New Predatory Scam: Mortgage Litigation Services

The subprime lending industry barfed out hundreds if not thousands of loan originators in 2008 who had a taste of the six figure lifestyle and didn’t want it to end. The predators quickly swarmed into the loan modification industry and when state regulators started clamping down, they morphed into predatory short sale negotiators like parasites steadily evolving to bypass an organism’s defenses.

halo 3 plasma pistolSo where might they go now that the Federal Trade Commission is using the Halo plasma pistol on upfront fees Jan 31, 2011? Do you think they might crawl under a rock and die? Of course not.  The newest scam is called “mortgage litigation services” and the scammers are already swarming my inbox with email spam telling me that I can make six figures a year with no experience. All I have to do is refer people to their company. So what is the new scam?  From their email marketing:

“This is not a loan modification. Mortgages can become free and clear! XYZ Legal Services has put together a turnkey system that allows you to start offering mortgage litigation to your clients in days. This turnkey system is designed to run side-by-side with your existing company. XYZ provides all the required backend services to support your sales operation and business objectives. Our focus is on providing the very best customer service and attorney services for your customers. I am very confident that we will be able to help you and I think you will quickly see why our customers find our attorneys to be the experts when it comes to helping them get their financial issues resolved. Here are just a few key components that separate XYZ from the competition:·
Provide a REAL service to homeowners
You collect NO paperwork
All you do is fill out a one-page form online
Highest Marketing Fees to Affiliates
Make a Huge Income by Helping Others

Someone with a law license please explain to raincityguide readers how this could be legal.  It looks like they want people to sign up to become an affiliate and send referrals to their company, and for that the company is going to send out a referral fee. Predators love scams where they do no work and collect a fee.  So if these ads are targeting loan originators and other people in the real estate and mortgage lending industry, it looks like the company wants referrals of consumers who are in a position to challenge their lender.

We already have a 2009 law in Washington State where the lender is required to prove they hold the note before foreclosing. I don’t see how this service can help struggling homeowners. I do see how people who will believe anything will once again be scammed out of an upfront fee before any work is performed.

Owning the Malibu Community

About a month ago, I got a call from a friend who highly recommended that I give a chance to a real estate agent who is working very hard to break into the Malibu market. The idea of “owning” a piece of Malibu is somewhat irresistible to me (even if it is only the digital dirt!), so I couldn’t refuse, despite the many wonderful options (or maybe because I had too many wonderful options!)

[photopress:madison.jpg,full,alignright]Anyway, to make a long story short, I met up with the agent for breakfast, had a wonderful conversation and decided to coach him as part of Project Blogger. So, without further ado, I’m happy to introduce Madison Hildebrand and his most wonderful blog,

Probably one of the most appealing aspects to working with Madison is that he already understand how to use self-promotion in the real estate context (he could teach me a thing or two!), so our conversations really get to focus on the ways in which he can use the technologies behind online social networks (we’ve got ideas for Flickr, YouTube, ActiveRain, the Move Blogs, etc. in addition to consistent and inspired blogging!) to build up a healthy online community around a local real estate market. Malibu is an incredibly challenging market where a few big names dominate the local scene. I am thrilled to have this chance to work with Madison to bring this unique market into the digital age! 🙂

Should You Pay More For THIS House?

[photopress:polly.jpg,thumb,alignright]When determining how to structure an offer on a property, one of the key considerations is, “How scarce a commodity is this home?” How scarce it is to you, depends on the parameters you have set, and why you like this particular home, which varies from person to person.

If the property is unique because it has the largest lot in the area, then the seller is correct in putting a premium on this feature of the home. But, if why you are buying it is NOT because it has a large lot, then maybe you should not be the one to pay the “justifiable premium”. A justifiable premium for the seller, is not necessarily a justifiable premium for the buyer.

Often the seller will dramatically highlight their “premium” feature, such as a large lot, when they should not. I remember showing a home, with the owner in the home, and they kept raving about how huge their lot was. I could tell that the buyer had totally tuned out and had no interest in the property, but we couldn’t leave because the owner was going on and on about the size of the lot. When we got outside the buyer said, “Not me! I’m not spending my life maintaining the biggest lot in town!” I asked if he would have been worried about that just by viewing the property, without the seller’s influence. He said no, but now that I have this picture in my head of spending all of my weekends mowing the grass and maintaining the landscaping, AND paying MORE for the house for the “privelege” of it sucking up all of my free time, I just can’t see myself in that home. Otherwise, I may have bought it, but let’s just get out of here.

So the seller may indeed “deserve” more money for his house than anyone else in town, because he has the largest lot. But that does not mean that every buyer should offer that premium, in fact some will discount it, for the very reason the seller is raising the price. The buyer may deduct for the extra maintenance of the larger lot, while at the same time the seller is adding a premium for the extra land.

