We Buy Houses Scams and How to Avoid Them
Have those advertisements for people saying, ‘we buy houses’ caught your eye and made you question whether they are we buy houses scams? This is a very real concern for people considering this kind of service.
Trying to sell your house fast in Jacksonville? Are you concerned that you might get taken advantage of or have the wool pulled over your eyes?
JOIN THE CLUB.
The traditional way to sell a house is using a real estate agent and having them list your house.
Maybe you would rather skip the hassles and sell to a Jacksonville cash home buyer instead. Every year, thousands of people sell their homes directly to investors rather than listing with an agent. In fact, nationwide, 5.5% of home sales were to investors according to a report by RealtyTrac.
If you’ve never sold a home before or never sold one without the services of agent, it can be quite scary. It can seem downright overwhelming.
I’m going to share some tips for you to make sure that who you are working with is a legitimate house buyer and not someone looking to scam you. By the end of this article, you’ll be armed with what you need to know to choose the right company to buy your house.
The Sniff Test for We Buy Houses Scams
There are a lot of legitimate house buyers in Jacksonville, but there are also some people that are running we buy houses scams. It can be difficult to know which one you might be dealing with.
The stakes are high. People have lost lots of time, money and even their houses to scams run by investors that don’t have any sort of moral compass.
It can be difficult to determine if who you are dealing with has your best interests at heart. Most of the time there are “tells” that will clue you in to their true intentions. These signs can mean you are caught in some of the we buy houses scams being used today.
1. Application Fees
If a house buyer wants you to pay them any kind of fees to evaluate your house, run away as fast you can. This person is likely a scammer. Honest home buying companies don’t make money charging application fees. They make their money from buying houses, fixing them up and either renting or selling the house.
2. Kitchen Table Closings
If a buyer wants you to sign over the deed to your house anywhere other than a title company or attorney’s office, you’re likely going to be making a costly mistake. Any sale you have should happen at a title company so that you can make sure the paperwork is handled properly and all liens are taken care of.
Please do not mistake this for signing a contract to sell your house. That can and probably will happen at your house. Just don’t sign any Warranty Deeds, Quitclaim Deeds without the services of a real estate attorney or title company.
3. Too Much Information Is Given
Phony bank statements and pre-approval letters for loans are given without being requested from untrustworthy real estate investors. These investors present these documents to make them appear legit but these documents can easily be faked.
This occurs a lot when the supposed “investor” lives in a different city than Jacksonville and communicates almost entirely by email. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather work with somebody local that I can meet face to face. Just because they are not local doesn’t immediately make them a scammer, but I sure would rather know who I’m dealing with.
Scammers Don’t Always Look and Act Like Used Car-Salesmen
It’s not always easy to pick out who the scammer is in a crowd.
Sometimes it’s the overly nice gentleman.
Sometimes it’s the straight and to-the-point woman.
Don’t let your guard down just because someone smooth talks you. You need to get the facts about who they are and what they can do for you.
We will discuss exactly what to ask for to determine whether you are dealing with the right kind of house buyer or not later in this article.
It may seem impossible to determine whether someone is genuine or running we buy houses scams…but it’s not.
One way is to trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right…it probably isn’t.
Another way is to determine whether their actions match their words. Actions always speak louder than words and I’ve found them to be very telling about people.
If a Jacksonville home buyer says he or she is going to meet you at your house at 2:00 on Wednesday and they show up at 2:20…they might not be trust worthy. They certainly don’t value your time or respect it.
If they walk through your house and tear it apart with harsh words about the house or your situation, you are probably dealing with someone that could care less about your feelings or what you get out of the deal.
Harsh words about your house are solely intended to force you to lower your opinion of the value of the house. This type of investor may as well be wearing a plaid suit and lots of gold chains. They are worse than a used car salesman…
A respectable and reputable real estate investor will always treat you with respect. They will show up on time and show empathy. When viewing houses, trustworthy house buyers will look for the positive aspects of the house as they know full well they will be making repairs and breathing new life into the home.
Other Not-so-obvious Semi-Scams to Watch Out For
There are many other situations that I call ‘semi-scams’ to watch out for. These may not be illegal or full-blown we buy houses scams but are intended to take advantage of you and your situation.
It’s best to avoid these at all costs.
