don't be fooled by people working for what seems to be a big national brand outfit. Both the real estate and mortgage national brands tend to do quite a bit of their business as franchise operations with little local franchisees. In both the mortgage and real estate businesses many of the practicioners that you meet are independent contractors, i.e. they work for themselves, supposedly under the supervision of a broker. That supervision is sometimes fairly lax, again depending upon the company.

Just be skecptical if someone comes to you and promises to fix everything or take care of everything. Tell them the banana boat left yesterday and you didn't just fall off it. Unfortunately you can't avoid sleaziness in these tough times, but you don't have to fall victim to it.

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