Monday, August 1, 2011

One of my buyers fell victim to this SCAM! Do not let this happen to you!

Ugh. One of my buyer clients was SCAMMED for nearly a thousand dollars. Please read on, and do not let this happen to you...

About a month ago, a very nice lady called me about one of my listings in Rancho Cordova. My listing was available, and I happily arranged to show it to her. When I met her at the house, we hit it off immediately, and she was not already working with another she decided to work with me to find her a house. She did not think my listing was a good fit for her needs, so we made arrangements to see other properties. She had already been pre-approved for a mortgage by a loan officer with a company called MortgageClose in southern California, and she provided me with a copy of her pre-approval letter. I made contact with her loan officer to make sure I understood the terms of the loan she was approved for, and had a nice conversation with him. Things seemed to be moving foward in a typical way...

So after looking at a dozen or so homes over a couple weekends, we found the home of her dreams; a Fannie Mae Homepath bank repo in Sacramento. We made an offer immediately, and after a few days it was accepted by the bank! I called the loan officer and let him know that we made an offer that was verbally accepted and I would forward him the fully executed purchase contract with the bank asset manager signatures as soon as I received it. He said great, he was ready to on a Friday afternoon I received the signed purchase contract, and I forwarded it to him immediately.

I didn't necessarily expect a reply from the loan officer that afternoon, or even over the weekend...but come Monday morning I did expect a response. Part of our purchase contract with Fannie Mae stated that the buyer's appraisal must be ordered within 7 days, and the clock was ticking on that timeframe.

So Monday around noon, I had not yet gotten a response from the loan officer. I called and left him a voicemail, and sent him another email. I called my buyer client and asked her if she heard from the loan officer directly, and she said no. Hmm...that's no good! But, perhaps he was out of the office? Most loan officers I know have a smart phone and at least check their email if they plan to be out of the office, but okie dokie.

Tuesday morning rolled around, and by about 10am I still had not heard anything from the loan officer. Again I called and left him a voicemail. I also emailed him, this time cc'ing my buyer client on the email. At the end of the business day around 5pm I had not heard from him, and I called my client and asked if she had heard anything from him -- and no she had not. I explained to her that we had timeframes in the contract we needed to meet, and if we did not get in touch with him by the next morning we needed to figure out 'Plan B' for her loan. She said she really wanted to work with this loan officer, but she understood that his unresponsiveness was a bit alarming.

On Wednesday morning, I had a home inspection for another buyer client in Natomas at 8:30am. From the home inspection I checked email on my iPhone, and there was still no response. From my phone I looked up the company website, found the company main telephone number and called it. The number was disconnected. Something was seriously wrong...if the unresponsive loan officer wasn't alarming enough, this was a HUGE red flag. I called my client immediately and told her, and she agreed it was time to find another loan officer. I went through my contacts, made a few phone calls, and referred her to a great local loan officer -- Kris Karge with Comstock Mortgage, who happened to be the first loan officer I called who answered his phone that morning. Within a couple hours, she filled out a new loan application, forwarded him all of her bank statements, and paystubs. Kris ran her credit, locked her interest rate, and ordered her appraisal right away. Wow, that was so easy!

I checked in with Kris around noon to make sure he had everything he needed...he did and her loan was now on track, but then told me something very troubling. My client had paid $995 in advance to MortgageClose to get pre-approved. My heart sank. This practice is NOT legal, even if the company claims the funds will be applied to your downpayment or closing costs. She was scammed. The ONLY fee a loan officer can collect in advance is a credit check fee (usually $20-$30). An appraisal fee (usually $350-$450) can be collected by a loan officer only after the "Truth In Lending" Disclosure has been signed and dated by the buyer, which generally happens only once a home is in contract.

I called my managing broker, and he googled "MortgageClose Reviews." They have an F with the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau. There are numerous complaints on numerous websites.
PLEASE buyers...I can not encourage you enough to work with a local, reputable loan officer. Ask your friends, family, co-workers, or your Realtor for a referral. Meet with the loan officer in person, and make sure they give you a written itemization of the costs and fees associated with the loan you are applying for. NEVER give a loan officer money in advance unless it is associated with a credit check fee. The appraisal fee should only be paid once you have a property in contract.

Most people only do a handful of real estate transactions in a lifetime and have no idea what lending practices are common, ethical, or legal. If you need a referral to a great Sacramento loan officer, feel free to contact me directly. Luckily, this little glitch did not completely derail my client's home purchase, and she is in great hands with her new loan officer. She is also taking steps report this fraud to the proper authorities, and she will hopefully get her money back...someday.


TammyLynn said...

Wow, that's awful!

I'm so happy she was able to recover from this and get her loan pushed through anyway.

Makes me that much more grateful that I found a team I could count on... as you mentioned, buying a home is a new experience and most of us don't know what to expect from the process.

Keeping my fingers crossed that everything else goes smoothly and the police are able to catch these folks.

Michael Reed said...

Very good cautionary tale Erin - it floors me that this type of deceptive practice exists - great save for you client!

Matt Fuller, GRI said...

What weasels! I always encourage my buyers to work with local mortgage brokers, for many of the same reasons that you do.

I haven't had buyers fall victim to this unfortunate fleecing, but thanks for the heads up.

Good luck to your clients, and hopefully they are able to recover their loss some day.