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Out-And-Out Fraudulent Reporting of Home Sales

Mac Slavo
September 2nd, 2010
SHTFplan.com
Comments (32)

The average SHTF Plan reader has a pretty good idea about the credibility of economic numbers coming out of Washington, private ratings agencies and industry associations.

For quite some time we’ve tried to hammer home the fact that what we are being told and what is actually happening with our economy are two completely different things.

According to Karl Denninger, it looks like another scam is being uncovered as we speak:

I have a very disturbing email that came in this evening.

It alleges out-and-out fraudulent reporting of home sales in one of the regional MLS systems.

That is, prices paid that are in fact much lower than the “sold” prices reported in the MLS.

The person in question claims to have seen over 100 of these in his area.  I have copies of two, and it appears, from the evidence that I have, that at least for those two the claim is accurate.

One in particular I was able to pull the auction data on.  It “sold” under reserve, is listed as sold in the MLS at ~25% higher than the “sold” bid, and the premium is disclosed as 5%. This property also has a 90-day “anti-flip” provision on it, implying that the paper may be held by one of the GSEs.  (It’s a nice-looking place, incidentally.)

Here’s the problem, obviously – Case-Schiller and other “home statistics” numbers related to price paid are all computed off these numbers provided by the local Realty boards (via NAR.)  If the data in the MLS is bogus then so is the so-called “median sales price” and so are Case-Schiller’s numbers!

These are not small discrepancies either – in both cases the “over-reporting” is by approximately 25%!

It looks like the National Association of Realtors is trying to pad their numbers a bit. We can’t have realtors out there telling potential buyers the actual truth about the real estate market. Plus, if a realtor tells a small fib to a potential buyer and ups the price of a home 20% over the actual value of homes in that particular neighborhood, they stand to earn a couple thousand dollars extra, while also contributing to an artificial propping up of home prices nationwide.

Would-be home buyers need to not only trust what the realtor is saying, but verify what is actually happening by checking county sales records for the area.

There is a major disconnect in housing prices right now. Anecdotal evidence in our neighborhood ads credence to this theory. For instance, the neighbor directly across the street has had their home listed on the market for nearly five months. Originally pricing the home at $189,000, they have now cut the price to $179,000, which would be a break-even proposition for them if the home were to sell at that price.

The neighbor, who no longer occupies the home because of a job relocation, is cash-strapped because he’s essentially paying two mortgages now, and there are very few people looking at this particular home. One reason for this may be the fact that there are forty homes for sales in our subdivision. The two streets next to ours have five homes listed for sale, three of which almost mirror the floor plan and acreage of our neighbor’s home. All three are selling for significantly lower prices, with two of them priced at $159,000 and one of them priced at $149,000. It’s hard to confirm, but all three look to be distressed sales.

A prospective buyer entering this particular market, buying the $179,000 home, would obviously be overpaying. But the real estate agents, who we’ve spoken with, indicate that $179,000 “is about the going rate” for homes in this area. Either the agent is unaware of the three other homes that are literally one street over (unlikely) or they are flat out lying.

This is the state of affairs in America’s real estate market.

It’s hard not to trust your agent, after all they’re supposed to be working for you, right? Wrong. Remember that the real estate agents interests, even if you contacted that agent first, lean towards the seller, not the buyer. There are good agents out there, that are truthful with prospective buyers, but because of the deterioration of the real estate market, more agents are turning to fabrications to move homes. If you’re planning on buying a home our recommendation is trust but verify.

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Author: Mac Slavo
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Date: September 2nd, 2010
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

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32 Comments...

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  1. downsouth says:

    about to close on a $5,500 home originally listed for $19,900, its a beayut,! built in 1907, completely rewired, brand new a/c, tin roof, quiet neighbors (across from a cemetery) excellent rental potential. man, not running up a credit card, living beyond my means, and putting away $25 a paycheck sure pays off!

  2. Mac,

    It appears that the “Inc” label is not only a way to avoid liability but is also a license to lie. I stopped trusting what anyone says when it comes to exchanges and trade. As the economy continues to falter we find that there are more and more people willing to lie to make a bigger buck.

