Quick Real Estate Secrets

Selling a home is often a long and complicated process that requires skills, strategies, and the best realtor on your team to succeed. Some homes seem to effortlessly hit the market and sell quickly. What’s the secret behind these sales? Key strategies that the highest performing realtors will tell you:

PRICE RIGHT: Get the perfect most competitive price point and your home won’t be sitting on the market long. Your realtor should be proficient in determining the price by using comparables in your local area. Data shows that pricing a home slightly below market value and on par with the lesser competition is the best way to get the most money. Aggressive pricing like this can set up the conditions for a bidding war as people tend to be motivated by the fear of missing out on a great deal.

ONLINE MARKETING: Numerous buyers go to realtors after finding their dream house online. An outstanding web presence is proving to be one of the most effective ways to get buyers into your home. It’s important that you have a realtor on your team that understands how to utilize all the resources available online. The content they create to showcase your home must be consistent and of high quality. Photos should be professional and captured in the best light and staged appropriately. Adding descriptions to pictures is another way to grab the buyer’s eye. Everyone loves a good story.

KILLER FIRST IMPRESSION: After a buyer looks through your online presence, they may do a drive-by and what they see will either get them in the front door or have them drive to the next option. Powerwash off the mud, dust, water stains, and accumulated dirt. Freshen up the landscaping with mulch and annuals, trim overgrown shrubs, and clear away any fallen debris. Don’t forget to wash all your windows and if needed – refresh and repaint your front door. Some of the best realtors will have a crew at their fingertips ready to help make your home look its very best. After all, the realtor wants you to sell fast, too. He should have all the resources to find the best vendors in your area that he has worked with before.

STAGE: The atmosphere inside your home must be appealing and void of any personal collections, keepsakes, photographs, and such. The buyer needs to imagine themselves living there. If you can’t hire a professional stager, your realtor should be able to guide you in maximizing the full potential of your home by rearranging furniture, removing pieces to make rooms look larger, and making the very best welcoming impression.

The Bottom Line: The condition of your home is key to how quickly you will sell it. A house that is well-maintained coupled with the above tips will sell faster than a house that hasn’t been taken care of. If the home is in disrepair but is well staged, makes a good first impression, is priced right, and is marketed well will fall apart during inspections. It’s important to know what upgrades and renovations you need to do before listing your home. Work with a professional, experienced realtor who knows your market and can provide expert advice to streamline the selling process and increase all chances of a quick sale.

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Hurdles to Cross During Real Estate Transactions

The hurdles you will need to overcome, if any, come during the closing process within the due diligence period. This is a timeframe that has been agreed upon by the seller and the buyer once an offer is made on a home. This is the point at which the buyer can decide to buy or not buy the home without fear of losing any earnest money.

Might there be some complications? Why, yes. Here are brief descriptions of four such hurdles. For more in-depth information, make sure you have the best realtor as part of your team whether you are buying or selling.

Inspections: Before putting in a purchase order, the buyer will be sure to have their realtor write in any inspection contingencies. When the contract is signed, a home and pest inspection will be scheduled. This will expose if any, major defects, damages, and infestations that might affect the integrity of the home. Once the results are announced, the buyer is able to request repairs. If say, a termite inspection shows damage, the problem will have to be remedied before closing. If any of the issues are too serious or the seller won’t fix them, the option is now for the buyer to walk away because of the contingencies.

Title Issues: Securing title insurance protects the buyer and the lender from any future claims on the property. If there is a lien or claim against the home, the issue will need to be resolved before the transaction can go forward. The title company you choose will perform a title search that investigates all the public records to make certain that there isn’t anyone else that has a claim to the property other than the seller.

Financing: It’s paramount that as a buyer, there is a preapproval from a bank with a written loan commitment stating a mortgage will be provided for the amount of the home. Important to know: pre-qualified is not the same as preapproved! There are situations that might prevent the buyer’s loan from closing such as a false statement on the application, a lost job, an increase in interest rates, or the buyer’s credit score may have gone down. To avoid any of these problems, talk to the lender or even the realtor to learn what not to do during the due diligence period.

