By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Buyers and sellers aren’t the only victims of real estate scams and crimes. Realtors are also a favorite target of crooks, criminals, and other shady types.

Due to the nature of the real estate business, agents naturally come in contact and work with strangers on a regular basis. Most real estate deals involve big ticket transactions and that adds to the risk of dealing with unfamiliar people.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve highlights a few scams aimed at buyers and sellers. Realtors often get caught in the web of these deceptions as well. They just add to crimes that focus on these professionals.

After quizzing a few Realtors, here are just some of the scams going around lately:

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

The internet can be both an ally and an adversary to today’s home seller. When it comes to scams and cons, homeowners are easy prey for professional criminals.

Let’s face it. When selling real estate, you are inviting strangers into your home. Figuratively with online photos, maps, and more. And literally when they come to view your property. You and your home are exposed for the world to see.

Being aware of the scams aimed at sellers is the first step to stopping them in their tracks. These are some of the most popular swindles I’ve heard about in the past year:

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Business conflicts always seem to revolve around money. It’s no surprise that some of the worst disputes we see at title companies are over earnest money: Who wants it. Who is entitled to it. Who thinks they’re entitled to it. Etcetera. It can get uglier than avocado appliances and shag carpet.

When a transaction fails to close, any earnest money that was deposited with the title company must be disbursed to someone. The provisions for this are in the standard contract put out by TREC – the Texas Real Estate Commission. What happens to the earnest money is spelled out clearly. Of course, that doesn’t stop people from fighting over it anyway.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

A reader asks: “Should I make my next mortgage payment before my house closes? We are under contract and scheduled to close on the 14th of the month. “

This is a fairly common question for title companies. And the answer depends on your closing date and time.

Before closing, the title company will order a ‘payoff’ from your current mortgage company. After confirming and calculating what you owe on your current mortgage, we deduct that amount from your proceeds at closing and send that payoff amount to your lender.

For most folks their mortgage payments are due on the first of the month. And they are considered late on the 15th of the month. That kind of makes your situation a little more complicated.

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Ashley Madison

Security and Anonymity Claims May be a Pinch Overstated!

The illicit affair website Ashley Madison was hacked last month which exposed the personal information, credit cards and email addresses of many of its 39 million users. The hackers said they wouldn’t release the data if Ashley Madison shut down. It didn’t, so they did.

Lawyers around the country are reporting an uptick in divorce-related calls from clients. Some receptionists are bearing the brunt of the calls as lawyers are in back-to-back meetings (in stark comparison to the client spouse’s back-to-front meetings).

While many will ultimately seek counseling (I’m sure couches will fill up quickly) and not divorce, the smarter ones will. After all, Ashley Madison isn’t about a regretful, intoxicated indiscretion. Ashley Madison is about paying a fee to schedule infidelity.

For those ultimately divorcing, family manses may pop onto the market as assets are split. However, cleaving a family in two will mean what was one home becomes two! For every divorce, one more homestead is created.

Cha-Ching on Realtor commissions, but yikes for buyers!

Want to check-up on a suspicious spouse? The complete data file can be downloaded here.

Of course the funny part is that Ashley Madison was embroiled in a lawsuit in 2013 over their creation of fake female profiles to give the illusion that there are ladies ready and waiting. In fact some estimate, 90 to 95 percent of the paid profiles are men. (The suit was filed because the profile creators claim carpel tunnel syndrome!)

Courtesy of The Hollywood Heights Neighborhood Association and Liz Simmons

Photos: Courtesy of The Hollywood Heights Neighborhood Association and Liz Simmons

Selling your home during the holidays is easy!  The potential buyer base at this time of year is generally serious and ready to seal a deal quickly. It doesn’t have to be tricky to get your home on the market. Just keep it simple.

Jump for a list of tips!

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Photo via Gawker

Photo via Gawker

I’m sure you’ve already seen the photo about this poor guy who was just trying to sell his Austin condo and ended up flashing everyone in the process.

As it turns out, it was all an accident, says KDFW’s report on the … ahem … matter.

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