Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Carmel on the Case: House Heartbreak
With foreclosures up and home sales down, this can be a good market for buyers, but it is also a time to beware of con artists. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- Time together is precious for the Hernandez family. Mario is a military police officer stationed in Afghanistan. He was home on a two-week leave.
Mario Hernandez: "I was a little nervous coming home. I was afraid the little 16-month-old wouldn't recognize me, but she warmed up right away."
The young family expected to be moving into their dream home, but, two days before they were to close, they learned the house had been sold to someone else.
Sulena Hernandez: "My realtor was shocked, everybody was shocked. They said their lawyers were on top of it, you know, trying to figure out what was going on, so it was a big shocker.
The family was left in limbo, all packed up with nowhere to go.
Mario Hernandez: "Yeah, there was nothing I could do from over there, I felt hopeless."
Sulena Hernandez: "I was very disappointed."
Carmel Cafiero: "In this case, it was the title company that saved the day, as it has done 200 times in the last 18 months. It smelled a rat and called off the closing."
Attorney Michael Dulin says a title search revealed the seller was trying to sell the same house twice.
Michael Dulin: "The first time around you've paid off the mortgages, so, the second time, now this is when you're really going to hit the cash register."
He says his company is finding a disturbing amount of attempted fraud in connection with South Florida home sales.
Michael Dulin: "Most consumers don't know that Florida actually leads the nation in mortgage fraud, and South Florida leads Florida, so we are literally the epicenter of the epicenter."
In this case, the seller of the house left the country without that second pay day.
Michael Dulin: "You know what, I think the bad guy was off to, uh, Brazil like the day after we blew this thing up."
Meanwhile, the first buyers are living in the home, adding insult to injury.
Mario Hernandez: "They purchased the house for less than we offered."
Sulena Hernandez: "It was our dream house, I guess. You know, it was our first house."
The couple filed a complaint against the seller's realtor, but their attorney says it could be as long as a year before it gets investigated.
John McNally: "Unfortunately, we've confirmed they've received it, but that the time for processing will be very long because of the number of complaints that have been filed."
In fact, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation tells us 5,900 complaints have been filed against Florida realtors in just the last 10 months. So no matter if you're buying or selling in today's market, make sure the people you deal with are as solid as the foundation of a house.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: