Real Estate Scam Hitting Mid-Michigan as Housing Market Heats Up

By: 
Contributor

Real estate expert Tom Krause reports that the Michigan real estate market is only getting hotter. But as the real estate market heats up, conditions get better and better for scammers to move in.

"The market is very hot right now. We are seeing anything below $250,000 selling in weeks, sometimes within just a couple days. And there are multiple offers on almost every home," Krause told MyNorth.com.

In any other circumstances, this news would be excellent for home sellers and homebuyers alike. But a new scam is currently making its way through mid-Michigan, and its effectiveness is startling, to say the least. The scam combines a hot real estate market and the internet to create a truly convincing scheme. Considering that 92% of people now use the internet as a resource in their home search, the scammers didn't need any high-tech expertise to craft their plan.

The scam, which real estate experts like Krause have called dangerous and costly, lists homes online for rent. Once buyers have made their initial payments, the scammers take off with the money and are never heard from again.

But that's not the worst of it.

The homes that these scammers are listing for rent sometimes are for sale, not for rent. In fact, any house listed in this scam may have been sold to new tenants who have already moved in.

Century 21 Looking Glass realtor Tim Poxson says scammers are searching for homes online that are either vacant or for sale.

"They represent that they're the owner of that house," Poxson told WLNS 6. "They say I can't come back and meet you at that house right now, but you're welcome to go over and look in the windows or look around the house."

Poxson also said that renters in particular are vulnerable to this scam, as they could be looking for a new place to live on a deadline and on a tight budget. Poxson reports that this isn't the first time he's run into a scam like this, either.

"In one case ... we verified that hey that house is not a rental, that house is for sale," he said.

Others caught up in this scam haven't been so lucky.

But there are plenty of things Michigan homebuyers and renters can do to prevent getting scammed. Real estate experts like Poxson and Krause report that good precautionary measures include: 

  • Checking with neighbors to see if a home is for sale or for rent
  • Looking online for properties approved by your city's jurisdiction
  • Talking to the homeowner and the real estate agent responsible for the listing in person

In a real estate market that's heating up, it's important to remain cautious.

For full story, pick up a copy of the MONTH XX issue of The Allegan County News/The Union Enterprise/The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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