Last week the Philadelphia District Attorney busted a “house-stealing ring.” According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a group of about 15 people, including four notaries public (but no REALTORS®, as far as we know) allegedly forged deeds showing themselves as owners of abandoned properties, then sold about 80 of them to “naive and non-English-speaking buyers,” often for cash. They’re alleged to have made about $400,000 from the fraudulent transactions.
The easy lesson to take from this bust is that buyers should use a REALTOR® to avoid being taken by a scam, but there’s a lot more to it.
While we don’t know a lot about the buyers in these cases, the implication from the article is that these buyers were likely minorities and/or immigrants. These types of buyers may not seek out real estate professionals for various reasons. And if you look at the likely purchase prices of the homes they bought (the fraudsters allegedly made about $400,000 on 82 homes — less than $5,000 profit on each), they’re not exactly the profile of the buyer that is going to be sought out by lots of REALTORS®.
At our January Business Meetings the PAR Board of Directors approved a Multicultural Strategic Plan forwarded by the Equal Opportunity and Cultural Diversity Committee. Working with The Gonzales Group, and funded partially by an NAR Diversity grant, the committee developed a plan that focuses primarily on showing that there is an economic and business benefit to developing various multicultural markets. Or, to put it another way (my words, not the committee’s), just because somebody doesn’t look like you doesn’t mean they don’t have money to spend. Projected activities will not only show members why there is benefit to reaching out to these markets, but will also help them understand how to make that outreach effective.
So maybe the next time somebody has the great idea to defraud a group of “naive and non-English-speaking buyers” there might just be some REALTORS® helping them out.