Real Estate Riches Promises

real estate riches
Real Estate Investment Homes (from

House flipping has been around as long as people have lived in houses.  Flipping houses got a bad rap in the 1990’s, when scammers engaged in widespread fraud using mortgages, appraisals, and straw buyers.  In some cases, some “renovated” houses were uninhabitable and sold to unsuspecting home buyers.  But house flipping has regained its legitimacy because of its significant contribution in revitalizing the country’s housing stock after the Great Recession.  As a result, many investors found their fortunes.  Of course, reality TV glamorized house flipping and the prospect of real estate riches.  And as more people wanted in, flipping instruction courses multiplied.

Many embarking in house flipping courses believe it’s their road to real estate riches .  Unfortunately, what’s not understood by many consumers is that flipping houses is an incredibly risky business.  For most, it’s a full-time job that offers a modest living.  And, many real estate flippers lose money

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission ( entered a temporary restraining order against a real estate investment seminar promoter.  You may have seen ads for these seminars, as they were promoted with reality TV star endorsements.  The FTC alleges that the seminars are misleading and make “deceptive promises of big profits to lure consumers into real estate seminars costing thousands of dollars.”  According to the October 4th FTC press release, the promoter claims to offer consumers coaching and training on how to make large sums of money by flipping houses.

But it’s not so much about real estate riches through flipping houses. The FTC complaint alleged that seminar ads attracted consumers to free event that claimed they would learn how to make large profits “using other people’s money.”   It is alleged that the free event was a sales presentation for a three-day workshop that cost $1,997, and was promoted as teaching everything needed to know “to make substantial income from real estate.”  The three-day workshop was sometimes described as a “beginner’s course,” and attendees were “upsold” products and services that cost as much as $41,297.

The FTC action just didn’t pop up overnight.  It resulted from years of investigation.  An eye opening 2013 report highlighted complaints about these seminars (Some Buyers Call Classes By ‘Flip Or Flop’ Stars Misleading; Investors Business Daily; 10/28/2016, p43-43).  The reality TV star who was supposed to be at the seminar, instead appeared in a video stating they were busy filming their show.  An attendee who paid $1,997 for the three-day course, $1,000 for real estate software, and “thousands more” for additional classes, stated, “They weren’t really teaching at all.” 

Real estate investing and flipping courses have been around for decades.  However, not all advocate house flipping as the vehicle to make riches.  There are many avenues to invest in real estate; some teach buy and hold strategies, others teach auction strategies, etc.  Before spending any money on a real estate investment course, do your due diligence. Check with the Better Business Bureau and FTC for complaints.

Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection stated, “From start to finish, these defendants used the promise of easy money and in-depth information to lure consumers down a path that could cost them thousands of dollars and put them in serious debt.  When a company tells consumers they have the secret to get rich with little work, we encourage consumers to take a hard look at what’s really being offered.

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By Dan Krell
Copyright© 2019

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

iBuyers are Just House Flippers

How much is your home worth? (infographic from

Disruption in the marketplace seems to be the standard these days. So, it should not come as a surprise that the iBuyer phenomenon has taken hold of the real estate industry and is expanding.  What started out as an experiment in limited markets has grown into the internet version of “I Buy Houses.” (You’ve probably seen the “I Buy Houses” bandit signs around town.)  Nonetheless, iBuyers have become the trendy and acceptable version of house flippers.

According to Zillow, an iBuyer is “…a real estate investor that uses an automated valuation model (known as an AVM) and other technology to make cash offers on homes quickly.”  And although Zillow’s explanation of the iBuyer model describes that the home gets sold to the investor sight unseen, many will actually visit your home before finalizing the deal.

Automated valuations are helpful but not always accurate. Additionally, investors typically apply their AVM derived value into a formula to produce their offer price. Because they are akin to the Pawn Shop of the real estate industry, where they have to build in a profit for them, house flippers usually offer 70-75% of retail value (after repairs).

House flipping by any other name is still house flipping.  But the iBuyer trend has put a shiny veneer to the business.  The model allows for anonymity, at least initially, by giving you an offer to buy your home just by completing a form.  However, just like traditional real estate investors, iBuyer representatives will visit the home to confirm the accuracy of the reported home’s condition and other vital facts. 

If you’re looking to get top dollar on your home, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the iBuyer offer (or any real estate investor offer for that matter).  However, you might be willing to accept a lower offer on your home for a quick closing and selling “as-is.”  The desire of convenience of selling to real estate investors is confirmed by ATTOM Data Solutions 2018 Year-End Home Flipping report that indicated “207,957 U.S. single family homes and condos were flipped in 2018” (  Although house flipping is down four percent from 2017, the numbers indicate a continued willingness by home owners to deal with house flippers. 

