Speaking of Real Estate
You may recall a previous post about Sue Dietz, an Iowa real estate agent whose identity was being used by scammers to send fraudulent emails to other real estate professionals all over the country. The emails, which were sent from an email address using Dietz’s name, offered a bogus client referral. Anyone who responded to the email was sent a Dropbox link, which, once opened, gave hackers access to the user’s passwords and other information.
This type of scam is spreading. Sam DeBord, managing broker at Coldwell Banker Danforth in Seattle, discovered last week that hackers are using his identity to launch a similar email scam. DeBord tells us that he’s received hundreds of phone calls, texts, and emails from practitioners who received a bogus email in his name. In the video above, he gives details about how he is getting a warning out to his colleagues about the scam and tips on what you should do if you receive this bogus email.
Millions of households are mortgage-ready but don’t even try to buy because they can’t come up with a downpayment. And yet, remarkably, hundreds of downpayment assistance programs around the country are largely untapped. Why the disconnect?
To be sure, many households won’t qualify for downpayment assistance, because they simply earn too much money. But more people than you might realize would qualify if they only apply. Because in many markets, the allowable income level is pretty high, and we’re not just talking about high-cost markets like San Francisco, where he median home price is about $1 million.
There are hundreds of downpayment assistance programs around the country. Each one is unique, with its own eligibility requirements, home-price limits, and resale restrictions. But these programs also share many features. The disconnect between the millions of households who could buy if they only had downpayment money and the availability of so many programs to help them creates an opportunity for you as a real estate professional. No one is in a better position to connect households with assistance programs than you are.
It’s because of this opportunity to expand your market that REALTOR® Magazine is hosting a live webcast on April 20. The goal is to let you know how you can find out instantly what programs are available for households in your area.
For the program we have Rob Chrane, CEO of DownPayment Resource in Atlanta, and Brenda Small, GRI, associate broker with Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington, D.C.
They’ll walk you through the programs available, what they have in common with one another, and how you and your customers can tap into resources in your market instantly. They’ll debunk myths about the programs, too. And they’ll answer your questions in real time.
Chrane’s company maintains a database of 2,500 housing assistance programs, hundreds of them downpayment assistance programs. If you think you have households in your area who are ready to buy if only they can overcome that downpayment hurdle, the webcast might be of help to you. It will be on Thursday, April 20, at 2 p.m., Eastern time. Register and get more info.
Learn more in this video promo:
A hip-looking website and a realistic-looking payment invoice. Real estate professionals in Florida were recently hit with a scam in which they were instructed to pay a fee to maintain their membership listing with the Florida Board of REALTORS®, but there is no such organization.
What’s concerning about this latest scam to hit the real estate industry is how much the perpetrators paid attention to details. The website is slick and the invoice is serious. Whoever is behind this attempt to milk fees out of unsuspecting real estate professionals appears to be banking on the idea that the right design can mislead people. Which means it’s not just realistic-looking emails you have to be on guard against; you have to be on guard against realistic-looking invoices and websites.
The scam is a top story in the latest Voice for Real Estate news video from NAR. Other segments look at what’s happening in Washington. Among other things, the Trump administration has pushed the pause button on a rule that NAR had concerns with, paving the way for REALTORS® to have input into the rule should it be rewritten.
The rule concerns the expansion of bodies of water subject to Clean Water Act restrictions. That’s a topic that seems remote from the everyday practice of buying and selling real estate but it has the potential to slow and even derail development of real estate because property that previously was not subject to environmental review would be subject to it. So, NAR favors reviewing that rule and seeing how it might be changed.
Another Washington story is about flood insurance. The federal flood insurance program is the only realistic game in town for home owners and buyers in many areas and it expires in a few months, so NAR has been pushing hard to get it extended soon, because the last time the program expired, it wreaked havoc on home sales in thousands of communities across the country. The good news is that Congress seems serious about not letting that happen again and the update explains what has to happen over the next few months to keep the insurance flowing.
The video also looks at a report that just came out from NAR that finds Gen Xers—those born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s—are getting back into the market after enduring a rough ride during the economic crisis a few years ago. Of all the generations, this one was hardest hit, with a fifth of them going underwater on their mortgage and almost 15 percent having to sell under distressed circumstances. But they’re back in the market now, and that’s a good thing. Access the video.
REALTOR® Magazine recently hosted a live webcast about how reverse mortgages, also known as home equity conversion mortgages (HECMs), can be used to help seniors finance the purchase of a home in addition to their traditional purpose of enabling people to borrow against the equity in a property where they already live. The program took place on Feb. 22, 2017.
Panelists included Scott Trembley, CEO of The Trembley Group, a real estate firm in Myrtle Beach, S.C., that handles home purchases with HECMs; and Frank McInerney, a loan specialist with Reverse Mortgage Funding in Bloomfield, N.J. Jon Boughtin of NAR Communications hosted the program.
