real estate

New Homeowner Beware: North Texas Realtors Talk Red Flags

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As of August 2021, there had been about $10.6 billion in residential building starts for the year, according to the Dallas Morning News.

While that is an increase in what the industry is used to seeing for that time period, supply and demand issues meant some people still haven’t been able to find a place to buy.

For those who have closed on a property, it could feel like the rat race of the competition is over, but many North Texas realtors are now warning it isn't the end of the battle. New homeowners must now contend with people trying to capitalize off their new home ownership with scams.

NBC 5 talked with four North Texas realtors who each detailed red flags consumers should be looking out for.

Homestead Exemption

Kyle Baugh with Compass Real Estate has been a realtor in the market for decades. He said he has seen a lot of scams dealing with the Homestead Exemption.

“What these people do, once you close [on your home], they will send you a letter and that letter asks you to pay money. I have seen them ask for $30, $45 or even more. It’s really unbelievable to file for the homestead,” Baugh said. “This is something that is absolutely free and you can do it online.

Baugh said to avoid any confusion, simply go to your county’s appraisal website where you can fill out and submit the form. The completed application and necessary documents are due no later than April 30th of the tax year for which you are applying. You can also file late up to two years after the due date, which is usually February 1, according to the Texas Comptroller’s website.

Life Insurance

JJ Chapa, a broker with Liberty Realty Advisors, said soon after a home purchase, most people look into life insurance if they don’t already have it. It’s a way to ensure loved ones will be able to take care of the bills associated with a home in the event something happens to them. He said life insurance companies will use that urgency to get someone to choose them to cover the mortgage. Often, they will use what looks like your mortgage company’s letterhead and the mail will be complete with your information making it look very real.

“I get a lot of buyers who say to me they just got something from the mortgage company and it says they have to get that life insurance,” Chapa said. “They text me a picture of it and it's 100-percent not their mortgage company. It just looks like it because they have built that sense of trust and they are hoping to capitalize on the confusion after the purchase of the house to try to get a really easy life insurance policy sale.”

He said the good news is if you have already gotten something like this in the mail, it's not because your personal information has been compromised, but rather they have looked through public records and seen the information that is available there.

“It’s always a good idea to look into life insurance, especially after the big purchase of a home, but go with a reputable company you know well,” Chapa said.

Two-factor Authentication on Email

When purchasing a home, especially in the age of COVID-19, there is a lot of information exchanged via email. Much of that information has a lot of your personal information on it. For that reason, Rachel Trowbridge with Allie Beth Allman & Associates said it’s a good idea to only use a personal email account that utilizes two-factor authentication, meaning just one password isn’t enough to get in when signing in on a new device.

“Pretty much every personal email provider has what's called two-step authentication. So after you log into your email and you put in your password it's then going to contact you on your cell phone and say 'here's the code to get into your email' then you have to enter that code, so that's the two-part authentication to get into your personal email. Most people don't have that,” Trowbridge said.

Home Title Fraud

Orlanda Powell with Keller Williams Best SW said a red flag he has seen are mailers claiming they will protect new homeowners from home title fraud, but for a fee.

“What they are doing is scouring the beat records of the county to see if there has been any fraudulent activity and they are alerting the homeowner. So what homeowners don’t know is that is a service for free. You can go to the county records and basically check that yourself. You don’t need anyone to do that for you and certainly not if it’s going to cost you,” Powell said.

He added that if homeowners have any questions about what they are getting in the mail, they should always contact the realtor who helped them with the purchase.

“We don’t leave you just because you have closed on your house. You can call us and ask us questions so that you are sure you know what you are doing,” Powell said.

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