Florida is wrought with real estate scams heightened by a poor economy, desperate criminals and an abundance of eager investors in sunshine state properties.
Florida is known by criminals for having a high number of seniors, retirees, vacationing people with a higher than average amount of disposable income, retirement accounts, savings and investing revenue.
The large pool of vulnerable people who are likely to have retirement funds, increases the number of criminals seeking easier victims and targets.
Winter Park, Florida, real estate lawyer Eric Lanigan warns all real estate investors–within or outside the United States–to take every precaution and be very wary if buying property in Florida.
“If you’re buying land, a vacation home, timeshare, rental or investment property, commercial, new development…get the contract to an experienced real estate attorney for review,” Lanigan said.
“There is documentation available to prospective buyers about the land and property that is going to be purchased. An everyday person may not know to ask or where to go to find property information. A good lawyer will tell you to get it and will review it before you consider purchasing anything.”
Listen to Your Gut and Look for Red Flags
There are precautions that may be taken to protect against being scammed by clever and convincing criminals who sell real estate in Florida. Lanigan has handled many real estate scam cases for clients inside and out of Florida.
“Paperwork may be falsified to the point where the person showing you a property is not a realtor, is not licensed. So the first thing you need to do is be certain that you’re working with a licensed realtor.
“If you visit a property, try to get the online MLS links to the places you’re going to see and review all the information on the property before you see it in-person.
“If you do nothing else, before you sign the contract, bring it to a lawyer for review. You’re signing up for 15, 20, 30 years, worse yet, you’re doing a cash deal. Protect yourself with a simple review of the final paperwork.
“Hindsight is that you should have taken one more day to let a lawyer look at your documents. Worst case scenario, everything is perfect,” Lanigan said.
Common real estate fraud is allowed to occur when a buyer forgoes the use of a real estate lawyer who could review paperwork and contracts prior to buying property.
“Your first and final step should be to have an attorney review your closing paperwork.
“If you feel that they’re rushing you to sign, urging you to trust them, telling you that you have three days to change your mind, slow down,” Lanigan said. “Take a breath and if they refuse to give you the time to review, it’s not something you want any part of.
“A red flag is when they tell you they’ve cut corners to get your deal done. They’re telling you they have gone around the law to make a deal happen,” he said. “Real estate scam artists are experts at hurrying the process, trying to make it seem like there are multiple buyers, other ‘investors’ paying cash. They try to get signatures on an executed contract, take your payment and make a quick exit with your money.”
Before signing any Florida contract, particularly real estate, invest in a review by a skilled real estate attorney. Consult with an attorney who will review the contract, the real estate disclosure form, ask questions and be a buffer between the consumer and the con artist.