1. Sub2 or Subject to Scams
Some investors use a strategy called ‘Subject To’ or Sub2 when using shorthand. This is where they buy your house from you “subject to” the existing mortgage. They will want you to deed them the house without paying off your mortgage.
The biggest problem with this is that the mortgage is in your name and, if it goes unpaid, directly impacts your credit!
It’s pretty easy to see why this type of deal is important to avoid. You would basically be trusting an almost complete stranger with your credit. No thanks!
2. Out of Area Wholesalers
Wholesalers are investors that do not typically buy your house themselves. It’s seems the majority of these wholesalers are not even in Jacksonville, FL. They are out of area investors that target Jacksonville because of the affordable housing. Many times these investors will pretend they are going to buy the house when in fact they have no intention of doing so.
How it works is they put your house under contract for them to buy and then they go about finding a buyer that has the money to buy the house. When they find the buyer, they assign the contract they made with you to the capable buyer for a fee.
This makes them the middle man that is taking a hefty fee that could have been profit to you.
I recommend you find a house buying company that has the means to actually buy the house so that you maximize the amount of money you make from the sale.
3. Short Sales Scams
Short sales are where a bank or mortgage company agrees to release their lien on your house in exchange for less than the principle balance of your loan. Typically, you have to pay off any principle balance and interest due for them to release the lien. When they agree to accept less, you are performing what is called a short sale.
A short sale in and of itself is not a problem, it’s when this is attempted when it doesn’t make sense that causes a lot of problems for Jacksonville homeowners.
If you are behind on payments but have a lot of equity and a home that doesn’t need any major repairs, you might have an investor convince you to attempt a short sale.
Short sales can drag on for months and the bank may wait until just before a foreclosure auction to deny it. Then what are you going to do? You won’t have time to sell it. It’s almost certain to be lost to foreclosure.
Some careless investors don’t give you all the facts when they attempt a short sale on your house. You also need to be aware that even if the bank agrees to take less for the lien to be released, they could put a deficiency judgement on you for the amount the loan was shorted. You will probably also have to report the amount shorted as income which could cause your income tax owed to be a real problem for you.
How to Avoid These Potential Scams
Do your homework to avoid we buy houses scams.
With some quick research you can easily determine whether somebody has a history of doing what they say. You can also find out if they’ve been in business for a while which shows they are stable and worthy of your business.
Crooks rarely stay in business long and almost always have negative reviews.
1. Check Testimonials
Be sure to look for online reviews and testimonials for the house buying company you are considering. Any reputable business will have statements from previous customers that can attest to how they do business. You can read dozens of reviews from customers of MBBW Property Investments, LLC here on our website. Take a look at them for an example of the types of things you will find for any honest business owner.
2. Check the Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau (known as the BBB) allows consumers to leave reviews and rate local businesses. You should only work with house buying companies that have a strong rating with the Better Business Bureau.
If a company is not rated with the BBB you can not have as much faith in their ability to do what they say.
3. Check How Long the Company Has Been in Business
Great businesses have been around for a while. According to the Small Business Administration, nearly one third of all businesses fail within the first 2 years. If you find a business that’s been around for longer than 5 years, you can probably bet they are still around for a reason. They probably are doing something right.
3. Make Sure to Close at a Title Company
There is so much legal talk in contracts and deed documents that you simply must have a title company or real estate attorney handle the closing.
This is to ensure that everything is done properly.
The last thing you want is for something to be done incorrectly that you have to deal with years down the road.
You could even run into a situation where you are sued because something wasn’t handled properly.
Title companies provide title insurance that will protect you from most of these problems. It’s definitely worth it.
4. Don’t Sign Documents You Don’t Understand
This one seems to be common sense but is definitely not common practice. If you don’t understand something, don’t sign it.
This is also where a good real estate attorney or title company can be worth their weight in gold. They should be able to break it down for you in layman’s terms so that you know what you are getting into.
Great house buying companies will also take the time to clearly explain everything you are agreeing to in a way that makes sense to you. If you find you are working with someone not willing to do that, don’t work with them. Find someone else that buys houses.
When selling a house fast to a local house buying company, you should be aware of the signs of a potential we buy houses scam.
Armed with the knowledge from this article you are much better prepared to find a great house buyer for your house that will treat you with respect and do what they say they are going to do.
If you would like to get a fair cash offer for your Jacksonville house, do not hesitate to give us a call at 904-780-5408. We would be glad to answer any questions you have and help you in any way we can.