Short Sales leave margin for Fraud in Florida

No kidding? Is there ANY type of fraud that does not occur in here? Here is another good article published in The Miami Herald about fraud in the short sale process.

A recent report shows a new kind of mortgage fraud will likely grow as short sales become a part of the Florida real estate landscape.

BY KIMBERLY MILLER

PALM BEACH POST

A national financial consulting firm has warned that the real estate market is increasingly vulnerable to a new kind of mortgage fraud based on manipulating short sales.

According to a study released by the Santa Ana, Calif.-based company CoreLogic, short sale scams are likely to increase nationally as a new federal foreclosure prevention program to speed such transactions gathers steam and home values remain low.

The report, released last month, estimates fraud already occurs on 2 percent of all short sales nationally, costing banks as much as $310 million annually.

A short sale is when a bank agrees to accept a sales price on a home lower than what the owner owes on the loan, usually because the borrower cannot afford the payment and is headed for foreclosure.

RIPE FOR FRAUD While the types of short sale fraud outlined in the report vary, they generally depend on an agent submitting an artificially low bid from an investor to the bank. The bank unwittingly accepts the price, then the investor flips the property — sometimes the same day — selling it for the higher true resale value.

Florida is second only to California in the number of short sales nationally. In 2009, CoreLogic recorded 27,907 short sales in Florida, more than double the number in 2008.

And with 44 percent of South Florida single-family homes with mortgages underwater — slang for owing more on a loan than the home is worth — it’s likely short sales will be a big part of the local real estate landscape for some time to come.

“There are so many properties, the banks don’t know what they are really worth,” said Jupiter-area Realtor and short sale specialist Skip Yachanin, who is with Keller Williams Realty.

Yachanin said he hasn’t witnessed short sale fraud, but doesn’t doubt it’s happening.

“The Realtor gets a commission and doesn’t feel like they have a duty to the bank to get it the best price,” Yachanin said. “There is a lot of room for fraud.”

In April, the federal government’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative program went into affect, offering monetary incentives to lenders and home owners to complete a short sale. Under the voluntary program, a successful short sale can net the borrower $3,000 for relocation expenses, while a servicer can get up to $1,500. A lender is eligible for up to $2,000.

The plan also requires the bank to agree on a set price for the short sale on the front end, and then respond to any offer within 10 days.

“As the government has pressured us to do short sales faster, we don’t have time to check them out,” said Anthony DiMarco, executive vice president for government affairs for the Florida Bankers Association. “The bad guys know how to defraud the system and will rush in to do it.”

BAD APPLES

Jared Dalto, a Realtor with Palm Beach Gardens-based Seawinds Realty, said he’s seen prices on short sales that were notably lower than those on neighboring properties, an indication that an artificially low bid was accepted. While the homes may have had damage that would justify a lower price, he said there is “shadiness out there.”

Dalto, who specializes in short sales, said one way to avoid fraud is for the bank to get a traditional appraisal instead of relying on a Broker Price Opinion, or BPO.

A BPO is conducted by a Realtor and typically costs hundreds of dollars less than an appraisal. The risk of a BPO exists if the Realtor purposefully undervalues the property so that someone can purchase it at the lower price and then flip it. “There are agents and brokers out there who do things the right way, and then, just like any profession, there are bad apples,” Dalto said.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/09/17/1828717/short-sales-leave-margin-for-fraud.html#ixzz0zlJKy4F3

Nearly 25% of all Foreign Buyers choose Florida

I knew it…Here is more proof. Florida remains the dream place for many foreigners, and not only Latin Americans….

BY KIMBERLY MILLER

PALM BEACH POST

International buyers have helped buttress Florida’s real estate market with 22 percent of all foreign clients nationally choosing property in the Sunshine State.

That makes Florida tops for attracting foreign interest, according to a summer report by the National Association of Realtors. California came in a far second with 12 percent of the international market.

While Florida’s share of foreign clients has slipped from a recent high of more than 26 percent in 2008, bargain basement prices and a weakened dollar have continued to lure Canadian and overseas buyers.

The study, which looked at sales between March 2009 and March 2010, found that buyers with permanent residences outside the United States spent an estimated $41 billion on residential property nationally during the period of the study — that’s 4 percent of the total residential market during the same time.

“I had an open house in the mid-$500,000s and a man from Canada came and bought it the same day,” said Palm Beach Gardens Realtor Jeff Lichtenstein, who has a page on his website dedicated to foreign buyers. “Once they’re here, they tend to bring friends.”

And family.

Amsterdam native Annette Aalberts bought two Jupiter homes for herself and her daughter over the past few years. Combined, the homes are worth about $4.5 million.

But most international buyers don’t aim that high. According to the study, the median price paid by foreign buyers nationally is $219,400.

Statewide statistics gathered by the national association showed 31 percent of Florida’s international buyers are Canadian, compared to 24 percent nationally.

Nationally, about 55 percent of foreign buyers pay with cash, possibly because it can be harder for international clients to get financing here. In Florida, about 82 percent of international buyers paid in cash.

Ignacio Recondo, a realty associate with Fortune International and a native of Argentina, has sold a handful of condos recently to international buyers, many of them from Argentina.

“A lot of the Europeans from Italy, Spain — they like Miami,” he said. “They want to have a piece of it.”

