Real estate transactions are often tedious affairs. If you’ve ever been involved with them, you’ll know that the process of acquiring property demands a lot of effort and careful steps. There are rules to be adhered to, inspections to be done, negotiations to be had, and documents to be signed and exchanged.
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You want to be sure that all that effort isn’t in vain. Unfortunately, it sometimes is—especially for people who have been scammed by criminals posing as real estate dealers.
Real estate scams are a painfully common phenomenon. If you’re going to protect yourself against them, you’ll need to be extra careful with the people (or company) you intend to buy property from. Losing millions of naira to fraudsters is an experience you don’t want to have.
Here are six steps you can take to avoid being defrauded by real estate scammers.
Don’t Pay Cash
If you’re going to pay for the property, insist on making that payment through a bank deposit. This makes the transaction (and the money trail after it) easier to track. You’ll need this if your property seller turns out to be a scammer.
With bank account statements confirming the transaction took place, you’ll have evidence against that person, and stand a chance of recovering your funds. If the dealer is adamant that you pay cash, it’s probably time to end your engagement with them.
Verify Relevant Documents
Depending on the type of real estate transaction you’re undertaking, there will be documents involved that prove that the dealer is (or represents) the owner of the property they’re trying to sell to you.
Make sure to request and verify those documents. Look out for anomalies, including discrepancies in names, dates, and other details, and signs of questionable editing. If you’re buying land, you can confirm that it’s genuine at the land registry in your state. Here’s How to Determine that a Land Title is Genuine in Lagos State.
Work With Known Dealers
Do your due diligence. Conduct background checks to verify that the dealer you’re working with is trustworthy. It’s safer to purchase property from a reputable real estate firm, or an individual (or family) who is known by the public to be reliable.
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The fact that a seller isn’t widely known doesn’t mean that they’re likely to swindle you. But the risk that you’ll be taken advantage of is lower if they have successfully sold the property to other people.
Inspect the Property
A proper real estate dealer will want to take you on a tour of the property they intend to sell to you. It’s more than just standard procedure; this step could help you ascertain that the land or building in question matches your needs.
Be wary of agents who try to dissuade you from inspecting their property. It’s usually a sign that there’s something about it that they don’t want you to know. If they remain adamant about not letting you see their property, you should quit engaging them.
Be Careful With Ultra-Cheap Offers
Assume that the price range for a plot of land in a given district is between ₦3 million and ₦7 million. If you’re looking to buy land there, it’s reasonable for you to seek out something on the lower end of that range. But if someone offers you a piece of land there at, say, ₦500,000 per plot, you ought to be extra careful about exploring that offer.
Scammers are known to lure their victims with ultra-cheap prices. They know that people want the best deals they can get, so they capitalize on this desire. Don’t fall for this. If what’s being advertised seems too good to be true, it likely is.
Take Your Time
You may want to wrap up the property acquisition process as soon as you can. This is understandable. But rushing through it could mean that you miss important details—including signs that the seller isn’t genuine. Fraudsters prefer to hasten their transactions so that red flags aren’t spotted.
Take the time to review every step before you take it. Ask questions if there’s something that isn’t clear to you. Seek the help of contacts who are more knowledgeable about real estate than you are. You can’t be too careful about these things.
Real estate fraud hits hard because it usually involves the loss of large sums of money. You can avoid becoming a victim by determining the reputation of the other parties in the process, steering clear of questionable offers, and double-checking every relevant detail along the way.
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