How to avoid scams in your home search
Whether you’re a first time buyer or a seasoned real estate investor, the fact of the matter is that anyone can be duped. With more and more fraudulent real estate agents popping up in Malaysia, trying to make fast money by pulling the wool over upstanding buyers’ eyes, it’s easier than ever to fall victim to the unscrupulous. There have been a rash of reports in the media about all types of buyers losing money to fake real estate agents, either because they were new to the real estate industry or even because the false broker showed forged identification. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself from scams as you embark upon your search for a new home.
1. Use a Reliable Site to Start Your Search
To start off on the right foot with your real estate search, you’ll want to use a reliable search portal. These days, there are well known sites that are also the most trusted. Sticking with big names that offer some reassurance of mainstream authority is a good way to avoid shady dealings. Popular real estate search engine Property Guru has the best property Malaysia has to offer, and is an excellent way to start looking at available properties. You can search by price, locale, and other factors, and narrow down your options very quickly.
However, the best way to start figuring out which listings might be sketchy is if the pictures look fake or like stock photography, are blurry, or if there’s very little information listed. A lack of information upfront is a major indicator that you might be falling in with a shady broker, so exercise caution if this is the case.
2. Who’s Responsible?
While you may think that the shady real estate agent business is just a handful of unscrupulous individuals, nothing could be further from the truth today. In fact, it’s become an outright epidemic in the business. Malaysia Chronicle reports that unlicensed real estate brokers made around RM38 billion in 2014 based on illegal property transactions, based off a total RM162 billion revenue in the real estate sector. That’s a huge amount of revenue that was lost to thieves, not to mention the losses that buyers suffered. Unfortunately, this problem is widespread, and scam artists are looking to target anyone who will buy into their lies at every turn.
3. Times of Elevated Threat
There are certain times that are also more fruitful for scam artists than others, and that’s when you should be on red alert. Be careful when the real estate market is slow, since that’s when conmen are most active, preying on property owners trying to sell off their stock. There have been numerous tales of woe in the news of real estate owners who were eager to sell their stock, only to fall victim to scam artists who made promises they never kept. It’s also nearly impossible to find out where these thieves end up once they abscond with funds, so it’s better to never end up in that situation in the first place. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes.
4. Get Recommendations from Friends
One surefire way to avoid shady real estate brokers is to get recommendations from friends and family. Try to find someone you trust who’s recently purchased property to give you the name of the broker or agent they dealt with. Regardless of the fact that the Internet has made it simpler than ever to find a huge array of listings and brokers with only a few clicks of a button, nothing can replace good, old fashioned word of mouth.
Never assume that you’re infallible when it comes to scam artists. Even the most savvy buyer in the world can fall victim once to a conman who’s been at his game for a long time, so always double check all your facts, figures, and agreements. Have an attorney look over your paperwork, and if you’re taking out a mortgage, make sure you review all the documents with the bank. One of the key factors that allows scam artists to get away with their schemes is when buyers rely on a handshake, verbal promise, or don’t involve other parties in the transaction. In fact, a broker or agent should encourage you to confirm that you have all of your bases covered when it comes to filing the proper paperwork and signing the right contracts. Your number one indicator that you’re about to get roped into a fraudulent scheme is when you’re being rushed to sign on the dotted line. Always follow your gut when it comes to shady brokers, and even if you’re wrong, at least you’ve avoided a world of pain. Keep everything on the up and up, and you’ll be able to invest in the right property that will serve you in the long-term.