Wire fraud schemes have been a hot topic in the real estate industry lately. But one real estate pro says she’s been caught up in a different kind of nightmarish scam — one that victims can do virtually nothing to prevent.
Sue Dietz, CRS, a sales associate with RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Dubuque, Iowa, who also served as president of the East Central Iowa Association of REALTORS® in 2016, says scammers have used her identity to create fake email addresses in her name and then sent fraudulent emails offering referrals to other real estate agents. The emails also contained fake contact information for Dietz. Recipients who responded to the email were sent a Google Drive link that they were told contained listings the referred client wanted to see. However, the link, once opened, installs computer viruses that allow scammers to scrape passwords and other personal information.
The initial fraudulent email typically reads:
My name is Sue Dietz a realtor with RE/MAX ADVANTAGE REALTY in Dubuque IA, I have a client who is interested in buying a property in your area of expert, Please let me know if you’re available to help them out and I will send their contact details and the listings they are interested in.
People who receive this email are encouraged to report it as spam or a phishing attempt. The hope is that if enough people take such action, the IP address of the sender will be blocked.
Since February 2016, when the scam apparently started, nearly 4,000 practitioners nationwide — from all 50 states and Canada — who received the emails have contacted Dietz to either confirm the referral or warn her of the scam. “I’ve gotten calls at the office, on my cell phone, texts, and emails at all hours of the day and night,” she says. “There was one day I had over 100 pieces of correspondence just about these emails.”
Last year, Dietz received a threatening email from an anonymous sender accusing her of trying to steal their money, she says. She has tried to get the word out about the scam by asking every agent who contacts her about the emails to alert their local associations. She has also included a warning in her personal and business voicemail messages and on her website bio.
Dietz also recently received a fraudulent email in the name of another real estate agent, so she’s not the only one whose identity is being used in this way.
“Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible on the front end to prevent a fraudster from using your name in a scam,” says Jessica Edgerton, associate counsel for the National Association of REALTORS®. “If you are the victim of any kind of identity theft, the best course of action is to immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI, and your local authorities.” She cautions that recipients of suspicious emails appearing to come from another real estate professional should search that practitioner’s name on Google to compare their business email address and contact information to that of the sender.
“I think most people respond to the emails and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll take your referral,’” Dietz says. “All they need to do is Google me — my website is the number one result when you search my name — and they’d see I wasn’t the one who sent the email.”
If you want to keep your email more secure, Edgerton offers the following tips:
- Check your sent mail, junk mail, and email account settings regularly for anomalies. Hackers often break into an email account and modify the “email forwarding” settings to forward emails to their own account.
- Regularly purge your email of unneeded or outdated information. Save any important emails securely.
- Avoid email as a method for sending sensitive or confidential information. Instead, consider using a secure document sharing or transaction management platform.
- Use strong passwords that incorporate a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Use two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication.
- Avoid using unsecured or public Wi-Fi.
The retirement boom is on for baby boomers so expect a lot of downsizing in the years ahead as older homeowners replace their suburban house with a condo. Now, how do you respond if you have clients who want to use a reverse mortgage to buy their new place?
It’s not your job to be a financial advisor, but it doesn’t hurt to know how reverse mortgages for purchase work. That way, if a client wants to go this route, you will at least understand the mechanics of these mortgage loans.
In a revese mortgage for purchase, buyers put up sizable down payments and in return get to have their monthly mortgage payments come out of the reverse mortgage rather than their pocket. That keeps their money free for spending on other things. Of course, when they go to sell the house or refinance the mortgage, the amount of the mortgage they’ve used to make their payments is a negative against their equity.
These mortgages remain a small part of the market, but as young boomers retire, many of them might find the option attractive. To help you at least understand how these mortgages work, REALTOR® Magazine is hosting a live webcast on Feb. 22 with a real estate pro and a lender who do a lot of these reverse mortgage transactions, which are backed by the FHA, by the way. If you watch the webcast, you can ask them questions while it’s going on.
A summary of the upcoming webcast is a top story in the latest Voice for Real Estate news video. The video also looks at how the confirmation of Ben Carson to be HUD secretary is going. The video excerpts from his testimony before the Senate Financial Services committee at which he said all Americans should have an opportunity to own a home and that the federal government should maintain a role in the secondary mortgage market even while it encourages private-sector alternatives. He also said the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage plays a key role in healthy housing markets.
The video also looks at the Trump Administration’s suspension of a planned FHA mortgage insurance premium reduction. The suspension was issued before the reduction took effect, so no one’s insurance premium will go up as a result. But NAR would like to see the reduction put back on the books, because an estimated 40,000 households would be able to buy that otherwise couldn’t.
Another segment looks at last year’s final existing-home sales number. It was 5.45 million, a 10-year high. Expect even more sales this year, but there are two negatives in the market: persistent inventory shortages in many parts of the country and the likelihood of higher mortgage interest rates. Even so, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun expects home sales to rise by 2 percent this year.