Insurance: If there has been any damage to the home, such as fire, mold, or water, it will show up on insurance records. Some homes are in unique exposures such as wildfire, hurricane, or tornado. Some insurance companies will refuse coverage because the home is considered too risky. Unless the buyer is paying for the home in full cash, an insurance policy is needed before a lender finances a home. It’s not over though. There are some insurance companies that will help to find creative solutions and work with the buyer to help find coverage. Talk to a seasoned realtor who has knowledge of who might be able to help.

The Bottom Line: There will always be struggles with anything in life, and for sure there will be hurdles in the home buying/selling process. The key is to have a good realtor to partner with to help smoothly across all these and any other hurdles that may come your way.

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How Real Estate Investors Can Protect Themselves from Title Fraud

In the realm of real estate investment, title protection is paramount. A recent FBI report reveals a 20% surge in title fraud, costing victims $350 million annually. This underscores the critical need for investors to safeguard their assets especially as home prices have risen in Florida and across the USA.

Title fraud, a growing concern in real estate, occurs when someone falsely claims property ownership, often using forged documents, to deceive potential investors or lenders. It’s a costly and complex issue that requires vigilance to prevent.

II. The Impact of Title Fraud on Real Estate Investors

Title fraud can turn a promising investment into a financial nightmare, as it may lead to loss of property rights, legal battles, and substantial monetary damages, derailing your real estate investment journey.

Title fraud cases are not uncommon. For instance, the infamous “Selling the Brooklyn Bridge” scam involved George C. Parker selling properties he didn’t own, including the Brooklyn Bridge, to unsuspecting immigrants. Such real-life examples highlight the importance of due diligence in property transactions.

III. Understanding How Title Fraud Occurs 

Fraudsters commonly employ phishing schemes, malware, data breaches, unsecured Wi-Fi networks, and mail theft to commit home title theft, posing significant risks to real estate investors.

Fraudsters often exploit gaps in public records, lax identity verification, and the digital nature of transactions, turning these into opportunities for fraudulent activities.

IV. Steps to Protect Against Title Fraud

Conducting comprehensive title searches, a service offered by Title First Agency is crucial. It uncovers potential issues, ensuring a clean title transfer and safeguarding your investment.

Title insurance, a key offering at Title First Agency, serves as a safety net, protecting your investment from unforeseen title defects, thus ensuring peace of mind.

Working with experienced title agents and attorneys, like those at Title First Agency, who oversee thousands of transactions yearly, can significantly mitigate the risk of title fraud.

Securing personal information is paramount. Prevent identity theft by diligently managing your data, thus reducing the likelihood of falling victim to title fraud.

V. What to Do If You Become a Victim of Title Fraud

If you suspect title fraud, act swiftly. Contact your title company, local law enforcement, and credit bureaus to report the issue and initiate an investigation.

Victims of title fraud have legal recourse. Consult an experienced real estate attorney to explore options such as litigation to recover your property rights.

VI. Bottom Line

In conclusion, the rise of title fraud underscores the importance of vigilance and proactive measures in real estate investment. From conducting thorough title searches to securing title insurance and working with experienced title agents, these steps are crucial in safeguarding your investment. Furthermore, keeping personal information secure and acting swiftly if fraud is suspected can mitigate potential damage. Victims have legal recourse, and consulting with a real estate attorney can provide valuable guidance. Remember, prevention is the best defense against title fraud.

Secure your real estate investments by seeking professional advice. Services like Title First Agency’s title searches and insurance protect against title fraud.

VII. Call to Action 

For more information or assistance in protecting your real estate investments, contact Title First Agency. We’re here to help secure your property rights.

Visit our website or contact us directly at Title First Agency. Explore our services, from title searches to insurance, designed to safeguard your real estate investments.

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Is the Price of the Home Too Good to be True?

Watch for the red flags if you have the temptation to buy a dream house in a questionable neighborhood because the price is right. Buying the best home in the worst neighborhood can end up being a huge mistake, especially when it’s time to resell in the future.

One of the most important elements of any neighborhood is the crime rate. Some of the most affluent areas have a high crime rate with minor crimes like petty theft. Violent crime is the biggest problem and marks a location as undesirable. You can’t always know certain details about a neighborhood until after you’ve moved in, so hire a good realtor that can help you search out all the red flags – seen and unseen.