The photo above is in reference to “our Polly” who had the best question in the month of August. Before responding to a counter offer from the seller she asked, “What is the likelihood that you could find us a similar home within the next 60 days?” I was knocked out by this fabulous question! If only two of those have sold in the last year, then the liklihood is slim to none. If 40 of them have sold in the last six months, then you can play hardball with the seller. Excellent question to ask while in the middle of negotiations.

Title Insurance: Kickbacks, Competition & Pricing

Editor’s Note: Tim Kane owns and manages (with his wife Lynlee) Legacy Escrow, a local escrow company and has been a regular fixture of the Seattle blogosphere for the past year or so… Not only does he run his own blog, the closing table, but he has contributed to numerous threads on RCG under the names of Chief Errand Boy, S-Crow, and Tim. I’m definitely excited to bring him on as a regular contributor!

“I have a special interest in Ethics in Business, particularly in the industry of real estate. A good many of future posts and comments will address ethics, much of which is drawn upon the experiences our small escrow office encounters in working with our clients, loan officers, title insurance companies, and Realtors every day.

Day Two – Realtor Mid-Year

Yes, I am tardy with my report for Day 2. There was not much going on from an interesting meeting standpoint so I visited the tradeshow floor. For anyone that has not been to a Realtor tradeshow, it is certainly an experience. Flashing buttons, contests, people throwing free things at you. Having been to many of these, it always amazes me the types of companies that have booths. For example, there were several jewelry and makeup booths. While I am not a woman, it seems odd that they would come to a real estate tradeshow. It would be like having Titleist as a vendor. Lots of real estate guys like to play golf but they don’t really fit at a Realtor tradeshow. Then again, I am pretty dense about this stuff and they seemed to have a bunch of women buying stuff so I guess they are the smart ones.

I visited a bunch of booths but a couple stood out for different reasons: – They intro’d a Zillow/HouseValues-like feature on their home page called “What’s Your Home Worth.” It is a lead generation system for agents that provides basic home value data and then let’s the consumer elect to get more refined info if they want from a “featured” agent. Agents can buy territories and they apparently will rotate as consumers access the feature. Once a consumer asks for more info, the “featured” agent will get an email and that consumer will see the particular “featured” agent for a period of time each time they return. With the large amount of traffic that gets, it will be interesting to see how well the lead gen system works. I tried my zip code and there was already an agent signed up! I think this will be a winner for and the agents that jump on it but I also think that agents will squak when their choice area is sold out.

HomePoint – This is a Trulia-like company (although the get data via the MLS directly) that is trying to become a portal of sorts. Agents sign up for territories and get “featured” when a consumer clicks on a listing. Again, this is a lead-gen system for agents that even extends to listing agents and FSBOs. The thing that I did not get was how they were going to generate traffic. No eyeballs, no leads.

More later….


Day One – Realtor Mid-Year

I just attended my first meeting at the NAR Mid-Year. It was the MLS Association Executives Committee Meeting. There were three presenters to the group and I will provide some highlights of their presentations.

Laurie Janik, NAR General Counsel

Laurie indicated that claims against MLS under the NAR EO Insurance Policy have for the first time surpassed the number of general association claims. Out of 32 claims made this year, 18 involve MLS issues. Of the 18, 8 involve the FTC, 7 the DOJ and one involves a state attorney general. Most of the claims revolve around whether an MLS can exclude Exclusive Agency listings from data feeds to third party websites (e.g. Since Exclusive Agency listing allow the seller to sell the house themselves, MLSs argue that allowing these listings to be displayed on the Internet basically enables the seller to have free advertising to attract a buyer without paying the listing side of the commission.

Laurie also discussed the DOJ lawsuit. NAR filed a motion to dismiss which raised three arguments:

First, that the DOJ is seeking injunctive relief for the VOW policy that has been rescinded and never implemented and as a result, there is no relief that can be granted under this claim.

Second, that the VOW Opt Out provision is neutral on its face, there is a presumption of cooperation and that decisions to Opt-Out are based on independent action of each broker.

Third, that the DOJ’s claim against the current Internet Listings Display Policy does not allege any anti-competitive effect.

Laurie cautioned that Motions to Dismiss are rarely granted in the 7th Circuit (where the suit is pending). She also said that 14 MLSs have been involved in DOJ subpoenas and that the NAR insurance coverage for this claim is gone so the MLSs that are involved are now spending their own money to respond to the subpoenas.

Lastly, she indicated that there was a productive settlement conference. She believes a key issue in the case will revolve around the MLS definition of “Participant