The following consumer advisory is from the Colorado Divison of Real Estate. They are there to protect you from being taken advantage of. Bottom line, if someone is trying to talk you into selling your home to them, get another opinion. No matter how nice or how honest you think someone is being, double check what you are being told. It can’t hurt.
The Division of Real Estate is seeing an uptick in cases involving two types of cases involving long-term home ownership: Wholesaling/Assigning Transactions and Distressed Rescue Transactions.
Investors and real estate brokers are targeting people with home ownership of over 20 years. This targeting translates to people over the age of 50 who are close to paying down their mortgage and holding equity in their property. The investor will offer the following:
- Cash transaction;
- A quick sale closing with no inspection; and
- You can leave behind any items you don’t want.
The problems begin when the homeowner is elderly, alone, and doesn’t know the true market value of their property:
- They may have purchased their property over 20 years ago for $50,000, $100,000, or maybe $200,000.
- That same property now could have a market value of $300,000, $400,000 or even $500,000.
- The idea that they purchased the property 20 years ago for $120,000 and are now being offered $220,000 sounds appealing to these homeowners – their mortgage might be paid off and they will make $100,000 – sounds good right?
- They don’t realize that an investor or real estate broker who knows the true market value of the property may be taking advantage of them by actively misleading the homeowner as to the true market value.
The problems arise when the investor or real estate broker:
- Drives down the property value in the seller’s mind by showing them comparable properties that aren’t really comparable.
- Talks to the homeowner about all of the deferred maintenance that the property needs (which may or may not be true).
- Allows the homeowner to leave items behind (What is that “convenience” worth – the costs of renting a dumpster, hiring two-three workers for a day to unload your house? Is it worth a homeowner giving up $20,000 – $50,000 – $100,000 – or more of their equity?)
- Fails to tell the homeowner that they are actively marketing the property for market value and that the investor or real estate broker plans to assign their rights in their contract with the homeowner to another investor/buyer.
- Fails to tell the homeowner that they intend to make a profit by accomplishing an assignment of the contract.
- Fails to tell the homeowner when the contract is assigned to a different investor/buyer.
Investigated Case Example
Below is an example of a case that we investigated where the broker involved in the deal was referred criminally and her real estate license was revoked.
The victim had the misfortune of being on her front porch when an “investor” and his real estate partner approached her and told her they used to live in the neighborhood and wanted to move back.
They figured out her weaknesses and used them against her.
- After “working” on her for a few days, the investor and real estate agent had a meeting with her that lasted hours. At the end of the meeting they had talked her into a purchase price of $200,000 for a property she didn’t even plan on selling.
- At the same time, they had already assigned the contract to a second investor for $300,000 – with the agreement that the second investor would pay a $100,000 assignment fee to the original investor and real estate broker.
- The second investor sold the property to a third investor for $360,000 two weeks after the closing.
- Finally, the third investor held the property for eight months and sold it for $520,000.
That wouldn’t happen to any of us right? Think again. This type of thing can happen to anyone – young, old, rich, poor, no education, or highly educated. The reason it works is because people who perpetrate fraud are good at what they do – separating you from your money.
- Unfortunately, some of our victims became victims because they responded to an unsolicited mailer, phone call, or knock on the door. Once the “investor” makes contact with someone, they start “working” on them. They are professionals at getting close and gaining trust.
- They are charming and know how to obtain information about you that will help in their dealings with you. In just a few short conversations they will find out private information about you and then use it against you.
Things to Keep In Mind
- Be wary if someone approaches you about something you weren’t even thinking about doing.
- If you want to sell your property, you should contact someone you have been referred to by family, friends, or do research on real estate brokers working in your neighborhood.
- Go to our website and see if the person has a real estate license and if they have any disciplinary history – dora.colorado.gov/dre
- Go to the City and County of Denver website to check on neighborhood sales – denvergov.org
- Click Search Property Information, then enter your address and click Search. In the Results link click on your address where there are various tabs and click on Neighborhood Sales.
- If you have a hard time with technology, you can always ask friends or family members to help you navigate the web to do some research about property values in your area.
If you do find yourself entertaining an offer from an unsolicited investor:
- Ask to obtain, and keep, a list of the comparable property sales in your neighborhood the investor used to come up with their purchase price offer.
- Always keep someone else in the loop – your children, good friends, or someone you trust.
- Always know that you can seek legal advice – in the end, it might be worth the money you spend on a consultation with an attorney.
- Review the contract closely to see if it is assignable. Inquire into why it is assignable, for instance: to whom it is assigned and why, and how much the new buyer is paying the original buyer – AKA – an assignment fee.
- Do not sign an assignable contract until you have had the opportunity to investigate the true value of your property and the legal implications with an attorney.
- Take responsibility for being informed about the value of your property and the contracts that you are considering signing.
Distressed Rescue Transactions
Investors and real estate brokers are approaching distressed homeowners (those behind in their payments, facing foreclosure, or experiencing a medical issue). They offer the homeowner an “out” by agreeing to make the mortgage payments for them.
Problems arise when the investor does not explain how this will be accomplished. The unscrupulous investor will:
- Have the homeowner sign a Quit Claim Deed in which the homeowner signs over their ownership in the property.
- Fail to explain to the homeowner that they, the homeowner, are still responsible for the mortgage.
- Fail to warn the homeowner that they could be violating their “due on sale clause” with their lender.
The homeowner is usually elderly or part of an at-risk population (English isn’t their first language, disability of some kind, etc.).
The Division advises the following when it comes to these types of rescue transactions:
- Don’t sign any documents or a deed to anyone until you have had a chance to talk with your lender and an attorney about your mortgage obligations and your legal rights.
- Colorado has a Foreclosure Protection Act that affords you certain rights when you are financially distressed.
- It’s best to take proactive steps when you first start having financial problems, and here are some resources that you can contact:
- Colorado Housing Connects – 1-844-926-6632
- Colorado Foreclosure Hotline – 1-877-601-HOPE (4673)
- Colorado Bar Association “Find-a-Lawyer” – 303-860-1115
- Colorado Legal Services – 303-837-1313
- Disability Law Colorado (Formerly The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People) – 303-722-0720