When you see homes that are rundown throughout the community, it could be a sign that the residents have given up and the neighborhood is in rapid decline. A street that is full of homes with broken/cracked windows, overgrown, unkempt yards, home vacancies, gutters filled with leaves and vines, sagging rooflines, pooling water in yards, homes with obvious chipping paint & broken fences should sound off an alarm. It’s a clue that the neighbors don’t take pride in their homes and with no upkeep, they can end up decreasing the property values for the entire street.

Are there too many houses that are for sale in the neighborhood? When driving through notice if there is an abundance of “for sale” or “for rent” signs. If everyone is trying to sell, it’s probably not a coincidence. There are plenty of reasons this could be going on, but it’s important to have your Realtor dig in and find out the details. Also, check with the local police department and find out about the crime – a real reason people would be making a mass exodus from the neighborhood.

How is the local school system? Are there fewer students enrolling? A sure sign of a healthy community is a blossoming school. Another reason to have a good, knowledgeable Realtor with you – he/she should know all these details or at least where you can find the information about the schools.

Most streets have some cracks and bumps but are you noticing big potholes in the neighborhood? This could mean that this is an area of neglect in the city. Is the local park a mess? If you can see that there is no organization to take care of the streets, the parks, and any public spaces in the neighborhood it is a sure sign that the property values are headed down.

Drive through the neighborhood on a beautiful day. Do you see people out and about? Are kids playing ball in yards? Bike riding? Is anyone sitting on the front porches? A big red flag if you don’t see people. This could signal that residents stay inside and don’t allow their children to play outdoors because they don’t feel safe outside. Again, check with the local police department.

The Bottom Line: Attention to the surroundings of any neighborhood is important. Often, the focus is on the home and how perfect it is for you, but a huge part of the way you live is where you live. You’re purchasing a home AND the neighborhood. A good Realtor will remind you that the overall area the home is in can/will impact the resale value of the home. Buying a home in an area that is decreasing will create problems in the future.

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Title Insurance: What Is It? Do You Need It?

The hard part of buying a new home is having to deal with potential problems that you didn’t create. Short sales, foreclosures, bankruptcies, and financial situations by the previous owners have added another element to the entire closing process.  Title insurance is a specialized insurance policy that protects you and your mortgage lender against mistakes made in a title search. If you find a home and there’s not a clear title to it, title insurance protects the bank – and you – if there’s a problem

Title First Agency experts oversee and perform thousands of closings each year nationwide and ensure that all of the details of the title transfer and closing are in proper order. Unfortunately, at this time there are plenty of situations that could make problems with a title and complicate the process of buying the affected houses.  No matter why the house is being sold, its title problems must be cleaned up so they are not inherited by the buyer.

Short Sale: A short sale is when the lender agrees to let you sell your home for less than the outstanding mortgage debt. The proceeds from the sale pay off a portion of the mortgage balance and the lender releases the lien on the property. A title from a short sale is not always free and clear. A good Realtor will make sure to get a preliminary title search performed to determine the extent of outstanding legal obligations. If a home is bought without a clear title, the buyer could be responsible for the mechanic’s lien, which is a legal claim placed on a home to settle unpaid or partially paid contractor work,  any unsettled contractor liens, property-tax liens, IRS liens, homeowners’ association special assessment liens or even a second mortgage loan.

Foreclosure: Homeowners that can’t afford their home may decide to relinquish ownership and give the house to the bank that holds the mortgage. Mortgage foreclosures can cause a lot of issues with the chain of title. Sometimes, even though the owner loses their home, they may not actually lose the title to the property.  The property may have plenty of repair problems since financially distressed owners often let their properties fall into disrepair. From leaky basements, and unpaid taxes,  to bills from homeowners’ associations to quarreling lenders – it can take some time to sort out who is owed what, how they will be paid, and when the title will finally be cleared. All buyers of the foreclosed property need to protect themselves by making sure the title search shows that any previous mortgage was satisfied, canceled, or otherwise released to avoid any future title problem.

The Bottom Line: There are dozens of potential barricades to clear the title.  Buying or selling a home has become a complex transaction and you need a trusted title search company to guide you through the process. When using Title First, you can sign confidently on the dotted line knowing that all details of your title transfer and closing are in proper order. We are here to answer any questions you may have about buying or selling a home, and our team will guide you through the entire process.

