I was in my office some time back when a call came in. The caller was frantic! As the words tumbled out, I slowly began to decipher what was being said. The voice on the other end was panicked as they described a most bizarre situation.
These were my dear clients. We had successfully helped them to purchase this lovely home several months prior. They had happily settled down in their new home…and now this!
The drama had started with a knock on the front door. When they opened the door, a grandfatherly looking man dressed in a nice suit introduced himself. He indicated that he had just seen a notification that their house had just been foreclosed. He was wondering if they aware of this? He indicated he had dropped by to let them know about some options for folks in their situation. Talk about jaw dropping surprise!
The story from this gentleman was eerie. For one thing, he knew that they had recently closed on the home and that there had been some liens on the home. In this particular situation, there had been a divorce which had left some loose ends hanging which had to be cleared prior to closing.
As the buyers agent, we had ordered and checked the title-work to make sure that everything was clear prior to closing. However, there were enough significant details conveyed to me in the conversation with my distraught clients, that I too began to wonder if I had missed something.
Fortunately, he had left his card. I immediately alerted the listing agent and then initiated an urgent call into the title company. The title company verified that there were no outstanding liens at the time of closing. My next contact was to the county clerks office and they also had no indication of any foreclosure filing. You know who my final call was to…Mr. Santa Claus himself. You can rest assured that I was NOT to wish him a Merry Christmas!
Scams within the context of real estate transactions are increasingly common. Last year, the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors added a link on its website to allow anyone to report suspicions of mortgage fraud. It was a very necessary response to try to combat the increase in loan fraud. But the assault against customers has not been limited to just loan fraud. In the Grand Rapids area, we have had a number of reported cases in which individuals have been promised assistance with saving their homes from an imminent foreclosure, only to find out that they had been scammed hundreds or thousand of dollars and eventually lost their homes.
Yesterday, I received a call from a gentleman in another state who had found my blog post/series on short sales and foreclosures on line. He indicated that he wanted to know if I had heard about a certain company. Apparently, they had missed a payment or two and his wife in her acute distress, had contacted a company which promised that they would save their home from foreclosure. As long as they paid them $1,200 of which $600 was due that night! Whoa!
This gentleman had a nagging sense that something was not quite right. That gut level intuition is one of the most powerful sources of protection when dealing with a scam artist in real estate or any other area. Many scam artists are able to prey on people when they are most vulnerable because there is a tendency to grasp for any shred of hope in a desperate situation. It is most critical during these times to put the brakes on ALL hasty decisions.
The reality is this…It is not a Quick, Easy or Simple Process to Loose Your Home. AND…there are a number of options and solutions which you can explore in a reasonable manner so you can make an informed decision about what makes the most sense and is best for you.
Here are a few suggestions that might find helpful:
1. Avoid making hasty decisions when in a crisis. Recognize that your judgement might be impaired.
2. If something feels not quite right…Wait, Ask more questions, Verify
3. Report suspicious activities or proposals to the appropriate authorities
4. If someone offers to save you from a foreclosure and asks you for money to do it…DON’T instead..
5. Contact a Licensed Professional with knowledge about the process of foreclosures and short sales and requests a FREE Consultation to help you determine the best route for you to pursue.
And now to finish the story about Mr. Santa Claus. When I confronted him about his duplicity, he instantly retreated. He indicated that he must have made a mistake and got the wrong address. He was so sorry to have caused any distress & asked me to apologize to my clients. He had been given this list and was just trying to do his job. I told him that the only thing he was sorry about was that he had been caught and that he would be reported to the authorities. The line went dead…The only information on the card was a company name and an out of state telephone number.
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