Las Sendas


Land Scams Have Arrived In Our Neighborhood
Posted on Apr 17, 2023

Land Scams Have Arrived In Our Neighborhood
A must-read for all property owners and buyers!
By Natascha and John Karadsheh
Owners, KOR Properties
In the last few months, land scams have become increasingly common across the country and have even impacted our neighborhood.  We are personally aware of several scam attempts and want to urge property owners to be aware especially if they own vacant lots, land parcels, or other investment properties. While vacant land scams are among the most common, the scammers are also targeting homes without mortgages that are vacant or used for vacation rentals, especially those owned by corporations or out-of-state homeowners. They have also targeted homes owned by people who have recently deceased. Sellers need to keep tabs on their properties and buyers need to be extremely careful and educate themselves if they are looking to purchase property.
One of the common scams involves vacant land that is listed by someone who is impersonating the owner. These properties are typically listed as “for sale by owner” on third party sites like Zillow and are usually offered at prices below market value. Scammers target vacant properties because there is no one living at the property and there is no home to photograph or show -  making it easier for them to impersonate the owners. 
The scammers often present themselves as out-of-state owners and typically will only communicate via email or text. They press for a quick closing and use a remote notary and title services. They will not meet in person or over video call.
We recently discovered that a lot owned by a client of ours was listed below market value on Zillow.  The listing had new pictures, a description (with questionable grammar), and a ”too good to be true” price.  We contacted our client and he had no idea his property was offered for sale on the site.  While he was able to get it removed from Zillow,  other owners and buyers have not been so lucky.  
The scammers often use an out-of-state power of attorney from another state to forge identity documents and deeds, they use fake emails and signature blocks, and in some cases even manage to trick the title companies.  The worst part is that when these scams are successful, the ownership is actually transferred and recorded through the county to the new buyer.  The process for regaining ownership can be long, costly, and incredibly frustrating.
If you are a buyer who is interested in purchasing vacant land here or elsewhere, be aware of these red flags:
The “Seller” Won’t Provide Detailed Property Information
When it comes to selling any property, a seller should be forthcoming and disclose what they know about the property.  If the seller is vague and can’t provide detailed information about the property including when they purchased it, what their intent was for the property, an explanation of the views, the utilities, the exact location, annual property taxes etc. you should have concern. The fraudsters don’t like a lot of questions so they will often simply stop communicating.
The Price Is Too Good To Be True
In the case of our client’s property, and several others that have been recently been fraudulently listed on third party sites, the price listed was significantly below market value.  Don’t be caught up by the “deal” and lose sight of the red flags!  
The Seller Is In a Hurry
If the seller is in a rush to sell and you don’t feel quite right about it, listen to your gut.  A reputable seller will know you need time for due diligence.  Also, be aware of incredulous stories that explain the seller’s need for a quick close. 
You Can’t Connect With the Seller
You should take caution if you can’t meet the seller in person or speak with them on the phone or via a Zoom call. If they are only available by text or email this is a concern. 
Be Sure to Have Your Own Representation
Just because a piece of property is “for sale by owner” does not mean you can’t have a Realtor representing you.  Let your Realtor speak with the seller (experienced agents have spidey senses!), hire a reputable title company,  choose a very experienced title agent, and last, but not least, buy title insurance!  One of the title companies we work with has told us they have stopped several fraudulent sales in the past few months.  Be sure to have people you trust on your team!
Protecting Your Property
If you own vacant land here or out of state, set a Google Alert for your property address or just regularly Google your address. Search your property on Zillow and on other third party sites to see if it is listed for sale.  Visit your property or ask a neighbor to make sure there isn’t any unusual activity on the site.  You can also check the county recorder and treasurer's office to make sure you are still the owner on record.
Please help us share this information with your friends and neighbors so we can all protect our community!  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at 480-568-8680.