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Housing Fraud

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Real estate hits top 10 list of consumer complaints

WASHINGTON – Aug. 2, 2012 – Real-estate-related issues, ranging from property fraud to timeshare sales, took the ninth slot on a Top 10 compilation of consumer complaints put together by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators.

One of the biggest gripes has to do with con artists masquerading as landlords of foreclosed property. These criminals take down foreclosure signs, break into a home, and then list it for rent on the Web. Unsuspecting victims pay a first-month deposit and monthly rent before the bank realizes it’s happened.

“It’s happening to people who have been evicted and already are in a bad situation,” says Carlos Morales of the Orange County (Fla.) Consumer Fraud Unit. “And now that situation goes from bad to worse.”

The CFA’s Susan Grant says that real estate schemes tied to timeshares continue to be a problem as well, primarily due to aggressive sales tactics.

“When they think about it, (consumers realize) they can’t afford (a timeshare) but don’t always have the (state protections) to cancel,” she explains. “Along comes timeshare resale cons that offer to help people unload these timeshares that they can’t and don’t want.” Instead, they take upfront fees without delivering a buyer.

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Cheaper to buy than rent for two-year stays

MIAMI – Aug. 2, 2012 – While Realtors continue to find fault with Zillow Inc.’s local home estimates, consumers made it the most visited real estate website in July 2012. As a result – right or wrong – Zillow influences buyer and seller behavior.

And a recent announcement from Zillow might lead more buyers to knock on real estate agency doors: According to the site, the average national homebuyer will save money over renting if he or she stays in a home for only three years. And in at least four Florida cities, a homeowner only needs to stay two years to make ownership the preferred option.

In Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, a homebuyer needs to stay less than one year and eight months to make ownership the best financial option; in Orlando, he or she needs to stay less than one year and nine months.

Zillow says it analyzed the “breakeven horizon” in more than 200 metros and 7,500 U.S. cities. All possible costs associated with buying and renting were incorporated into the analysis, including down payment, mortgage and rental payments, transaction costs, property taxes, utilities, maintenance costs, tax deductions and opportunity costs, while adjusting for inflation and forecasted home value and rental price appreciation.

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro ranked as Zillow’s most favorable for buying. In the San Jose metro, where home values are among the highest in the nation, a buyer must commit to living in their home for 8.3 years before they can expect to break even

Source: MarketWatch (08/01/12)

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