  3. Bill says:

    I’ve been a builder here in N Michigan for 30 years.  In the early/mid 90’s I built quite a few spec homes.  I tried realtor after realtor trying to find one I could trust and work with.  After a year of beating my head against a wall I finally said hell with it and started selling my own homes.  It wasn’t that hard, I enjoyed doing it and I kept my money in my pocket or in some cases took less and sold the home quicker.  It worked great and because of those years I now live debt free.  That’s the only thing a realtor ever did for me.  Most of them don’t have a clue what goes into a house or how it is built.  All they care about is closing the sale.  They still get their 5 – 7% and most of them don’t do crap to earn it.   I wouldn’t trust 99 % of them.  I’m sure the good one’s are out there but here in my neck of the woods they aren’t worth the effort.     Why should an entire group of them be any different.  Anything to make the sale.  Used car salesmen on steroids.

  4. Redgypsy says:

    Homes in Western WA are still 35%-50% to high at least.
    Stuff is sitting for years on the market yet folks are not lowering their prices.
    Of course there are underlying problems like peak everything and to much debt everywhere.
    I bet prices here actually drop to half of what they are now before they find a bottom.
    The one exception is that small working farms are selling good.

    Red

  5. Goldenfoxx says:

    Comments….. “A prospective buyer entering this particular market, buying the $179,000 home, would obviously be overpaying. But the real estate agents, who we’ve spoken with, indicate that $179,000 “is about the going rate” for homes in this area. Either the agent is unaware of the three other homes that are literally one street over (unlikely) or they are flat out lying.”

    The agent is aware of what the surrounding homes sold for. They can run comps, or the potential buyer can go to the countyt records and see what the house sold for via tax records. It’sall there in the public records.  Also, one can go to zillow.com, type in the address and the price/history of the home is there.

    I don’t TRUST any real estate agent.  As the article says due diligence is on you and not the real estate agent.  I have caught them in lies when we were looking at property 15 years ago.  Be one step ahead of these people.  They represent the seller, not you.  It’sthe seller who pays the commission.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Good time to buy with 30 yr mortgage but I believe that the Feds have painted themselves in a corner with red paint on one legged stool.  Homes will go much cheaper but credit will become more difficult to qualify.  Those buying for back taxes/auction will have best deal with cash.  Yachts are not moving unless they are repossessed.  Clean ones going fast that are allowed to hit the market.  A home that moves.  You can even go where the food & weather are.  Don’t like yourneighbors, change them.
    Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac are broke.  Who owns them?
     

  7. Tom says:

    Not a good time to buy yet but getting started.  I believe that the Feds have painted themselves in a corner with red paint on a one legged stool.  Homes will go much cheaper but credit will become more difficult to qualify.  Those buying for back taxes/auction will have best deal with cash.  Yachts are not moving unless they are repossessed.  Clean ones going fast that are allowed to hit the market.  A home that moves.  You can even go where the food & weather are.  Don’t like your neighbors, change them.
    Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac are broke.  Who owns them covered by what?  Good last paragraph GF. 

  8. TnAndy says:

    Bill in Michigan:

    My experience as a builder mirrors yours…..I’d rather eat dirt than have to deal with another incompetent real estate shark. 

    Since they lie like dogs in good times, I can imagine the lying gets worse when times get tough.

  9. Paul Revere says:

    No surprise to me that all industries in the U.S. are turning out bullshit statistics.   The current lying son of a bitch that calls himself president set the example by having his stooges in D.C. do just that, decieve the public every way possible.   This country is going to hell fast, and the lying SOB Barry Soetoro is the reason.        

  10. Chris C. says:

    Echo the comments of other posters. Realtors get a commission based on sale price so of course their only incentive is to jack up the price as much as possible. It’s all B.S. and I think people are finally beginning to see the light. Who needs them anyway?

    If I were a betting man looking for a home I might wait another 2-3 months before plunking down 10% on a home since somewhere in that time I believe the nexus of low interest rates will meet low home prices. Once interest rates take off it doesn’t matter how cheap homes get.

