DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — A buyer beware warning for anyone looking to purchase a new home or property. A Durham man was scammed out of buying real estate after finding a property for sale.
Chris Freeman loves his Durham home on the Willowhaven Golf Course. When he looks out into his backyard, he wants to keep the trees he sees instead of whatever else he is building for himself.
“We greatly preferred the trees to having a house there. When we moved we always said if we had the chance we couldn’t do it. Then a friend down the street saw the listing the day he arrived and texted me: and I contacted my agent,” Freeman said.
The less than an acre property behind Freeman’s property was listed for sale last summer by a Chapel Hill agent.
“I think it was on the market a day or two before we had an offer and it took several days for it to be accepted,” Freeman recalled.
The listing agent emailed Freeman’s agent, telling him to transfer the $10,000 due diligence to the seller in Vietnam. Before transferring the money, Freeman questioned sending his money that way, but the agent assured him that he was fine, so he wired the $10,000 to Vietnam.
LOOK: Puppy scams cost people over $1 million in 2022
The deal moved forward, and at closing, Freeman paid more than $20,000 for the property. Closing documents indicate that the seller of the property is now in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“We close in mid-August like we’re celebrating owning a lot, very excited about it,” Freeman said. However, about a month after the closing, Freeman received a call from his agent. They told him that the listing was fraudulent. “You don’t own that lot. The people who own it are not the ones who sold it.”
While the seller’s name on the closing documents matches Durham County records on who owns the property listed for sale, Freeman said the listing agent never verified that they were actually speaking with the actual owner, just someone claiming to be the owner. .
“My first question was OK, where is all my money? He said, ‘He’s going to take care of it.’ I understand that he will recover,” Freeman said the agent told him about him.
Freeman recovered about $19,000 shortly after the fraud was discovered, but he was still short of nearly $12,000, which included the fees and taxes he paid at closing, plus the original $10,000 he wired to who he was told was the owner in Vietnam. Freeman said he kept fighting to get the remaining money back for months.
LOOK: A North Carolina couple recovers thousands after falling ill on an anniversary cruise
“I cannot for the life of me understand why they would expect me alone to pay the cost of their mistake.”
Freeman contacted troubleshooter Diane Wilson; she approached the listing agent for the property and his company. They didn’t contact her, but the broker-in-charge for the listing agent emailed Freeman, saying they had exhausted their appeals with their errors and omissions insurance, and would handle this themselves. He also apologized for the time he had taken.
Within a week, Freeman received a check for money owed to him totaling nearly $12,000. He is happy that he got all the money back from him and hopes it will be a revelation to others.
“I want other people to know that real estate fraud is a problem. Real estate agents need to do a little better job of verifying that they are talking to the person they think they are talking to.”
To make sure you don’t waste your money on a real estate deal, if you find a for sale listing by owner, be very careful about anyone claiming to own the property, and if you are asked to wire money directly to the owner . Instead, try to go through a proper closing where the money is put into escrow and goes through a reputable title company.
As in this case, even if you use real estate agents, you can still be fooled, so it’s key to ask lots of questions, and if something doesn’t seem right, raise any red flags.
Copyright © 2023 WTVD-TV. All rights reserved.