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I was perusing some online info the other day and came across this article on the new York Daily News Site:


BY Melissa Grace and Edgar Sandoval
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS  Thursday, March 19th 2009, 10:16 PM

A Bronx real estate broker who hosted a radio show on WBLS and WLIB inviting distressed homeowners to contact her for help was charged Thursday with ripping them off instead.  Lavette Bills, head of MTC Real Estate, was charged along with Kirk Lacey, a Jamaican who lives in Florida, in a brazen $800,000 mortgage fraud scheme that allegedly preyed on people fearful of foreclosure.  In one case, Bills, 36, persuaded a Bronx homeowner who had called the show for help to put Bills’ name on the deed to her house on Tinton Ave. by promising to get the homeowner a loan to pay off the $38,000 mortgage. Bills sold the home to a straw buyer, according to the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI. Bills allegedly made $150,000 on the crooked deal, including taking a $50,000 broker’s fee for the bogus sale. The homeowner, who just wanted to pay off the small mortgage, is now in foreclosure. Thanks to Bills, the new mortgage on the house totals $337,500, prosecutors said.  Antoine Brown, 34, the homeowner’s grandson, said he was unaware of the pair’s arrest, but was glad other people would not fall victim to their scheme. He first learned about the pair in a radio commercial. Bills’ business cards describe her as a “foreclosure specialist,” and she hosted a program on WBLS (107.5 FM) and WLIB (1190 AM) in 2007 on which she discussed mortgages and foreclosures, prosecutors said. Her Web site warns customers who go elsewhere “you have a right to feel cheated.” Bills and Lacey, 36, were each charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and face 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines. At an arraignment in federal court, Bills was freed on $250,000 bond. Lacey was freed on $150,000 bond and was ordered to surrender his passport and handgun.

Interesting article, eh?  Just proves the point that if it sounds to good to be true it is.  There is an entire industry of investors and scammers out there who focus on “distressed” homeowners for the sole purpose of separating a homeowner from their equity.  I had a case once where one of these “investors” offered the seller a great deal, they would catch up her mortgage payments and when they found a buyer pay her $1,000 and she got to walk away clean (oh, and she got to live in the house till it sold).  She thought it was awesome, until I did a CMA and marketing plan and at the end of my efforts to sell she walked away with about $12,000.  So, this so called investor who was going to save her was actually just taking away $11,000 of her money.  See all those handwritten signs and ads that say something like “we buy houses”?  Why do you think they are buying houses?  It is to make a profit, not for the goodness of their souls,

Don’t get me wrong, these people are not all evil and there is nothing wrong with making a profit.  I just believe payments for services rendered do not have to include taking advantage of poorly educated homeowners in distress.  Here’s what to do if you are behind on your mortgage and thinking of selling:  Call up a reputable real estate agent.  As a matter of fact, call 3 or 4 of them.  Get competing opinions.  Compare their service, compare their ideas, compare their estimates of the market value of your house.  If you want to, call up those investors to.  Some of them actually do a nice job, with a positive resolution for the homeowner.  Above all else, COMPARE and GET SECOND OPINIONS!  Remember, the activities of real estate agents are regulated by law, by ethics rules, by broker policies, etc.  Who is regulating the investors preying on the distressed homeowner?

As always, you can call me Direct at 717-371-0557 or at the Office 717-490-8999, email me atJason@JasonsHomes.com or send me a text message using the tool to the right of this post!

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Jason Burkholder