  11. Dave says:

    To those planning on buying a home-even tempted to now that you can get a 30 year note for cheap-WAIT!
    Next year you will probably get the same home for 50K less.
    The frightening part is that the following year it may be cheaper still…
    I have a very bad feeling in my bones about what is about to take place now that the US is in its economic death throes,it could be a false flag to kick start WW3,it could end with China/Russia delivering an EMP as a response to the Israeli nuts attacking Iran to “keep us very distracted at home” for a while.

  12. Rick Blaine says:

    One thing to keep in mind current home sale values, inflated/misreported or not…

    Rates are INSANELY low right now (assuming you can get a loan at all).  Guess what happens when rates start going up (which will happen eventually)?  Well, it won’t cause home values to rise.

  13. John G. says:

    Been a builder for 30 years and have used realtors to market my homes with little problem. They paid for all my advertising, wrote the legal documents, helped prospective buyers qualify and get financed. They also are a great in-between people to keep the deal alive when emotions get entangled in the sale. I’m happy to pay my realtor a measly 6% to get my homes sold. In reality everyone is a salesman. Most of these are just ridiculous attacks  on hard working independent contractors!

  14.  
    Wake up People!   “Join the Revolution”
                  
    http://SaveTheWorldNow.osixs.org 

    We don’t have to live like this anymore.

  15. Hammerun says:

    I have often wondered why realtors and appraisers weren’t held more accountable in the housing meltdown in the first place. Who over appraised your property and who told you, you could apply and get this wonderful liars loan / with no docs. Realtors and appraisers were as complicit as Barney Frank was/is. The participants in the meltdown was through out the entire housing and mortgage industry and all took part. From the top down.  

  16. Ken says:

    I personally bought a house last Oct. and was shocked a few weeks later when I noticed that the price listed on Zillow for the sale was 30% more than I had actually paid. Despite efforts on my part to correct this, I couldn’t get it changed. Caveat emptor.

  17. Tina says:

    I live in a small midwestern town with less than 1000 houses. 220 of them are on the market. I am watching prices drop. I figure in about 3 years when the dust settles I can pay about 25k for a 3 bedroom on a nice corner lot.

  18. TnAndy says:

    John G.

    You’re either the luckiest builder in the world finding some competent realtors, or more likely, you’re actually a realtor trying to justify your profession, since your post sounds like a promo for their industry.

    Sorry……I can’t believe any builder with 30 years experience has had nothing but raves for that area.

  19. John G. says:

    TnAndy,
    I do consider myself lucky since I live in a small town of less than 10,000 whose property values didn’t skyrocket during “the bubble” and never even heard of the other chicanery happening on a large scale in the bubble areas.
    Recently, I’ve read about the horror stories of the large city’s unsustainable appreciation & how the complete housing industry was complicit. There are bad apples in any industry, including mine. A blanket indictment of all is just stereotyping. It makes lively conversations, but is not blanket truth.
    And no, I’m not a realtor but use one, I’m not a doctor, but use one, not a mechanic but use one etc,etc,etc,

  20. ken zlager says:

    if you haven’t done so….then……dial up http://www.zillow.com and see what you’re home’s computer model sales price is.
    then go down the page under “details” and see your home value graph ( $ vs. time )…

  21. Goldenfoxx says:

    Comments….. I sold my mother’s home and did not use a RE agent. We hired a lawyer and paid him $250.00 to do the paperwork for us.  It was worth every penny and there was no need for the lawyer to lie to us about anything.  I hired the necessary people to do the inspections, and the buyer did his part.  You don’t need a real estate agent, they are nothing more than sharks.

  22. AnotherComment says:

    Real estate agents are one step above maggots in the evolutionary sequence.  Don’t assume “they work for the seller” — they work for themselves only and will do anything and everything to screw you over and dump your a55 for their 5%.  I do NOT know why there is any demand at all and hope regularly somehow the internet will make them totally obsolete. 

  23. Patriot Ones says:

    As if all this is not bad enough. I just got a call from a mortgage broker friend of mine who said FHA just approved a 10% write down on principal balances. I’m not sure how you apply for a write down, but I’ll have more details next week. You can bet the farm that if FHA does this, Fannie, Freddie and the Va will follow.

    Will there be a bottom for the housing industry in the near future? I don’t think so. Housing is now on the edge of the abyss and so is anything connected to housing. The rule book has gone right out the window.

