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Despite the housing market recovery, scammers are still attempting to defraud unsuspecting homeowners, according to the California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE)). CalBRE is asking consumers and real estate agents to be on the alert and report suspicious fraudulent activity.

CalBRE real estate commissioner Wayne Bell recently told Silicon Valley real estate professionals at a meeting of the Filipino American Real Estate Professionals Association (FAREPA) that the bureau is reaching out to the public and real estate organizations and seeking their help in catching criminals that continue to prey on unsuspecting and financially distressed homeowners. Bell said real estate agents are themselves targets of fraud, along with consumers, especially the elderly. He is asking anyone suspecting scams involving real estate to report their suspicions to the bureau, or visit its website at www.dre.ca.gov and file a complaint.

“We would like to see a culture of compliance with our laws,” said Bell. “We want to educate real estate professionals who want to aspire for professionalism and segregate them from the crooks that don’t.”

Bell said the bureau is seeing a rise in cases of affinity fraud, where criminals prey upon members of ethnic communities. These scams often go unreported because many in these groups are afraid to contact government authorities.

Foreclosure rescue scams and pitching of forensic loan audits are still prevalent. These scams involve fraudulent foreclosure “rescue” professionals who sell services that promise relief to financially strapped homeowners in exchange for an advanced fee.

Unlicensed property management companies are targeting agents, selling them worthless lists of rentals. Then there’s online rental fraud, where scammers hijack a listing and put it up on Craigslist and other websites. These scammers are difficult to catch, said Bell, because they move from one place to another.

Bell said homeowners need to beware of property record fraud, a scam that can be simply done by someone recording a false document in the county recorder’s office. The document makes it appear as if they own someone else’s property. Seniors are often the target of this type of crime and reverse mortgage scams.

Bell advises consumers and agents to make sure a person’s license is legitimate by checking the CalBRE website, which shows license status in real time and disciplinary actions taken against a licensee; be vigilant; be skeptical; don’t send money over the Internet; see the rental property first, or contact a legitimate agent to help you. He also advises homeowners to check the title to their property and make sure there are no liens imposed on the property.

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The Los Gatos/Saratoga and Los Altos/Mountain View districts’ pumpkin auctions held last month raised a combined total of $8,925 for charity. Both events drew active and generous participation from members and their companies, who donated an array of beautiful pumpkin displays and fall arrangements, accompanied by big prizes for the winning bidders. Money raised from the Los Gatos/Saratoga District’s pumpkin auction, a total of $4,275, will go to Operation Reindeer, a program REALTORS® and affiliates of the district have supported for more than 20 years. The program distributes gifts, including clothing essentials and food certificates to needy families and seniors in the community during the holiday season.

Members from Los Altos and Mountain View cheered when they raised $4,650 for the Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation at their second annual pumpkin auction. Money raised by the district topped last year’s earnings of $3,525, thanks to the generous participation of members and brokers from both communities. The Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation gives grants to non-profit organizations for needy families, and scholarships to graduating high school seniors in Silicon Valley. The grants and scholarships are made possible through donations from SILVAR members.

SEE PHOTOS AND READ MORE ABOUT THE LOS ALTOS/MOUNTAIN VIEW DISTRICT PUMPKIN AUCTION

SEE PHOTOS AND READ MORE ABOUT THE LOS GATOS/SARATOGA DISTRICT PUMPKIN AUCTION

Left to right are moderator Davena Gentry, SILVAR Global Business Council chair, and panelists Amy Sung, Mark Wong, Kenneth Chan and Jessie Wu.

Left to right are moderator Davena Gentry, SILVAR Global Business Council chair, and panelists Amy Sung, Mark Wong, Kenneth Chan and Jessie Wu.

“Doing Business with China,” the first of a quarterly series of programs exploring different aspects of doing business with clients from other countries, was a sell-out. Hosted by the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) Global Business Council at SILVAR yesterday, the program gave members the opportunity to learn the “nuts and bolts” from real estate professionals that have worked with Chinese clients and are familiar with the real estate rules and regulations of that country. They shared their experiences, including challenges they have encountered when closing a deal.

SILVAR Global Business Council Chair Davena Gentry served as moderator. Panelists Amy Sung, a REALTOR® with Pacific Union International Real Estate – Menlo Park, and Mark Wong, a REALTOR® with Alain Pinel REALTORS® – Saratoga, presented the REALTOR® perspective; Kenneth Chan, premier mortgage consultant with HSBC – Palo Alto, presented the lender perspective; and Jessie Wu, escrow officer with First American Title Company – Cupertino, presented the escrow perspective.

The REALTORS® discounted the myth that Chinese buyers prefer Chinese or Chinese-speaking agents. What’s important is to show respect for Chinese buyers who are not well-versed in English. Sung pointed out that just because they don’t speak English well does not mean the Chinese buyer is not educated. Wong said more important than knowing the language is to learn and respect their culture, the principles of Feng Shui, what numbers and colors mean to the Chinese.

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October 2014
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