By Kay Wilson-Bolton
July 22, 2001
Every culture and every business has its share of predators, and they come in various forms. The California Association of REALTORS® and the Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS® has adopted a zero tolerance for those who use real estate licenses to sell real estate and/or make loans as they prey on innocent people.
The definition of a predator is one who eats its prey while still alive. While it is not a pretty picture, it does characterize the moves and the results of a predator who victimizes a borrower. Many of us believe this is a million dollar problem in Ventura County.
Picture the lender/agent who tells a potential buyer that he or she will help them find a home but needs $5000 advance payment to do so. In some cultures, an upfront fee is a common practice.
The agent finds the home, writes the offer at full price and asks that the seller credit the buyer with $5000 towards closing costs. At the end, the buyer asks about the $5000 and the agent shows the credit of $5000 on the closing statement that came from the seller. The agent keeps the $5000 in her pocket.
The predator’s response is, “they’ll never know”, and it is true. They haven’t known until the sharp eye of a REALTOR® examines a closing statement.
Recently, two such REALTORS® spotted a closing statement which reflected the costs of a refinanced home loan. The loan agent, who also holds a real estate license, knocked on their door one day and asked if they wanted to lower their monthly payment. Their existing loan was at 7%. They ended up with a 7.75% variable loan, with a cap of 16% and were charged $10,000 in loan fees, let alone $3000 in closing costs. The loan they had before the refinance was the better one and their credit score was 680 thus qualifying them for a more favorable interest rate.
They trusted the person who spoke their language. They didn’t read the paperwork because it was in a language they don’t understand.
Thanks to the District Attorneys office and a sharp investigator assigned to this problem, the concern of the investigative editorial team at the Ventura STAR and the Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS® Cultural Diversity Committee, something is being done to stop this abuse and hold the predators accountable for the illegal and immoral practices.
Here are some things to look for. If someone teases you with a loan or an idea that sounds too easy or too good, there is probably something wrong with it. Don’t do anything until someone you trust looks over your paper work. Don’t give any information to a stranger until you are sure they are legitimate. If you need a refinance or a loan, ask someone you trust to recommend someone to you. If you don’t know anyone to provide a recommendation, call Randy McCaslin at the Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS® 981.2100. If bi-lingual assistance is needed call 981.2100 and leave a message for Fernie Campos, chair of our Cultural Diversity Committee. Someone who speaks your language will call you back.
If the agent you speak to is not a REALTOR®, they cannot be held accountable by us as their peers. We have no tolerance for predators. They need to be put out of business and any help you can provide to us with move the process forward.
Kay Wilson-Bolton has been on the forefront of monitoring and reporting predatory lending practices. She has been in real estate in Ventura County since 1976.