    Good luck folks and have a great holiday weekend.

  24. TnAndy says:

    John G:

    You’re correct, of course….to stereotype all realtors is probably unfair…but as a whole, it IS one industry with the highest level of incompetence I know of.  You’re fortunate to have found a decent one….I’d pay 6% gladly IF they just did their damn job.

    Tell ya about the last house I sold.  It was a single family house I’d built a couple years earlier, and I decided to get rid of my rentals ( all SF ).  Nice house, good location, etc.   Decided, even after many bad tastes when I used to spec build, to use a realtor, but it had been so long since I had, I didn’t know WHO to use. 

    Ended up going with one of Dave Ramsey’s “Endorsed Local Providers”….one of those “high powered folks who get the job done”, as Dave says on the radio.  Well, to be an ELP, all it must take is pay Dave a fee, and you’re in…..because competence and ethics were NOT in this gal’s playbook.

    Now this was in 2005….things were selling well, so it wasn’t market problems….but my house sat for 6 months.  Had one lower offer, which I turned down, and later found out from that person that they would have paid asking, but MY REALTOR told them to lowball !!!  WHY would she do that ?   Because she would have had to split the commission, as this buyer came thru another agency !

    Says she will call EVERY Monday with a status report…..she called maybe 4-5 times over 6 month…had her ‘assistant’ call couple times more…..

    Send me a copy of my listing in the paper one day, in a nice flowery envelope…..yep…picture was my house…..description was somebody else’s house, unless somebody slipped a boat dock in there for a lake I’m not on……opps……( and yeah….they ran it in the paper that way for a week….. )

    So, FINALLY, she brings me a contract.  Turns out later, the seller’s agent is a buddy of hers in the same agency ( my agent is not the broker/owner of the agency ), so they keep the entire commission in house.  It’s getting right up to the end of her listing time, so she is pressuring the buyers, I also find out later, with “sign now or this house is gone” kinda thing….her assistant faxes me sales agreements with all kinds of errors….yada yada yada…

    and THEN as closing, NEITHER agent even bothers to show up….the financing on the deal got squirrely, the buyers said, well, OK….we’ll just pay cash ( they sold their house ), so the closing agent ( employed BY the financing outfit ) kinda then got dis-interested in the process…and “I” basically guided the buyers thru the maze of documents they needed to sign…..honestly…..it was a comedy !!   Wife of the buyer had called me a day or so before and timidly asked if I would allow them move some furniture in the garage, as they had it on a truck that needed to go back…..she was scared to ask, as MY FRICKING REALTOR had made me out to be some kind of two headed monster I guess….probably because she had already picked up on what I thought of her…..

    No, John….like I said……I’ll eat dirt before I EVER deal with another realtor.  I’d be really scared I’d shoot the next one.

  25. Bill says:

    @ TnAndy  -  I agree totally with you.   I have stories too.   Stories that cost me money.   One day the person is a housewife/stay at home mom and one week later she’s a realtor and knows everything in the world about building and how to see a house…..

    I used a title company for years.  They have an attorney on staff that signed everything but the others did the work.  It’s easy stuff for them.  Never a problem at all.  I used these guys a dozen times and never had a problem.   Plus the biggest bonus was NO REALTOR!

  26. Hammerun says:

    TN Andy;
     That was hilarious. What a nightmare. I am sitting here giggling going Holyshit and you were paying 6%to boot. I have noticed in the past 30 odd years every time the housing market out here in Cal. is on the upswing it is amazing how many big tited blonds with a Mercedes and a short skirt instantly becomes a million dollar agent, or at least states they are. Hips, tits and your money. However though there is kind of a new way of doing it here. You show it, they market it and sell it and 2%. This is getting big out here. It will get a lot bigger if the market ever comes back.
     

  27. Jeff Lane says:

    Comments…..Having been associated with the real estate business for 40+ yrs,I can tell you flat out realtors have commisions as their top priority. I have watched time and again how they will show “their” listing only when around the corner there sits a much better house at a much lower price. Happens all the time. They don’t give a d*mn about getting their client the best house for the money.

