Residential real estate transactions in Arizona typically involve hundreds of thousands – and often millions – of dollars. With this amount of money flowing back and forth during transactions, home buyers and sellers can easily become the victims of real estate scams. Even experienced agents and brokers aren’t immune from being taken in by clever scammers.
No matter how intelligent and careful you are, it can be all too easy to be taken in by a legitimate-looking site – particularly if you’re in the middle of buying or selling your home and are inundated by documents to be reviewed, completed, initialed and signed. Let’s take a look at a few ways to avoid becoming a victim.
Avoid real estate sites and listings from unfamiliar sources
Scammers can get people before they’ve even begun the purchase or sale process. If you’re in the market for a home, or even just “window shopping,” stick with legitimate sites like Zillow or Realtor.com and licensed agents. Craigslist is not the place to find a home.
Be cautious about home buying businesses
Scammers also target people trying to sell their home with a minimum of effort. There are legitimate “house flipping” companies that offer to buy your house as-is. These can be a good financial deal if you’re trying to unload an inherited home you don’t want to bother to fix up to sell. Otherwise, it’s generally best to rely on a real estate agent. If you are looking for a home-buying company, check them out thoroughly before contacting them.
Be sure your money is going where you think it is
You may need to wire money for a deposit, down payment or even the full price of the home, if you’re paying cash. This is where scammers can make big money – sometimes by hacking into real estate agents’ or escrow companies’ accounts. Never authorize a transaction online or give any account or credit card information over the phone unless you’ve just confirmed that the professional you’ve been dealing with has asked for it.
One way to avoid falling prey to a scam is to deal only with trusted real estate professionals. Having someone who can provide legal guidance is also valuable if you have concerns or questions about a transaction throughout the home purchase or sale process.