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Homeownership

Closing in on nasty foreclosure scams

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) The FBI is cracking down on foreclosure scams that are potentially happening in your backyard.

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foreclosure scams

FBI is cracking down on foreclosure scams

It’s no secret that the housing market has been riddled with foreclosures. It’s also no secret that where there are vulnerable people, there are unconscionable, scheming individuals ready and willing to exploit the situation. However, for some, the promise of a “rescue” was a last effort to attempt to hold on to their home.

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Unfortunately, for many of these individuals it wound up costing more than they thought it would. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently posted another con-artist would be facing federal time for running illegal “mortgage foreclosure rescue” services.

The latest con artist crackdown

Karl Robinson, a church pastor, offered mortgage rescue services under his name, as well as, through several other companies such as Stay in Your Home Today, 21st Century Development, and Genesis Ventures Corporation. Robinson’s services were aimed at worried, anxious, distressed homeowners who were facing foreclosure or eviction. These services promised to delay these events and would keep them in their homes for an affordable rate.

Instead, many people lost more than just their homes, they lost their savings.

The old adage is certainly true: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In all fairness, Robinson and his crew were preying on individuals who were vulnerable and desperate after enduring the Great Recession in 2008. Robinson promised affordable refinancing, lower monthly payments, low-interest deals, and delinquent mortgage pay-offs which all sound like salvation when you are faced with losing your home.

What’s the FBI’s take on this?

FBI Special Agent, Kevin Danford, stated, “Robinson joined a growing number of con artists surfacing throughout the country during the subprime mortgage crisis, focused on lining their own pockets instead of actually helping clients.”

Basically, Robinson was engaging in a partial-interest bankruptcy scam.

Another side of Robinson’s scam, dealt with evictions. According to the FBI, “[Robinson delayed evictions for Robinson’s clients] whose homes had been sold in foreclosure proceedings. Robinson falsely claimed in state court eviction actions that his clients still had tenants in those homes. Robinson would then file bankruptcies for the fictional tenants, postponing the evictions.”

Robinson’s sentence

For nearly six years, Robinson ran his scam until the FBI started investigating in 2013. This investigation revealed an external hard drive containing fake driver’s licenses, identities, and incomplete bankruptcy petition drafts (which led the FBI to uncover the steps he used to carry out the fraud scheme).

Following his arrest, Robinson confessed to knowingly defrauding his clients, the state of California, and federal courts.Click To Tweet Robinson pleaded guilty in August 2016 to the role he played in running the multi-year foreclosure rescue scheme (aka nasty foreclosure scams). He is currently serving four years in federal prison.

Let this be a warning to all other foreclosure rescue scammers: preying on the vulnerable can land you in federal jail. Also, let this be a warning to those seeking to refinance: please, seek out a reputable representative (read: bank, credit union, mortgage company.

#ForeclosureScams

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Homeownership

Hilarious things that are left behind when people move out of their house

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) People often forget what changes and additions they’ve made to a house until it is too late. This Twitter thread is a hilarious reminder to take everything with you when you leave.

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There are moments when social media brings people together and gives us comedy gold. Have you ever left something behind when you moved, something that while maybe not so crucially important to you, will definitely offer an interesting insight into your life? Such as a message written behind a wall, or a note hidden in an air duct? Well a twitter thread posted earlier this week opened up Pandora’s box for amusements on this topic and some of these are just getting stranger and stranger.

The original poster, @KaylaKumari, brought it up originally when she asked her mother, who had just recently moved out of her last home, if she’d uninstalled the special fire alarms that she recorded in her voice yelling, “GET OUT OF THE HOUSE BECAUSE MOM’S CANDLES CAUGHT THE HOUSE ON FIRE”. A perfect line, short and succinct. Now some poor family is going to have a fire and some woman’s voice will be ushering them out instead of an alarm. Hopefully there won’t be too much confusion there.

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My parents sold their house like a month ago but my mother JUST realized she did not uninstall the special fire alarms she had put in that are a recording of her own voice screaming at me and my sister to “GET OUT OF THE HOUSE BECAUSE MOM’S CANDLES CAUGHT THE HOUSE ON FIRE”

After that, the tweets and retweets just kept coming. Some of them mostly relating to habits or forgotten moments. In four days, the post has gotten over 17K retweets and/or comments and some of these are gems.