  28. John G. says:

    TnAndy,
    OMG- I would be PO’ed too. My realtor has 35yrs experience, doesn’t need the money, knows construction and also knows that I know a good portion of his business. Trying to play those kind of games with me– I would eat his lunch and fire him in a minute. In my small town the idiots get weeded out fast. I just don’t have time nor energy to find buyers and pay to market my spec homes. Thank God I’ve sold every home lately, most before I finish.

  29. TnAndy says:

    Bill,

    Yeah….I think the key there is small town.  Like you said, doing this kind of stuff would get you weeded out pretty quickly.  We’re not in a huge metro area, but ‘town’ is 70k, and the area as a whole, probably 500k in a 30 mile radius…..large enough to allow idiots to breed, apparently.

    Glad your market is OK….been a long time since I did a true “spec”….these rentals were my way of doing an end run around income tax….by renting for a year, I could pay capital gains instead of income tax at a higher rate + social security….worked out about 25% better taxwise to hold them a year.  Also helped that I built them for cash, and didn’t have a lender in the process….so no interest clock ticking.

  30. YSONE says:

    Comments…..Mac-Getting back to the issues in the article published rather than others’ personal problems/realtor bashing here-
    Many times buyers are in fact willing to pay a bit of higher premium for a comparable property if they do not have to jump through any bank- owned hoops/multiple offer situations or wait months for short sale approval from banks- but at 20-30K more than neighborhood comparables, I have to ponder not only the location, location, location of the home itself ( is there a spectacular view? is it on a golf course or??)  or if the property in question possesses 24K gold plumbing faucets or possibly extremely highly upgraded in some other  fashion ?
    Maybe the  owner is trying to sell for what he ‘needs’ not what the property is actually ‘worth’ in this market. Just because I walk into the supermarket and I ‘need’ steak to be on sale for 1.99 lb the fact remains most times it is not. I have to pay what the MARKET demands or market value- not what I myself want or need. If your neighbor has instructed his agent to set his home at this price ( it is the homeowner who actually must SET the price- the agent only ADVISES) while others around him are at much lower price he is in for a whole lot of wait in this market, especially when buyers are out looking for deals. Many owners will do this, typically out of greed. Rather than face realistic facts when shown stats and numbers they attach unrealistic hopes, prices and/or emotional values on their properties. A smart agent will decline to even list the home if it is overpriced, realizing it is a losing proposition for both parties. The price – as you have already indicated has been done- will have to be dropped, most likely more than once, before he even gets a nibble. An agent that takes an overpriced property such as this is simply ‘buying the listing’ and trying to appease the owner and “provide a service” by listing at a price  the owner wishes rather than true market value.  In my eyes it is of no ‘service’ to the seller but many sellers have to experience this for themselves because no matter how hard you try to explain or even show cold hard facts, the message does not seem to get through to them. In fact- you can stand in front of an overpriced property in a clown suit with a sign spinning and it will do no good until it is priced correctly IMO :)  Still- there are homeowners that will interview several agents until they find one that is willing to do exactly as they wish in the end. And if hit with lower bids than list price because property is overpriced in the first place will start screaming they don’t want to ‘give their property away’ when that is all it is really worth in the first place. And of course- somehow the agent is always the one to blame. And why not? It is always easier to blame another than to accept responsibility or take accountability for your own mistakes.
    I don’t understand how you say it is ‘hard to confirm’ whether the lower priced properties are distressed or not -especially if you are out currently talking to agents. Any agent can and will tell you if those properties are distressed, either an REO or shortsale. Those are facts agents must disclose if asked. Obviously you did not ask is all I can assume.
    A  viable alternative, especially since this neighbor is struggling as you say to make both mortgage payments and has been forced to relocate due to job would be a shortsale. The property could be brought down to fair market value. He already owns another home and forced relocation due to job transfer is one of many acceptable reasons for bank approval of a shortsale. Would be one way to rid the monkey of his back of a $179K mortgage debt. Granted he would have to find an agent that is very good at bank negotiations due to deficiency judgements. Any agent can list and sell a home per se but in shortsale situations is of utmost importance to find an agent that excels in bank negotiations in order to remove any deficiency judgements (or look over your shoulder for up to 6 yrs if not). Then he would have to check with his tax advisior for tax ramifications since it is no longer his primary residence as well.