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Escalation Clause

An escalation clause works by automatically increasing your offer by a certain amount each time another buyer makes a higher offer. It’s the real estate equivalent of bidding in an eBay auction and essentially eliminates the back and forth of offers and counter offers. As long as a higher offer doesn’t exceed your maximum bid, this clause might help you get the home you want.

The escalation clause should only be used when the buyer has been given advice from a knowledgeable realtor that they will be facing a lot of competition. The reality is the buyer is revealing to the seller exactly what they’re willing to pay, which is beyond their initial offer.  The seller then holds all the cards and may counteroffer for higher than the seller’s initial bid – since they already know he’ll go higher.

As a buyer, you should never make an offer you aren’t prepared to make good on. You and your realtor must be on the same page before you add an escalation clause because once you begin you are legally required to start the whole process and put down an earnest money deposit. Pulling out of the deal before the home is bought is a risk of losing the deposit.

Have your realtor include contingencies in the purchase offer to be sure certain conditions are met before finalizing the sale. If they aren’t met, you can back out penalty-free.

As a seller, it’s in your best interest to deal honestly with any prospective home buyer. The buyer has the right to ask for proof of an offer or proof of a bona fide offer to prove that there was another offer that activated the escalation clause. If you can’t provide the proof, you, as the seller and your realtor could find yourselves in trouble legally.

The Bottom Line: Should you use an escalation clause? If you’re shopping for a house in a seller’s market where homes are getting multiple offers from buyers—an escalation clause can help you win a bidding war. It can keep you from losing a home just because another buyer offered a little more money than your first offer. It also shows that you’re a serious buyer with a strong offer. If a home does not have any competing offers, there’s no reason to include an escalation clause in your contract. An experienced real estate agent can offer guidance on this topic. Get the guidance you need.

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Make Your House Stand Out Among Competition

It’s time to sell your home and others in your neighborhood have decided to do the same. Now, you are competing against all of them. There, quite possibly, will be numerous other houses offering similar features. How will you make your house stand out?

Step Up Your Curb Appeal: There are just a few seconds to make an impression on a buyer, so when the buyer pulls up it has to be great. Take a good look around at the exterior, landscaping, driveway, and any other component that contributes to your home’s overall curb appeal. Your well-maintained and landscaped front yard, clean exterior walls and windows, and welcoming front entrance will be sure to get prospective buyers to come inside.

It is said that people develop an emotional attachment to a home within the first few minutes and the curb appeal is the first thing they notice when they get to your home. Other homes on the market will have their homes in tip-top shape on the exterior, so you have got to match, even exceed their efforts.

Depersonalize the Inside and Hire a Stager: Vacant homes that are staged typically show much better than occupied homes because it enables buyers to easily see themselves moving into them. However, not everyone can simply move out of their home when they put it on the market. The next step would be to completely depersonalize each room and make it look as if it’s a model home.

Take down your family photos and political or religious accessories, and replace them with more neutral pieces. Pack up any collections or pieces that would only be meaningful to you and not necessarily to the average buyer.  By creating this depersonalized, neutral space you will help buyers visualize themselves as owners of the home, which is exactly what will entice them to put in an offer. 

Hire a professional stager who will take emotion out and remove items and reshuffle furniture. Staging your home for sale can feel like a luxury. But when you’re competing with your neighbors for buyers’ attention, staging your home can help sell your home faster.

Repair, Replace, and Dust: Go through each room with a fine tooth comb and search and fix any scuff marks on the walls or chips in the tiles. It can be too easy to overlook these minor items, but fixing them can go a long way in improving the overall look and feel of your home. Replace any loose hardware on cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms as well as make sure there are not any loose doorknobs. Be certain of working lights and lamps and have them on if a room needs to be brighter. Open the curtains and raise the shades! If you have hardwood floors are they in need of refinishing, staining, or shining?

Dust your ceiling fan blades, the corners of each room, the light fixtures, and behind doors. Most of us forget about the cobwebs and dust bunnies that collect.

