Improving real estate market in Arizona does not preclude scams

Arizona is experiencing a marked improvement in its real estate market this year. According to articles in AZCentral.com, values are increasing for residential and commercial properties across the state, pointing to a healthy recovery from the recession. The commercial real estate industry is seeing improvement across the retail, office and industrial sectors from new and growing businesses.

As the state steadily recovers from the lean years, sales and purchases may move along much more quickly. Ready buyers may snap up new residential listings, leaving cautious purchasers without anything to buy. Unfortunately, the rapid pace may lead to mistakes and opening doors to real estate scams.

Purchasing problems

If a property seems too good to be true, it probably is. If it has been on the market for a long time, dig a little deeper and find out why. A legal review of paperwork may reveal past-due taxes or liens on the property. A home inspection may uncover mold in the closets, asbestos in the walls or dry rot in the attic or crawlspace.

If the seller is insisting that you purchase a property in "as-is" condition, red warning flags should be flying. The house could need major repairs or, maybe, it used to be a meth lab or sits atop a toxic waste dump. Of course, there are disclosure requirements for such extreme examples but you get the picture. Be prepared to assume all potential liability associated with a structure or piece of land you are purchasing in as-is condition.

Financing frauds

Mortgage scams captured the attention of the media across the nation in the past number of years. Despite federal crackdowns on mortgage lenders and those engaging in illegal lending practices, real estate scams are still running rampant. Some common swindles include the following:

  • Loan modification scams: Homeowners who are having trouble keeping up with their monthly mortgage payments often look to refinancing and loan modification options to reduce their expenses. However, many unscrupulous businesses engage in fraudulent foreclosure counseling, loan modification or leaseback programs and property owners need to do careful research in order to avoid becoming a fraud victim.
  • Investment scams: If someone claims to be an investment guru and tries to talk you into a get-rich-quick scheme, typically the only one who will get rich quickly is the "guru." Carefully research the business and do not jump in the water without first checking for sharks.
  • Paperwork switching scams: With any real estate transaction, it is vitally important that you know what you are signing. Do not put all your trust in a lender or mortgage professional. You need to have an understanding of the documents you are signing, independent of what the agents simply tell you.

A lawyer can help

In Arizona, it is important to have an attorney on your side when you are dealing with issues involving real estate. A lawyer knowledgeable about Arizona laws and commercial and residential real estate transactions can help make sure you are not taken advantage of.