In previous blogs, we have discussed our concerns about short sale fraud and the warning signals to watch for. According to Freddie Mac’s Mortgage Fraud Officer, Short sale fraud has also become the top priority for Freddie Mac’s fraud investigation unit as well.
Per the attached article, recent trends that Freddie has been alerting Real Estate Professions to include:
- Falsely indicating on a new short sale listing that there is an offer on a property in order to discourage legitimate offers and protect an accomplice’s planned low bid.
- Manipulating the short sale listing price by making the house look more distressed than it really is (“reverse staging”), inflating repair estimates, or using similar tactics designed to obtain an artificially low home value on the Broker Price Opinion. (Our requirements prohibit the buyer, buyer’s agent, buyer’s attorney, or a third-party short sale negotiator to be the contact point for the agents preparing the BPO.)
- “Flipping” schemes where the fraudster “buys” a house at a short sale without putting down any of his own money and then sells it a few hours (or days) later to a legitimate buyer at a much higher price. These are complex multi-step schemes that use falsified title and/or loan documents to fool a lender into approving the ultimate buyer’s mortgage, which the fraudster uses to settle the earlier closing on the house he “acquired” at the short sale for a much lower price.
- Manipulating the HUD-1 settlement statement so the fraudster can skim away net proceeds from the sale for himself or other parties in the transaction without the seller’s or investor’s knowledge. (The HUD-1 is the document that itemizes all fees, charges, and other funds involved in a home sale.
The article also states that as a result of the uptick in short sale issues, Freddie Mac now requires all of the parties involved to sign an affidavit attesting that it is a true arms-length transaction.
With short sale fraud on the rise, Real Estate Professionals need to ensure that their sellers are being properly advised and represented. Berlin Patten will continue to stay abreast of the trends in short sale fraud to help prevent sellers from becoming unsuspecting be parties to it.