Home Equity Scams
A home is the most expensive investment most people will ever own. For cash-strapped homeowners a home equity loan is a temptingly easy way to get cash. However, some home equity lenders are dishonest, and gullible consumers are at risk of losing their biggest asset. Borrowers should be wary of unscrupulous lenders and their scams to avoid losing their homes.
Financially unsophisticated homeowners, such as the elderly, members of minority groups and people with poor credit ratings, are often targeted by unscrupulous lenders using unethical lending practices.
One tactic used is called “equity stripping”. In this instance, cash-strapped prospective borrowers who the lender knows cannot met the monthly payments are encouraged to exaggerate their income on the application form to help get the loan approved. As soon as the borrower fails to meet the monthly payment, the lender forecloses, stripping the borrower of all the equity in the home. Low-income homeowners should beware of lenders who encourage them to accept loans which they cannot afford to repay.
Another tactic is the balloon payment. A borrower who is falling behind in mortgage payments is offered mortgage refinancing at a lower monthly payment. However, the payments are lower because they cover only the loan interest. At the end of the loan term, the principal -that is, the entire amount of the loan -is due in one lump sum called a balloon payment. If the borrowers cannot make the balloon payment or refinance, the home is foreclosed.
Loan flipping is another deceptive practice. The company holding a homeowner’s mortgage offers to refinance in order to give the homeowner extra cash, but charges high points and fees for doing so. The extra cash received may be less than the additional costs and fees charged for the refinancing; moreover, interest must be paid on the extra charges.
Home improvement scams are very common. A contractor offers to install a new roof or remodel a kitchen at a price that sounds reasonable, and offers financing through a lender he knows. Sometimes the contractor even attempts to get the homeowner to sign blank contract forms with the promise they will be filled in later when the contractor is “less busy”. Often, the rates offered are not competitive, and as soon as the contractor has been paid by the lender, he has no interest in completing the job to the homeowner’s satisfaction. The homeowner is left with unfinished or shoddy work and a large loan to pay off.
Credit Insurance Packing is the charging of extra fees at the closing of a mortgage. A homeowner and a lender come to an agreement on a mortgage, but at closing, the lender tacks on charges for credit insurance or other “benefits” that the borrower did not ask for and did not discuss. The lender hopes the borrower won’t notice this, and just sign the loan papers with the extra charges included. If the borrower questions the last minute charges, the lender may state that the charges are standard policy for all loans, and if objections continue, the lender will claim that it will take several days to draw up a new contract, or that the bank manager may reconsider the loan altogether. Due to these last-minute pressure tactics, the loan may wind up costing considerably more than initially stated. Borrowers who agree to buy the insurance are paying extra for a product they may not want or need.
Mortgage Servicing Abuses occur after the mortgage has been closed. Borrowers get bills from mortgage companies for payments such as escrow for taxes and insurance even though the homeowner agreed beforehand with the lender to pay those items themselves. Bills arrive for late fees, even though payments were made on time. Or a message may arrive saying that the homeowner failed to maintain required property insurance and the lender is buying more costly insurance at the homeowner’s expense. Other unexplained charges such as legal fees are added to the amount owing, increasing the monthly payments or the amount owing at the end of the loan term. The lender does not provide an accurate or complete account of these charges. When homeowners get tired of these tactics and ask for a payoff statement in order to refinance with another lender, they receive inaccurate or incomplete statements. The lender makes it almost impossible to determine how much has been paid and how much is still owing on the loan.
Homeowners should avoid signing over the deed to their properties to lenders under any circumstances. If a borrower is in danger of foreclosure, a second “lender” may offer to help prevent the loss of the home, if only the homeowner will sign over the property as a “temporary” measure. The promised refinancing never arrives, and the lender now owns the property. Once the lender has the deed to your property, he can treat it as his own. He may borrow against it or even sell it to someone else. The borrower no longer owns the home, and will receive no money when it is sold. The lender can treat the borrower as a tenant and the mortgage payments as rent. If the “rent” payments are late, the borrower can be evicted.
To protect against unethical lending practices, homeowners should never agree to loans beyond the means of their monthly income; sign any documents before reading the fine print; or let any lender pressure them into signing immediately. Never allow the promise of extra cash or lower monthly payments get in the way of good financial judgment. If a loan sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Always ask specifically if credit insurance is required as a condition of the loan. If the added security of credit insurance is desired, shop around for the best rates. Keep careful records of all payments, including billing statements and canceled checks. Challenge any inaccurate charges; many companies hope that borrowers will simply not be bothered.
Hire contractors only after checking their references, and get more than one estimate for any job.
Borrowers who are financially inexperienced should consider consulting with an accountant or an attorney before signing a loan.
Posted by Johan Tutski
Almost 15 years ago, you bought your first home. You’ve been diligent in working and paying on the mortgage, and finally have more equity than mortgage. Ah, the sweet smell of victory, and home ownership. But are you playing the financial investment game as well as you think? Are you missing out on tax savings, funding strategies, or just plain smart money options? How do you check your equity options versus your tax savings options, to comparative shop and make use of your smart options?
