Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 8:38 pm | Fair 56º


Reyne Stapelmann: Fighting Real Estate Fraud in Santa Barbara County

The Real Estate Fraud Advisory Team, REFAT, has been established in conjunction with the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Program. It is comprised of individuals from every aspect of the real estate community.

Part of the team’s mission is to educate the public and real estate professionals regarding the various fraud schemes and practices that are occurring at an alarming rate.

What Is Real Estate Fraud?

Generally, real estate fraud is any false representation coupled with the intent to deceive made in conjunction with a real estate transaction. Some examples include the use of fraudulent tactics in the course of:

» Real estate sales involving “straw” buyers. A “straw buyer” is one whose identity and credit are used to finance a real estate transaction in the place of the person who intends to take ownership or possession of the property once the transaction is finalized. Only the “straw buyer’s” credit profile is at risk.

» Title transfers designed to inflate valuations.

» Loans obtained with false information or identities.

» Foreclosure exploitation.

» Predatory lending.

Avoid These Real Estate Fraud Red Flags!

» Being asked to sign blank or incomplete documents.

» Being asked to help someone “buy” a home in exchange for being paid some money.


» Promises of lowering your payments and interest rate without explaining the consequences.

» Promises of extremely low interest rates (1 percent) or “option” payments that lower your payments but increase your loan amount (negative amortization).

» Promises of “saving your home” or “equity” by transferring your rights to someone else when you are facing risk of foreclosure.

» Being asked to provide funds or other compensation directly to agents or others outside of the normal escrow process.

» Being asked to provide your date of birth or social security number without sufficient assurances of the identity of the person seeking it and the reason your personal information is being sought.

» Being asked to pay a deposit for a rental before physically seeing the property and signing a contract.

To Report Suspected Real Estate Fraud or for Additional Information

» District Attorney’s Office Real Estate Fraud Unit

Santa Barbara — 805.568.2300

Santa Maria — 805.346.7540

Lompoc —– 805.737.7760

Click here to download complaint forms in English or Español. You should also report suspected real estate fraud to your local police agency. Para reportar fraude de bienes raíces, llame al mismo numero. Hablamos Español.

» Santa Barbara Association of Realtors — 805.963.3787; Bob Hart, executive officer

» Housing & Urban Development (HUD) — 800.569.4287; click here for additional information and classes

» Freddie Mac — 818.710.3000; click here for information for or to avoid foreclosure or for foreclosure information

» FBI — 310.477.6565 or 805.642.3995; click here to file a complaint

Reyne Stapelmann is a broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, California Properties and the 2015 president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Contact her at [email protected] or 805.705.4353. The opinions expressed are her own.

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