How to Avoid House-Buying Scams

Seen or unforeseen circumstances van lead to people having to sell their home. A medical emergency, a need to downsize, or even a job out of the area are all potential reasons to sell and to sell in a time crunch.

Unfortunately, not all of the offers that come in are legitimate. Some “house buyers” have no intention of buying anyone’s home.

Even so, there are ways anyone can utilize to spot home buying scams. The following tips will help those wishing to sell their home detect which offers are legitimate and which are not.

Faceless Offers
Scam emails are sent out all across the internet every single day, and a fair amount of these emails have to do with real estate. Sometimes an apartment offer is made that is too good to be true, but another way scammers will try to take advantage of home sellers is by pulling at the heart strings. Typically, stories about family and general struggles will be interspersed with excuses as to why the buyer cannot meet in person. Often the reason has to do with them being out of the country, at which point any home seller should cease communication.

Flaky Information
Some “home buyers” will gain the trust of the seller by spending time with them at the house, gaining information, and making a generous offer before really inspecting the house or knowing anything about it. Some time afterwards, they come back with some sort of written agreement and since they have gained the seller’s trust, the seller does not typically closet read the document. Every few days or so, the “buyer” makes changes to the document little by little until the final agreement is nothing like the original and the seller is the one who loses.

Financial Gutting
If a buyer manages to convince a seller to sign over the deed without the seller fully vetting the buyer and their financial reliability, the house can become their property while the seller is still living there. The seller would then pay rent until the buyer was able to take all financial value from the property and leave the seller without a house but with a hefty mortgage. The “buyer” only owns the property; the loan in this case would still be in the seller’s name, as in many cases a house is not fully paid off by the time the owner decides to sell. The seller is left with no house and the loan to pay off, risking their credit if they do not pay.

Fragmentary Reliability
Sometimes a scammer will make an offer that is so high it seems too good to pass up. While such offers can be difficult to resist, it is important to avoid signing anything too early into the home selling process. If the seller makes this mistake, the “buyer” will come back right before payment is to be made with some sort of excuse as to why they are unable to pay the agreed upon amount. Eventually, this process goes around and around until the seller is simply exhausted from the constant changes and agrees. Typically this results in the seller losing money, at the very least.

Even with these risks, there are several rules home sellers can follow to avoid being scammed:

Stick With Reputable Buyers
Regardless of how fancy someone’s supposed title is or how many successful house purchases they have under their belt, it is important to make sure they have a history of honest behavior. Often there are review websites specifically for this purpose.

Background Checks and Verification
If there is suspicion around a buyer, background checks can be obtained through various agencies, including the state Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau. Legitimate business and buyers should not only welcome such inquiries, they should pass them without issue. In addition, if there are documents written with legal jargon, a reputable buyer should take no offense to the seller having an attorney of their choosing look over the paperwork before it is signed. Title companies offer services to home buyers and sellers as well, making it easy to find a neutral third party to iron out any legal issues.

Make Sure Any Agreements are Written Down
Verbal persuasion can be incredibly powerful, but it is important to always remember to have any agreements in written form. Without a solid document to refer back to, it is easy for a scammer to change their mind and claim they never agreed to what they initially agreed to. In addition, verbal agreements are subject to more wide varieties of interpretation than are written ones.

To avoid scams, the ultimate thing to remember is that if something feels less than reputable, there is nothing wrong with backing out as long as nothing has been signed or officially agreed to. While selling a house is stressful, it is important to not get caught up in dazzling offers or taking the easiest route to relieve the stress associated with selling a home. Vigilance is essential when so many corners of the housing market hide predatory so-called buyers.