Recondo recently sold a 1-bedroom condo at the ICON Brickell to a buyer for Argentina for $303,000. The buyer plans to rent out the unit in order to generate income, Recondo said, highlighting the sale as an example of an international buyer being drawn to the relative stability of the U.S. economy, and the potential for strong returns available in South Florida.

“International buyers are hugely important in absorbing inventory,” said Jenny Huertas, international sales director for the Miami-based consultant firm Condo Vultures.

Huertas estimates 30 percent of sales in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are to international buyers.

It’s unclear how a recent dip in the euro may temper overseas purchases. It’s now worth $1.28, compared with a high of $1.60 in 2008. That means to buy a $500,000 house, it would cost about 388,709 euros.

But the Canadian dollar, which has traditionally been weaker than U.S. currency, is now near parity at 95 cents.

Toronto resident Domenic Triumbari bought two properties in the Palm Beach Grande condominium complex in March. The suburban West Palm Beach homes sold for $164,990 and $179,990 in 2006.

Triumbari picked them up for $60,000 each, paying in cash, and without ever seeing them in person.

“I know they’re in West Palm Beach, but not exactly sure where,” said Triumbari, who is renting the homes. “The numbers make sense right now. You can make money on your investment.”

Triumbari is also searching for a South Florida home for himself. “I’ve seen a lot of the Caribbean, been all over the islands, but I like Florida,” he said. “We speak the same language, eat the same foods.”

Read more:http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/09/11/1818622/study-nearly-a-quarter-of-all.html#ixzz0zlIoKiz4

Foreign Students and Fake Schools

Here is a typical exemple of fraud occurring with some “schools”….

Aussie Air at Fort Lauderdale Executive airport didn’t have federal certification.

Adrian Garcia, a 20-year-old from Spain, knew he wanted to be a pilot by the time he turned 9. After high school, he began working at a small airport in his native country and soon was searching online for a flight school.

He picked Aussie Air, an aviation school in Fort Lauderdale, because its tuition was relatively low and it promised to get him into a pilot’s seat quickly. When the school agreed to drop the price from about $45,000 to $25,000, Garcia said he borrowed money to pay.

Eight months after he arrived in South Florida, Aussie Air closed. Garcia and 12 other foreign students, who had lived in the school’s rented building at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport while enrolled, were evicted by the landlord in March.

By that time students had learned the school’s owner had incorporated or advertised similar aviation academies under different names over the past six years in Florida. None of the schools were accredited through the Federal Aviation Administration, federal records show, although Aussie Air had filed a pre-application in 2009 stating it would seek FAA certification.

Federal regulations allow pilot schools to operate without FAA certification, but they must employ FAA-certificated instructors. Only those instructors can train foreign students; some students in Colombia and Spain said they met with Aussie Air recruiters in their home countries. It’s not known if Aussie Air’s teachers had FAA certificates.

Students said the man who told them he was the school’s owner went by several names, signing their contracts both as Luis Vargas and Luis Vargas Martinez. Students had three cell phone numbers for Martinez; all have been disconnected or are not working. No one responded to emails sent to Aussie Air.

The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, an independent organization that examines vocational and training programs nationwide, requires aviation academies that want its certificiation to have have FAA-approved curricula and instructor pilots, said commission executive director Michale McComis.

“I would advocate for students to really ask questions about appropriate certifications,” McComis said.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said foreign students make up a large portion of the flight students in Florida.

The FAA does not regulate the business side of flight schools, which means it can do nothing for students who lose tuition deposits or don’t receive what they have been promised.

County consumer affairs offices take complaints about vocational and trade training facilities, including those involving aviation. Officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties, however, said they have not received any recently regarding flight schools.

FATAL CRASH

It also can be difficult for prospective students to figure out a school’s safety track record. The National Transportation Safety Board keeps statistics on aviation accidents but does not have a separate category for flight schools. That means there is no easy way to see if a training facility has been involved in a crash.

The board has a 2006 report on a fatal accident involving a Beech BE-76 Duchess, operated by Aussie Air. According to the document, a student and a 25-year-old flight instructor were on an instrument training flight when the plane’s engines failed, and the plane plummeted to the ground, killing both instructor and student.

The report said the plane was 25 hours past due for its next 100-hour inspection.

Aussie Air Holdings started in Daytona Beach in 2004, according to state incorporation records. Two of the officers listed in company documents, filed with the state, were Luis Vargas Baquero and Luis Vargas Martinez. Over the next six years, state records show Baquero and Martinez, either together or separately, were involved in incorporating three other flight schools.

Records for two of those schools — FXE Flight Center and Fly Now Express — list the same Fort Lauderdale address as Aussie Air. Fly Now remains registered as an active corporation at 5302 NW 21st Ter., the 20,000-square-foot building where Garcia and his fellow students temporarily lived. Garcia has returned to Spain.

The flight school leased it in 2009 from Sheltair, which is suing Aussie Air and its principals. Jonathan Prosper, a Sheltair representative, said the school stopped paying rent in October and still owes $40,000 to Sheltair.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Officials with the FAA said aspiring pilots should thoroughly investigate flight academies before enrolling or paying money. If the price is considerably lower than other schools, there might be something wrong since most schools have similar prices, they said. Revise and sign contracts in person and don’t make bank deposits in advance. Making the wrong choice could mean wasting time and money.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/09/11/1818617/foreign-students-grounded-when.html#ixzz0zlIdmaKE