St. Augustine and the Beaches Are Not Immune From Real Estate Scams.
With the real estate market picking up again, the scammers and fraudsters are coming out of the woodwork and even in little St. Augustine we have experienced attempted scams and helped clients prevent scams.
As a real estate professional, investor, buyer or seller, you should be on high alert for the red flags of real estate scams. Below is a list of a few of the red flags to look for even in the St. Augustine market:
- The sales price is too good to be true. It’s either way below or substantially higher than market value.
- The only contact with the parties involved is through email, they refuse to speak to you by telephone and/or they claim they are not located in the United States. An example of this is someone who claims that they are working on an oil rig in China and are not able to contact you via anything other than email.
- The buyer sends over a deposit check for an amount well above the actual requested deposit amount or the check is issued by an institution from a foreign country that is not anywhere near where the buyer is located. For example, the person working on the oil rig in China sends a check issued by an institution in Canada. Worse, they send a check for more than the requested deposit and ask you to send a refund check for the difference . . . your check is good but theirs was a bad check on a phony account.
- The seller instructs you to wire your deposit or closing funds to a bank located outside of Florida or to an entity other than the one listed as the actual property owner.
- You receive an email asking you to transfer the deposit directly to the seller. Note: all deposits should go to an escrow agent until you’ve officially closed on a transaction.
- A deed has been recorded within the past year from a foreign property owner to another foreigner.
- The signatures on the contract appear to be substantially different than the signatures on the documents in the chain of title.
If you think you have encountered any of the red flags above, you should further investigate the situation and be very cautious before taking action. When in doubt, give our office a call and let one of our dedicated real estate attorneys guide you through the contract or closing issues. Chances are, if it has been tried before in St. Augustine or elsewhere in Florida, our attorneys know how to debunk whether or not your a confronting a scam or fraud and help you uncover the truth.
If you are uncertain or uneasy with a transaction, we can help guide you through the process and help to protect your interests. We have attorneys who focus only on real estate in the St. Augustine and Beaches area.