Provide Printed Additional Information: Have notes detailing what the home comes with – appliances, chandeliers, drapes, play structures outside, and anything else that will keep your home as the front runner. Are there any historical details? Did you just replace the roof, if not how old is it? Is the water pressure, air conditioning, heat, and even fireplace worth showcasing? How long is the commute to downtown? Any good local information? Try to tap into anything that would make your home better than the neighbor’s home for sale.

The Bottom Line: Choose a real estate agent you are comfortable with and rely on their knowledge to help you sell your home fast. Your realtor should be experienced enough to price your home right and be realistic about its value. These are just a few tricks to help your home stand out.

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Hire a Realtor or Sell Your Home Yourself?

Selling a house can be a stressful event in your life. Are you really ready to do it? Of course, you want to make as much money as you can from the sale and you might be thinking your best plan to accomplish that is selling your home yourself – FSBO –  to avoid paying a real estate agent, which is understandable. But, it’s quite a big undertaking. Here are a few reasons why hiring an experienced Realtor is a better idea.

Pricing: You may think it’s as simple as pricing your home by the size and the location of it and what your neighbors are selling, or have recently sold theirs for. Add in a few amenities and boom! You have your price! No. Realtors list homes every day and watch the housing market conditions. They will be able to get all the comps for your neighborhood and find a fair market value for yours.

Marketing a home is not easy:  Listing your home online doesn’t take much effort. Anyone can do that, which is why you must make yourself stand out and be noticed. A Realtor will create an entire marketing plan for your home and will figure out just the audience you need to have, then use many different avenues to get the word out. The Realtor’s own website, Facebook & Instagram accounts will attract prospects that you simply won’t have access to.

Qualifying a buyer is not easy:  There is a big difference between being pre-approved for a mortgage and being pre-qualified. A skilled Realtor will be able to find out whether the person that wants to see your house is qualified or just curious. Having to prepare your home to show takes a lot of work and you surely don’t want to put your life on hold while you ready your house for show – just for a curious neighbor. Realtors are trained to ask qualifying questions to determine the seriousness, qualification, and motivation of a person calling to see your home.

Staying unemotional about your home is not easy:  Selling your home and preparing to move is never easy and is always an emotional process. A good Realtor will be there to buffer any situations that might occur because you might be letting your emotions take over. Most buyers know that an FSBO home has been priced by the seller and is quite often overpriced because they can’t detach themselves emotionally from their home. Savvy shoppers realize that after a while, sellers who can’t sell their home will finally hire a Realtor and the home will be on the market at the right price.  If they have the time to wait? They do. If not? They move on to another home.

Being home during the showing is not easy: Or smart. Nothing makes the buyers more uncomfortable than having the seller present when looking at a home. With FSBO you will have to be there touring your home with the potential buyer. More times than not, the showing will be rushed and some of your best-selling points will be overlooked.

Negotiating is not easy: Especially if it’s your own home that you love and have emotional ties to. Negotiating is a complex matter and all transactions are unique.   Skilled Realtors know the laws, the contracts, the comparable sales, the closed sales that the banks usually look at when they decide to lend the money for the purchase, and the appraisal. There are plenty of points to negotiate on before the actual sale takes place. Repairs to the house, lawn upkeep, and even additions can be negotiated in the contract that may ultimately affect the price but can be negotiated almost entirely outside of the price discussion.  For every negotiating point, there’s a tactic to handle it best.

The bottom line:  Working without an agent requires a huge investment of time, knowledge, and effort. Besides separating your emotions from the home you love and possibly raised your family in, you should know how to stage it to sell, market it, negotiate, and be able to accept a negative response from potential buyers. You can try to do it alone to save money, but hiring an agent has many advantages.  Interview and find the best Realtor in the area. Expect that they will be able to get the most exposure for your home, help you negotiate a better deal, and dedicate more time to your sale.  The right Realtor will bring expertise to the transaction, financially and legally.

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Negotiating Ideas

Everyone wants to buy their next home at the most reasonable price. Negotiating can be done by yourself, but it’s wisest to work with the best real estate agent in the market. Find a realtor with invaluable experience that will work hard to get you the best deal possible.

