In Foreclosure or Facing A Sheriff Sale? DON’T GET SCAMMED!

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This article is sort of a “companion article” for our popular article titled, How NOT to get scammed when selling your house’.  Except this article was specifically written for those homeowners who are in foreclosure and perhaps even facing a sheriff sale and who do NOT wish to sell their home. Instead they are seeking assistance from a qualified real estate professional who can help them keep their home.

The Scammers

The retired Houston Texas teacher who lived in her house since 1977 until she was scammed out of it by a contractor she met at her church.

The 75 year old who thought she was signing paperwork for a foreclosure rescue program for Seniors when instead she was signing over her home.

Or the 68 year old Chesapeake Grandmother who was scammed out of her home of 30 years after making payments to who she thought was her lender. Instead she was making them to a group of scammers who have since been sentenced to prison. Still, she lost her home and is now renting a room from a relative.

These are just a few of the millions of scams that unfortunately take place every year. In 2023 alone, the Federal Trade Commission received 2.6 million reports of fraud.  Some victims lose their life savings, some their homes and some lose both.

Not necessarily a scammer but almost as bad…

Then there are the many instances where a homeowner is working with an alleged “real estate professional” who’s not necessarily trying to run a scam, but is so new to critical areas like foreclosures and sheriff sales that they might as well be scammers.  Unfortunately these well intentioned “professionals” are so inexperienced and unknowledgeable that the end result may be as bad as dealing with a scammer.  Either way, the homeowner runs a high chance of losing their home.

To be clear, we support newcomers to the business and often take them under our wing to show them how to properly operate in this business.  However, we do not think that new Realtors, Investors and other real estate professionals who know little about foreclosures and who lack the resources to save someone’s home, should work with distressed homeowners without partnering with someone who’s very knowledgeable and experienced.  

We get that they are well intentioned and are really just trying to help.  But unfortunately, they can easily end up doing too much harm instead and risk losing someone’s home.  There’s simply too much at stake for a homeowner to take a chance on someone like this.

We’ve come across several cases where new real estate professionals have actually caused homeowners to lose their homes, and sometimes even their equity, when there were plenty of other options available. Options the new professional was obviously unaware of.

For example, every week our team combs through the upcoming list of homes scheduled for sheriff sale for the following week. And every week, almost without fail, we come across at least one property scheduled for sheriff sale and listed by a new and or inexperienced Realtor, yet no adjournments have been filed.  Adjournments that are easy to file, only cost $28-56 and grant the property owner an extra 30-60 days. Imagine that.  A Realtor has a house listed and is totally oblivious to the fact that their client is days away from losing that house to foreclosure. We then find ourselves reaching out to the shocked Realtor as a courtesy to both them and their client.

Here are the steps you should take to avoid scams

So what steps can you take to ensure that you’re not victimized by a scammer or being represented by an inexperienced real estate professional when trying to save your home? 

We’ve taken our 60 years of collective experience working with homeowners in foreclosure and put together two lists of red flags. One for inexperienced real estate professionals and one for downright scammers who are at your front door instead of jail where they belong.  We divided it into two lists because we do want to be fair. We don’t see the uninformed but well intentioned real estate professional in the same light as the scammer. So they don’t necessarily come with the same red flags. Nonetheless, you should know when you’re dealing with either one.

Red flags from scammers

  1. They try to discourage you from using an attorney.  Your foreclosure is a legal matter. Therefore, regardless of what information you receive from any non-Attorneys, you should always be advised to consult an experienced attorney.  Especially when it involves such a big ticket item like your home. There are both paid and free legal help out there for those who qualify.  If a “professional” tries to dissuade you from going to an attorney, especially with a contract of some kind for you to sign, they likely have something to hide. Run far and fast from these scammers. Your insistence on using an attorney will scare scammers away.

  2. They charge fees but aren’t licensed to do so. If you’re in a state like New Jersey where you have to be licensed as a ‘Debt adjuster’, that is someone who negotiates a debt for a fee, then make sure the professional you’re working with is licensed to do so. New Jersey residents can check the license of the professionals here.

  3. Their website fails to show the exact people who own and are in charge of the company. Or worse, there is no website at all. There is a trend by both new real estate professionals and scammers to not divulge their name and identifying information on their website in case they make a mistake and you want to sue them. Some are house buyers and Realtors who have been in the business for a while and may have soiled their own name. Hence they don’t want you to know that it’s them running the company should you decide to do some research on them. Whatever the reason, stay away from professionals who don’t want to be held accountable.

  4. They are unwilling to meet you in person or at least on a Zoom.  Local professionals should be more than willing to meet you in person upon request. If they aren’t local, you need to be able to at least meet them on video to make sure he or she is a real person.

Red flags from inexperienced real estate professionals

  1. They can’t tell you any specifics about your foreclosure. Anyone experienced in foreclosures should be able to give you the basics of your situation. How much time do you have left before your home is lost? How do you tell exactly how much is owed in your foreclosure? What stage of foreclosure are you currently in? Approximately, how much time do I have before my sheriff sale is scheduled?

    These are all basic questions that the professional should be able to answer. If not, you may have good reason to question whether or not they’re up to the task of helping you save your home. 

  1. They can’t give you a detailed explanation of the options available to you. We took the liberty of listing the options available to you on our Sheriff sale resource page. Anyone promising to help you keep your home should be able to explain these options to you in detail.

  2. They’re not familiar with the Tyler Hennepin case and not sure how it applies to your tax foreclosure.  Anyone qualified to work with owners in tax foreclosure  (Attorneys included) should be familiar with the landmark case Tyler vs. Hennepin County decision, the US Supreme Court issued in May 2023. While understanding the specifics of ‘Tyler’ may not be necessary for a non attorney to help you with your tax foreclosure, their knowledge of the case and how it might apply to your situation should give you an idea of their knowledge and experience level. 

    Additionally, if they’re an Attorney who represents clients in tax foreclosure, it’s mandatory that they be very familiar with the case and how to apply it to your situation.

  1. Their resume shows that they lack experience – how long has the professional you’re working with been in the business of saving houses? Do they have a track record of successfully saving people’s homes? Can they provide specific examples? If not, you may be their first attempt at saving a home from foreclosure. Therefore, proceed with caution.

  2. No testimonials from satisfied customers. It helps if your real estate professional can refer you to testimonials, recorded, written or live, of real customers who can attest to a successful experience with him or her. Preferably someone who’s home was saved from foreclosure thanks to the Professional’s help.  The absence of testimonials should make you wonder if any exists.

  3. Complaints from DISsatisfied customers. We feel this is a no brainer. If there are numerous people complaining about the professional, consider yourself forewarned.

In summary, if the real estate professional you’re currently working with produces any of the red flags listed above, sit down and have an honest conversation with them about their intentions and or qualifications.  Don’t be afraid to sever the relationship should you not feel confident about their capabilities.  And terminate all communication immediately, if you suspect that you’ve been communicating with a scammer.  Your ability to keep your home is at stake:

As always, reach out to us with any questions.

 

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