Whenever there is massive confusion and emotional turmoil, there will be people trying to take advantage of the situation. There are people preying on those who are in financial distress and losing their homes by acting like they’re going to help.
When a homeowner is behind in payments long enough to get the attention of their lender, the real adventure begins. Legal actions due to a homeowner defaulting on a mortgage are filed and become public record.
Just about any fraudster with a plan and dream can ramp up a program to “help” distressed homeowners. The list of future clients is neatly provided by the court for anyone with a pulse who can read. The mailing address of the property owner is readily available and the phone number of the homeowner is only as much as a Google search away.
There are people who fall for foreclosure rescue scams. They get contacted by post cards, phone calls and even a knock on the door.
Scammers promise to stop the foreclosure and help sell the home by way of a short sale. Confused and overwhelmed homeowners will agree that it’s a discrete way to unload the home and the debt. Many forego consulting an attorney or interviewing reputable real estate agents.
Bad can actually get worse when you’re overwhelmed by the threat of losing your home. You can get ripped off in broad daylight and get stuck holding the bag for a deficiency judgment for the debt or a huge tax liability. Some of those fine folks offering to stop foreclosure aren’t worried about the homeowner’s future. They’re just angling to make a fast buck.
If you’re a homeowner in this position you need to circle the wagons. You need to be proactive and initiate the contact with the resources that can help you. Contact an attorney or two and at least do the first free consultation or contact a legitimate foreclosure counselor.
A few key points to keep in mind when sorting through your options:
-- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
-- If you work with a HUD approved foreclosure counselor there should be little to no fees for advice. Find a list at www.HUD.gov or call 877-483-1515.
-- No reputable foreclosure counselor will guarantee to stop foreclosure.
-- Understand what you’re signing or don’t sign it. Don’t be pressured to sign anything.
-- Consult an attorney. Never sign blank forms. Keep copies of everything with your signature.
-- Trust your instincts. If you get an uneasy feeling, walk away.
If a short sale becomes the plan of choice you must interview more than one real estate agent. It doesn’t cost a thing. Find them by asking around or by contacting agents that have listings in the area. Ask them for references you can call to speak to.
Verify the real estate agent’s license at www.MyFloridaLicense.com, make sure it’s active and check for prior violations.
Google search the real estate agent’s name. They should have plenty of information on the web about the short sale procedure and their success if they really are as experienced as they claim to be.
If they’re invisible on the web both professionally or personally, they probably aren’t the best resource for you.
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Chris Griffith is a real estate agent at Downing-Frye Realty Inc. in Bonita Springs. If you have a question about local real estate or Bonita Springs, e-mail her at chris@LifeInBonitaSprings.com.