Don’t think you’re escaping the 6 percent commission when selling to iBuyers.

Patricia Mertz Esswein wrote recently that the iBuyer convenience comes at a cost (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. April 2019, Vol. 73 Issue 4, p12).  She explained that iBuyer service fees range from 6 to 13 percent, which exceed Realtor commissions that typically range in today’s market from 3.5 to 5 percent!

Currently, most iBuyers are exclusive to specific markets that make the model financially sound.  However, new iBuyer companies are throwing their hats into the ring and expanding the model in new markets nationwide.  An article from the California Association of Realtors’ magazine (The Era of iBUYERS?; California Real Estate. September 2018, Vol. 98 Issue 6, p22-25) discusses the pros and cons of iBuyers and explains that the phenomenon is still in its “infancy.”  Meaning that iBuyer companies are still cautiously expanding in hot markets.  Furthermore, you should be wary of real estate brokers who engage in making iBuyer (or similar) offers as part of their listing service because it could be in conflict of their fiduciary duties to you.  

If you’re wanting to get top dollar on your home, you probably will go the traditional route and list on the MLS.  But, if you’re looking for a quick sale, explore all of your options.  Solicit and compare iBuyer offers to local real estate investor offers.  Also, consult with several real estate agents to not only get a picture of your home’s value, but they may have buyers for your home too. 

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By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Don’t skip the home inspection – old, new, or renovated

homesLike the 49ers seeking gold in California, real estate investors have flocked to D.C. in recent years to seek their fortunes. As home values rebounded, many distressed homes were snapped up by investors with the intention of renovating/rehabbing, and then selling them. For many home buyers, these “flipped” houses have become home; however, for a few, the dream has become a nightmare.

Martin Austermuhle reported on WAMU (A Dream Home Becomes a Nightmare; about D.C.’S house flipping environment and highlighted one family’s dream turned nightmare. Characterized as a “cautionary tale of home-buying in a hot real estate market,” the story was basically about how rotted wood in the porch has led to a multimillion dollar law suit between the purchasers and the rehabber.

If you haven’t received the memo, “house flipping” is once again a bad thing – or is it? Unfortunately, “flipping” has become synonymous with fraud and scams because of the attention that it received in the mid 1990’s (as the result of widespread fraud and scams that involved flipped homes). At that time, several cities (Baltimore being one) were known for flipping scams because of the investors’ ability to purchase a home for very little money and turn it around for a big profit.

Although, there should be nothing wrong with buying a distressed property, rehabbing and selling it (aka home flipping); flipping has generally become the term used when there is an accusation of fraud or con involved with a rehabbed home. During the 1990’s, flipped homes were the center of many mortgage fraud cases that took advantage of lenders by providing false income statements, fraudulent credit reports, and/or fraudulent appraisals. In these cases, the investor was not the only scammer; as accomplices often included: loan officers, appraisers, title agents, real estate agents, and even “straw” buyers.

Many home buyers were also scammed into buying homes in disrepair that were represented as being rehabbed. And believe it or not, some of these homes were nothing but shells (e.g., gutted).

In the aftermath of the flipping crisis of the 1990’s: lenders wrote off hundreds of millions of dollars, lawsuits were filed, and a movement grew to educate home buyers about the need to conduct home inspections. Mortgage underwriting changed to safeguard against future scams with the introduction of title seasoning (length of ownership).

Legitimate rehabbing of distressed properties has always been a viable industry; and can transform an eyesore into a livable home. However, just because renovations have been made to an old home doesn’t mean that it is now brand new!

When buying a home, you must do your due diligence regardless of the age of the home. A thorough home inspection should be conducted, even on new homes. Although home inspectors don’t have x-ray vision, the technology they employ can sometimes make it seem as if they do. Besides the routine identification of deferred maintenance, home inspectors can typically identify issues with renovations and can usually identify code violations. Furthermore, you should check permits when considering a home that has been renovated or expanded. Many jurisdictions offer online services to search permits; locally, the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services has such a search portal (

If you’re buying a home, you might also consider working with an experienced Realtor®. A seasoned professional is not only knowledgeable about neighborhood price trends and disclosures; many are skilled to work in tandem with the home inspector to negotiate repairs.

Original published at

Copyright © Dan Krell

Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Are you selling a home or a contract?

In a recent home showing, the listing agent remarked that the seller is the “contract seller.” As it turned out, the seller of the home was not on title, but rather had a contract on the home and wanted to sell the contract. The listing agent, trying to explain the situation as best as he could, stated that the seller’s contract gave hime equity in title which allows him to sell the home.