    Other than that- he could always choose to rent out his property. There are many families which have been foreclosed on in need of homes to rent. Statistically speaking appreciation rates are 2.5-3% year but in this market who knows? 
    I’m sure your neighbor is aware and has already been given several of these options. He is obviously choosing the decision which is best for him. And you of couse do not know all the details or facts involved. So who-exactly- are you to judge?
    And no-it is not difficult to find an agent you can trust. If of course you don’t have trust issues of some sort built up in your head already by one unpleasant past experience or trumped up horror stories you’ve read or heard somewhere at sometime elsewhere would have you believe. I know several agents that work hard to represent their clients best interest. Sometimes putting in 60-80hr weeks. And yes, while it’s true most do get paid on commission basis only I have in fact heard more than one agent reccomend to a buyer/seller that perhaps it is not a good time for them to buy/sell a home or to wait thereby losing their chance of an immediate commission but gaining client loyaly in the end.
    It seems to me you also (as many) do not understand rules of agency either. The listing agent must always represent the best interest of the seller- that is their job, their fiduciary responsibility. This means if a buyer approaches the listing agent of a new home/reo home/ shortsale etc and tells the listing agent they are willing to offer 100k but want to lowball at 75k – the listing agent can write the contract at that amt but does indeed have a fiduciary responsibility and obligation in fact to the SELLER FIRST and must tell the homeowner/seller the buyer can actually pay more. The buyers agent, represents the best interest of the buyer. Even if the buyer agent is being paid by the seller co-op it is the fiduciary duty to represent the best interest of the buyer. Of course a buyer could always offer to pay the buyers agent co-op themselves and some do, but not many. That is the buyers choice but it is always an option that is there if the buyer so chooses but most do not. 
    So let me ask you this- How can it be the listing agent fault in any way if he is bound by fiduciary responsibility to the seller to obtain the highest price for the home and does exactly what he is supposed to do by disclosing to the seller the buyer can in fact pay a higher price? By law he must do this. Also he must have a consent to act form SIGNED by BOTH parties acknowledging the fact that he is representing two parties with interests which may be adverse to each other. If a buyer signs this form and makes an offer in this manner how can he have anyone to blame but himself  ?  He has been told and the fact has even been signed and documented. Still- it is this same person who will complain they didn’t know when in fact they were most likely told more than once. Maybe they just didn’t understand, realize or comprehend but the fact remains a fact. They made an offer with the wrong agent and have only themselves to blame because they did not do proper research regarding agency relationships first of all. Second of all – every person has the ability to interview as many agents as they wish and should do so until finding one they feel comfortable with and feel they can honestly trust with one of the most important financial decisions of their lives. It is not a flippant decision to be made and if it is made with little or no regard or effort in your discretion then of course you will get back exactly what you put forth in your choice. The decision is ultimately yours. 
    Obviously you have major trust issues with agents. As do several others in this commentary as well as in the world. As in any proffession I’m sure there are a few bad apples out there but that does not mean you should try to disgrace the entire profession as a whole with your sour grapes. That would be akin to me saying most bloggers have no idea what they are talking about and their opinions should only be taking with a grain of salt. At best, that is my opinion and my opinion alone if I do not provide cold hard facts  (not just my perceptions) in 0rder to substantiate it. At worst- it is a blanket statement that erroneously
    targets all bloggers as liars and idiots which is simply not true. 

  31. Steve says:

    there is only one reason to use a RE agent, when you have to move fast and don’t know the area. if you know the area and you have time to look, then there is absolutely no need. I have purchased and sold 5 houses without an agent on my side. All the forms are on line and the agent fills in a few blanks, that’s all. Attorneys and Escrow companies do all the real work. Just like travel agents, RE agents will be replaced by the computer and there will be far fewer in the years to come. the housing bubble will be going until 2012, when the last set of ARM loans reset. By then there will be at least another 30% of cost cutting and after that possibly another 30% when the banks finally decide to unload their inventory. All of this is very simple to glean from numerous sites. Let the buyer beware. if it is not a cash deal and you are not staying for more than 10 years, forget buying and rent.