Today, the tax benefits of retaining a mortgage on your home far outweigh the benefits derived from complete home ownership. Mortgage interest is fully tax deductible, and so are some of the options that come with equity lines of credit, second mortgages, or equity mortgages.
Borrowing against the equity in your home in order to pay off credit card debt, fund college educations, fund additions or needed repairs to the home, or to provide startup capital for that dream of owning your own business, is a tax advantage. Interest on first and second mortgages in general is fully tax deductible, and if you’re borrowing to fund education related expenses, or start that new business, some or all of those expenses are going to be deductible. It’s a win-win situation.
How is the dollar value you have in your home established? Well, there a couple of different ways that lending institutions determine home equity. If you’re dealing with a local bank that has held your mortgage since inception, many will not require an appraisal of the home, they will simply use the original established value of the home. Now, if you believe your home to be worth quite a bit more than the original appraisal value, you might want to request a new appraisal, but appraisals aren’t cheap.
In general mortgage companies will always require a recent appraisal before lending money against residential property. Either way, the equity in your home is established based on the current dollar value of your home, less any monies already owed against the property (that would be your first mortgage). There is an additional piece of information worth noting here. Usually, a lending institution will only lend a certain percentage of the homes value. With the creation of 125 loans, or loans where up to 125 percent of the value of the home is loaned, you may be able to borrow up to that amount, even with a second mortgage. 125 Loans, jumbo loans, and interest only loans are a relatively new market for home mortgages, and not loans that I would recommend, simply because they put the homeowner in a precarious position if the mortgage should be called in, if the home should sell prior to paying the mortgage down, or if a forced sale should occur.
Your home’s equity is a trump card, if you will adhere to some common sense rules and continue to stay abreast of your individual financial needs.
Posted by Johan Tutski
The Internet serves as an excellent tool for land investors, allowing them too easily and inexpensively research land investment opportunities. But the Internet is also an excellent tool for fraudsters and scammers. That’s why you should always think twice before you invest your money in any land investment opportunity you learn about through the Internet.
This alert tells you how to spot different types of Internet land scam like those happen in UK, the Kent land scam, the London land scam and Sussex land scam are few of such type.
Navigating the Frontier: Where the land frauds or scams Are
The Internet allows individuals or companies to communicate with a large audience without spending a lot of time, effort, or money. Anyone can reach tens of thousands of people by building an Internet web site, posting a message on an online bulletin board, entering a discussion in a live “chat” room, or sending mass e-mails. It’s easy for land fraudsters to make their messages look real and credible. But it’s nearly impossible for land investors to tell the difference between fact and fiction.
If you want to invest in land wisely and steer clear of frauds and scams, you must get the facts. Never, ever, make an investment based solely on what you read in an online newsletter or bulletin board posting, especially if the investment involves a small, thinly-traded company that isn’t well known. And don’t even think about investing in land on your own in small companies that don’t file regular reports, unless you are willing to investigate each company thoroughly and to check the truth of every statement about the company. For instance, you’ll need to: get financial statements from the company and be able to analyze them;
verify the claims about new product developments or lucrative contracts;
call every supplier or customer of the company and ask if they really do business with the company; and
Check out the people running the company or the people associated with the company and find out if they’ve ever made money for the investments made before.
Here’s how you can use the internet to help you invest in land wisely.
Posted by Johan Tutski
Whenever any buyer invests in land he has different questions in mind: whether I will my title cleared? Is this land disputed? Am I being a part of any fraudulent activity? and others…
There have been London Land Scams, Kent Land Scams and Sussex Land Scams in the past but land scams are no more common than other types of real estate fraud. Where there is money to be made fleecing the greedy, the ignorant, or the just plain lazy, con men are sure to follow.
This isn’t what is commonly meant by land fraud. Here are some real examples:
- Selling worthless land, in other words land without development potential, and claiming it has great value, the classic being land underwater but also land on the sides of cliff faces, under bridge abutments, and in the medians of highways.
- Promising land buyers development amenities like golf courses, community centers, and tennis courts that will never be built.
- Promising land buyers subdivision improvements like sewers, street lights, sidewalks, even roads knowing none will ever be built.
- Making false representations to buyers about the value of their land, especially claiming that lots bought today will skyrocket in value.
- Vague descriptions on deeds which allow the land promoter to sell the same land to multiple buyers at the same time.
- Illegal or unapproved subdivisions, especially where land has not been properly platted and permits granted.
- Selling land where clear title cannot be transferred, for example, selling land you don’t own and masquerading as the real owner through the use of forged documents and fake IDs.
- Reserving mineral, water, and other land rights without disclosing this important fact to buyers at the time of sale.
- Using high pressure and unscrupulous tactics to sell land, especially misrepresenting a buyer’s legal rights to cancel an agreed upon sale.
- Selling land of marginal value for excessive prices, especially through the use of easy credit terms ($5 down, $50 a month).
- Selling land where defects such as environmental contamination are known but not disclosed or failing to tell buyers material facts which would ultimately diminish the sale price of the land.
Posted by Johan Tutski