I had to wonder where this agent received his real estate license because, as a title attorney confirmed, equity in title does not permit one to sell a home they do not yet own. Never mind the fact that our local MLS (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc.; requires listed properties to be listed by the legal owner of the property. So what are these guys trying to do?

The number of home flipping transactions are increasing as the market recovers. Home flipping received a lot of bad press in the 1990’s when fraud was prevalent in such transactions. Flipping a home per se is not illegal, it is fraud and other irregularities that raise eye brows and get the attention of local (and sometimes national) authorities.

Not all property flips involve fraud and deception. During the heyday of the sellers’ market earlier this decade, real estate investors capitalized on the frenzy of home buyers eager to own a home in the seemingly never ending appreciating market by quickly flipping properties. Of course, many real estate speculators lost a lot of money as the market receded.

A flipping technique that has been thought to be dubious by some and now making a comeback is the simultaneous closing (or double closing); a similar term/technique is selling the contract. Rather than take ownership of a property and obtain the title to a home, investors most likely resort to the double close or contract sale to save on transfer, property, and other taxes.

A local attorney (requesting not to be named) trying to close such a deal was contacted by the buyer’s lender Fraud Investigation Department. Although he felt there was nothing wrong with the deal and he was not withholding any information, the deal was denied by the buyer’s lender. Although the buyer qualified for the loan, the lender’s Fraud Investigation Department nixed the deal. Growing concerns of stolen homes where homes are sold without the knowledge of the legal owner are raising additional red flags.

To avoid such deals, FHA (among many conventional lenders) require that the title to be “seasoned” (the owner must be on title for a required period of time) before they will lend on the property. Finding a lender to finance a simultaneous closing or contract sale is often difficult.

Although the “contract seller” of the home I showed was most likely legitimate, it reminded me that even seasoned agents need to be on their toes. Buying a home is an investment of time and money, so don’t be afraid to exercise due diligence; asking who the seller is and why they are selling the home is often a good place to start.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2010

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

House Flipping makes a comeback

by Dan Krell © 2009

Short sales? Foreclosures? Fugetaboutit! House flipping is the new real estate buzz!

Flipping homes is an investor technique used to quickly sell a home, sometimes rehabilitating the home to current code and standards. Flipping is more prevalent in re-emerging markets (sometimes associated with recessions) because of the real estate investors’ ability to buy homes at wholesale and sell at retail prices. Flipping was also pervasive during the housing boom earlier this decade, when real estate speculators took advantage of the rapidly appreciating market by quickly re-selling homes they purchased almost as soon as they bought them.

Home flipping has been a viable technique included in many real estate investors’ business models. Flipping is not only a means for investors to make money, it has often been a part of neighborhood revitalization. Run down homes, that are often overlooked by home buyers, are made more appealing by modernizing and renovating to code.

Unfortunately, flipping has become synonymous with fraud and scam because of the vilification home flipping received in the mid to late 1990’s (as the result of widespread fraud scams that involved flipped homes). Several cities were known as “ground zero” for flipping scams, Baltimore being one, because of the investors’ ability to purchase homes for very little money.

Although, there is nothing wrong with flipping a home per se; flipping has been rebuked because mortgage fraud was often entwined with the flip in several ways: loan officers falsified income and/or credit information for unqualified home buyers; fraudulent appraisals were used to justify artificially inflated sales prices; and/or “straw buyers” were recruited by the scammers to facilitate the scam. Additionally, flipping scammers often defrauded unknowing home buyers by portraying homes as having renovations, when in fact the renovations were not preformed or of poor quality and not meeting code.

To protect consumers and stem the mounting losses due to illegal flipping, HUD took action. HUD defines “flipping” as, “… a practice whereby a recently acquired property is resold for a considerable profit with an artificially inflated value, often abetted by a lender’s collusion with the appraiser…” (HUD MORTGAGEE LETTER 2003-07). To dissuade the financing of flips, FHA instituted a title seasoning (the time an owner is on title) requirement of at least 90 days; if the sale is between 91 and 180 days, the sales price cannot exceed 100% of the prior sales price.

In the wake of the illegal flipping scams that rocked many Baltimore neighborhoods, then Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. launched an initiative to combat deceptive real estate practices that included flipping and predatory lending. The initiative not only sought to prosecute scammers, but to educate home buyers through town hall meetings and a brochure.

The brochure ( gives five signs that the sales price of the home may not be the value and that sale is a [illegal] flip, including: the seller does not answer questions about price or condition; and, the person “selling” the home is not on title or the home was recently sold.

Since flipping is on the rise, protect yourself by getting all the information. Find out if the seller is being deceptive, as well as how the flip may affect your ability to obtain a mortgage.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of December 14, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell