Bogus property sellers on the prowl

Housing shortages have left desperate home-seekers vulnerable to bogus estate agents
Housing shortages have left desperate home-seekers vulnerable to bogus estate agents

Detective Assistant Inspector Tom Muleya
Investing in housing properties is increasingly becoming a scary endeavour as many innocent people continue to be duped.
Considering that accommodation continues to be scarce and rentals are unbearably high, the number of home seekers is increasing.

Shelter is a basic need. It is also a lifetime investment.
It is sad that these innocent home seekers are falling prey to the property fraudsters. The chief culprits in the fraudulent sale of properties are bogus land developers, bogus housing trusts, bogus estate agents, bogus co-operatives and individual fraudsters.

However, of late, bogus estate agents have been on the prowl.
These bogus estate agents would either have been de-registered by the Estate Council for criminal activities or they would never have been registered in terms of the law.

Bogus estate agents are going around identifying properties whose registered owners are either in the rural areas or in the Diaspora.

After identifying targeted properties, they take photographs and videos and then make adverts either in the local newspapers or Internet to fleece unsuspecting victims.

They further craft fake title deeds and fraudulent Power of Attorney to enable sale of the property.

In order to avoid falling prey to fraudulent property sellers, consider the following tips when buying a house:

Verify legitimacy of the company through the Registrar of Companies.
Conduct a Deed Search to verify the authenticity of the Deed.

Enlist the services of a professionally registered estate agent that is registered with Estate Agents Council of Zimbabwe.

Check if agent has a valid compensation certificate for that particular year.
Never check details in the flash of a second. Take your time and be satisfied with the true identity of the owner of the property.

Ask to meet the owner of the property if the agent is selling on behalf of someone. In many instances, this will make them feel uncomfortable; take that as a hint that they might be trying to steal from you.

Be wary of purchasing property which is far below market value. Undervalue is a red flag of fraud or a clear indication that the seller intends to quickly dispose of the property while the victim feels that he or she has been lucky.

Be wary of small adverts in the classifieds with low-priced property coupled with the absence of landlines.

Check for a track record of the real estate agent. If the company is marred with previous reports of criminal activities and malpractices, move away.

Keep reading, for more information.  Remember, you should not be a fraud victim.
This article in published in line with the ZRP Theme 2014: “ZRP for a Safe and Transforming Nation”.

Detective Assistant Inspector Tom Muleya is with the Public Relations Office in the CID Serious Fraud Squad, Harare. For comments and views contact: 04-753543

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