Your realtor should have done research on homes recently sold or pending that are comparable to the property you want to buy in the market (comps) – look through them. Notice their size, condition, and amenities. Information gathered might look like a perfect match online but the reality is there could be some key differences that impact their value. A good realtor will have any additional details not obvious in a search. For example, there could be a beautiful, unobstructed view of mountains, a beach, or simply a line of trees that will make the home seem more private. No home will be an exact match to the property you want but you will now have the ability to see the range of the pricing.

The home inspection is crucial in negotiations. It’s imperative that you have a reputable and professional inspector that will look over the home with a fine-tooth comb. The condition of the major systems, like plumbing, electrical, and HVAC as well as the state that the roof, windows, foundation, and more are in. If any problems or flaws are found that are concerning, they can be brought up in the negotiations. Depending on the issue, the seller may be willing to pay for the repairs. Use the inspection report to your advantage.

Get an appraisal that will give you an estimate of what the home is actually worth. If it appraises lower than the price the seller is asking it can work to your advantage. After you and your realtor have explored all the possible reasons the home was appraised low, negotiations begin. An experienced realtor will have insights and ideas for the possibility of concessions.

There are other ways to negotiate in the purchase of a home from getting your closing costs paid by the seller to credits for repairs and renovations. If you are going to have to pay a lot of money to make repairs, negotiate. Sellers are often open to fixing a problem in exchange for an offer.

Keep your emotions out of the entire negotiation process. A rational head makes the best decisions. Don’t show any excitement over the home, act as if you have plenty of other options. Remember the important things that you don’t want to live without in a home and be willing to let go of the less important things. This will help you avoid getting carried away by your emotions. It’s too easy to become frustrated and angry which leads to clouding your best judgment that will affect any of your decisions.

The Bottom Line: It’s not worth overpaying for a home. You might end up in a dangerous situation financially down the road. Your biggest bargaining chip in negotiation is to always be willing to walk away – you, as the buyer, are in a position of power. There will always be more homes.

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Title Fraud & Wire Fraud in Real Estate

The rapid growth of technology in the real estate industry has brought opportunity as well as a whole new set of challenges. Potential home buyers have the ability to search for homes from their fingertips while home-related fraud has become more prevalent. It’s important to protect yourself against fraud by becoming educated on the most common types of threats.

Title Fraud

What is It:
Any forgery or fraud act that involves the home title. There are many types of title fraud, including, but not limited to, forgery committed by the seller or someone who steals the identity of the current homeowner.

Preventative Steps:
One of the easiest ways to prevent title fraud is to purchase title insurance. This type of insurance eliminates the risk of being held accountable for any type of fraud that happened before you owned the property. Additionally, title insurance protects against other potential issues such as clerical errors or incorrect information. Any errors or misinformation on the property title will be handled by the title company where the insurance was purchased.

Wire Fraud

What is It:
Wire fraud is any scheme utilizing false pretenses to obtain money or property via wire transfer or communication. This type of fraud is particularly harmful in the real estate industry because property is such a large investment. The most common type of wire fraud in the home-buying process is a fraudulent request for a deposit on the home.

Preventative Steps:
Once you’re nearing the end of the home-buying process, there are many legal documents and steps involving your personal identity. It’s critical that you protect any personal and financial information while finishing the closing process. Your information is particularly vulnerable through email or other forms of electronic communication.

Here are a few helpful steps to prevent wire fraud:

  • Never send out any personal financial information via email.
  • Do not click on any links or attachments in unfamiliar email addresses or emails that are unexpected.
  • Clean out your email regularly so that hackers cannot detect any patterns.
  • Change your usernames and passwords on a regular basis.
  • Install and update antivirus and firewall programs on your computer.
  • Report any fraudulent activity to the FBI.
  • Ask your title representative, mortgage lender, and real estate broker for their typical means of communication. If you receive anything from an unusual method of communication, confirm that it was sent from your real estate professional.
  • Don’t share detailed information about your home purchase on social media.

The Bottom Line:
No matter where you are buying a home, be sure to do plenty of research on the home-buying process so that you are able to spot suspicious activity. If you ever notice any potential threats, speak directly to your real estate professionals to confirm the security of your transaction. The best way to protect yourself against fraudulent real estate activity is to remain cautious and informed.

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