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To avoid real estate scams, you have to spot them

One of the first things any potential buyer of a home needs to do is assess whether it is a buyer's market or a seller's market. That might be true in many parts of the country, but in Florida it is difficult to identify when the last buyer's market was. According to the Tampa Bay Times, we are entering prime selling season and existing homes are in very short supply right now. That makes for a seller's market.

Timing is always important whether you are a buyer or a seller. But if you are a buyer getting ready to make a purchase, and regardless of whether you are just entering the arena or consider yourself a savvy consumer, it is important to acknowledge that the process can be legally complicated. For the protection of individual interests, it's wise to have an experienced legal advocate at your side.

From a buyer's perspective, if this is your first time wading in, you owe it to yourself to be extra vigilant against being taken advantage of. Those experienced in real estate law know fraudsters are out there and to avoid falling victim means being aware of common fraud practices.

  • Wire fraud: Putting money into escrow is something that happens with every real estate deal. Doing this by wire transfer is common. So is computer hacking by fraudsters. To avoid falling victim to a hacker's attempt to intercept your funds, confirm any requests for transfer directly with your various agents.
  • Unlicensed broker: State law requires brokers to be properly licensed for management of property or sales or renting. If your agent is not properly licensed, money you hand over as part of the process could easily disappear. To allay any doubts, it doesn't hurt to check with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
  • Needless document copying: When you buy your home, you might get an official looking notice requesting in the neighborhood of $80 dollars to get a copy of your deed. Don't fall for it. The government will send you a copy in time, for free. And if you need another copy, you can get it from the county clerk's office for much less.

Source: Realestate.com, "3 Common Real Estate Scams That Affect First-Time Home Buyers," by Casey Fleming, accessed April 11, 2018

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