Real estate fraud is one of the biggest fears of prospective home buyers. However, there are several things you can do to protect your interests. A real estate lawyer will encourage every client to do these 5 things.
Yes, a real estate attorney will tell you that it's a smart idea to lawyer up. It is. An attorney can review documents and do research on a property. If they think something is problematic, they'll bring it to your attention before you sign a deal or exchange any money. What you pay for counsel can easily exceed the potentially hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in losses that could come from being a fraud victim.
Some of the most basic problems with a property are listed in the county's real estate registry. This is a database of the titles, but it includes lots of extra information. For example, it should include the entire subdivision history of the property. Similarly, it should note any outstanding liens or easements that could limit a buyer's rights after closing a purchase.
You will even find information about resources on the property and the history of its use. If a driller found water on the site, for example, that should appear in the data. Similarly, you can learn whether a house was built on a reclaimed industrial site.
It is wise to have an independent and licensed inspector examine the house. They can check for common problems, such as signs of roof or foundation damage. An inspection report will detail what's wrong with the building and give you a ballpark idea of what the expected repair costs will be. You can then use this as a negotiating tool to get the price down accordingly or move on to looking at other properties.
Some things are going to require a bit more research. Many sellers include nice appliances in sales, for example. However, a common fraudster trick is to rebadge cheap appliances with big names using cheap pieces of hardware bought off the internet. Check the serial numbers for these kinds of items and see if the pictures match what you saw in the house.
The art of making a sale is being prepared to say, "Yes." However, the art of negotiation is being prepared to say, "No." Sometimes, the simplest way to guard against fraud is to know when to walk away. If you have unresolved doubts about a home, a real estate attorney will tell you to listen to your inner voice and stop trying to buy the place.
Consult with a real estate lawyer to learn more.