Commentary: Real Estate Scams Are on the Rise as the Housing Market Remains Hot

When Jeff, a retired marketing consultant from Chicago, was closing on his home sale, he received a new set of instructions at the last minute on where to send several thousand dollars in closing expenses. At first blush, the email looked legit with an official-looking logo and professional language specifying the amount owed and itemized expenses. But one thing caught his eye: The email address looked strange. Just to be safe, he called his mortgage broker.

“Don’t do that!” his broker told him in an alarmed voice. It was a scam. If he hit “send,” his closing fees would go to a thief who had been monitoring his emails. “I was a keystroke away from losing thousands of dollars,” Jeff recalled.

As the housing market sizzles across the country – with nearly 6 million homes bought last year – scammers have been finding new ways to tap into this once-secure market. Real estate transactions still demand reams of paperwork and regulations involving lawyers, brokers, title insurance companies and banks, but the fact that much of this work now takes place online gives thieves countless opportunities to exploit vulnerable buyers. Last year, more than 11,000 homeowners were scammed out of more than $220 million in closing funds alone, according to the American Land and Title Association, a trade group that represents professionals who perform property transactions.

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Report: Home Prices 41 Percent Higher Than Previous Peak in 2006 Before Great Recession

A beige house in a suburban community during the day

Home prices in the U.S. are more than 41% higher than the previous peak recorded in 2006 during the housing boom that preceded the Great Recession, according to a national index.

Home prices hit a new peak in June, increasing at an annual rate of 18.6%, and 2.2% compared to May, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index published Tuesday. The index is 95% higher than it was in 2012 when the housing market bottomed out following the recession.

“June 2021 is the third consecutive month in which the growth rate of housing prices set a record,” S&P DJI Managing Director of Index Investment Strategy Craig Lazzara said in a statement. “The National Composite Index marked its thirteenth consecutive month of accelerating prices.”

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Consumer Sentiment and New-Home Sales Post Gains

The final March results from the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumer Sentiment show overall consumer sentiment improved from the February result. Consumer sentiment increased to 98.4 in March, up from 93.8 in February, a 4.9 percent gain. From a year ago, the index is off 3.0 percent. Despite the…

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