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A lot of people seem to enjoy feeding wildlife as well. Lots of fun shocks to go around. I would recommend however, to disclose that upon sale of the house so you don’t get sued. But this just goes to show that social media can be nice sometimes. A nice uplifting moment in our days.

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Homeownership

Start up creates online platform to make building homes easier

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Atmos wants to help simplify the dream home building process by moving it online. Their platform will help you find builders, designers, and financing options.

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Atmos homes

A start-up plans to bring together people, processes, and tools into one digital place for buyers to design and build their homes from start to finish. Co-founder and CEO of Atmos, Nicholas Donahue, grew up in a homebuilding family and always wondered what it would look like to use technology to rebuild the industry.

“Nearly everyone used to want to build a home; it was the American dream, but most people choose not to do it because of the complexity,” Donahue said, “While everything else has moved fully online, homebuilding is still the same in-person process. We are making the process simple enough that anyone can build the home of their dreams, modernizing and revitalizing the American dream.”

The way Atmos works is that they partner with local home builders that they claim to vet based on accreditation, reputation, proof (insurance + funds for construction loans), and pricing. Customers input their desired location and floor plan for the site on the platform. Atmos finds builders that best match the plan and coordinate the rest of the tasks to get the home built, including design, fixture packages, and financing. The company partners with local real estate agents to help sell a client’s existing home, or allows customers to use their own real estate agents if they prefer.

Atmos is participating in the California-based Y-Combinator accelerator, most known for launching companies like Airbnb, DoorDash and Instacart. The company has raised more than $2 million in VC seed round funding from Sam Altman of YC/ OpenAI, Adam Nash of Wealthfront, JLL Spark, and others.

According to Donahue, the rise in demand for housing in emerging cities coupled with low inventory makes building a more attractive option for buyers. He said “homeowners are converting from buying to building and when doing so are being forced to go online because of in-person restrictions. This has provided a huge opportunity for an online alternative to come into the space.”

Additionally, an increasing number of remote workers have come to envision their homes as combined office, schooling, and family spaces. In response, real estate agents report more requests for larger homes with outdoor space and dedicated offices, particularly for homes in the under $400k price range.

Atmos is currently focusing on Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte markets as they continue to refine their business model. Long-term, Donahue says the goal is to “redefine the way people live by enabling the next generation of homes and neighborhoods to exist.”

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Homeownership

FHFA extends rent moratoriums through August

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Don’t freak out about the FHFA extending the moratorium, while many in the pay chain are affected, here’s what it means for Real Estate.

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FHFA moratorium

As millions of Americans lost their jobs at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, the FHFA announced a temporary prohibition of evictions and foreclosures that was set to expire on June 30. After reevaluating the job market and the record low unemployment rate, the FHFA extended this moratorium through August 30.

However, never did the FHFA nor the federal government put a hold on the rent, utility bills, or car insurance. Instead, most peoples’ bills have become endless. It’s a full circle here, those who can’t pay their rent impact their landlords ability to pay rent, so on and so forth.

The FHFA moratorium extension allows Americans to attempt to catch up on their bills as their jobs open back up. That said, there will be a glut of rental inventory as thousands of residents have been laid off or furloughed and can’t possibly come up with several months’ worth of rent. The long term effects will ripple through the sector, from rent decreases in some areas, to vacancy levels plummeting in others.

That said, industry experts maintain that while the industry will slow due to the global pandemic, the housing sector will be revived toward the second half of the year. It is not expected to be at full steam within this calendar year, however.

NAR President Vince Malta recently commented on existing home sales, “Although the real estate industry faced some very challenging circumstances over the last several months, we’re seeing signs of improvement and growth, and I’m hopeful the worst is behind us.”

But landlords are in a different boat than the rest of the sector, and have a certain struggle ahead. Some refused to be flexible with renters, while others have sought ways to retain residents without having vacancies or having to invest in turning a unit. This moratorium helps many renters, but landlords, particularly private landlords (not multifamily) will be hard hit.

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