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How to spot a property investing scam

It can be hard to tell a genuine property seminar or information session from a scam that could send you broke. Here are 6 red flags to look out for.

If you've signed up for a property investment seminar that ends with an opportunity to invest, you could be looking at a property scam. But it's often hard to know what you're getting into.

Scamwatch data shows 770 reports of investment scams just in July of 2023. Although this includes more than just property scams, it shows that would-be investors are vulnerable to sophisticated scams.

Here are the biggest red flags to watch out for when looking at a property investment opportunity. These signs could indicate an outright scam, or simply an overpriced investment.

6 signs of a property investing scam

1. The offer expires SOON

These types of seminars are always initiated by them, not you. They'll send you an invitation to a "free" seminar teaching you how to build wealth through property.

They'll call you and ask if you want to reduce your tax bill and become a property millionaire, just by turning up to their seminar and hearing their "secret strategies".

Then they'll present an awesome opportunity to get rich – but you have to act now. This opportunity has a deadline and if you don't act now, you'll miss out.

🚩Red flag: When you are making a property investing decision, you're considering spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and getting into massive debt. This is NOT a decision that should be rushed. If anyone that tries to pressure you in a fast decision, you should proceed with caution.

2. They fly you to the property location

The seminar might feature some interesting tips and points about investing in real estate, backed by a few speakers. Then the real sales pitch will begin.

The spruiker will want to set up an appointment with you at your home to talk with you personally about how it all works and to see if you qualify for their deal.

They apply a lot of pressure to get you to sign – some will even fly you interstate to show you the properties they're so certain you'll make money from.

🚩Red flag: It's not a free flight; the cost has been baked into the property's price, along with their hefty commission. The reason they fly you in is to tap into your emotions and build hype, to convince you to make a decision on the spot, rather than taking the time to weigh up all the pros and cons.

3. They only want to sell you 'new' property

Constructing a new home for investment purposes isn't a bad thing, but when you're being sold an overpriced property that costs you far more than what other similar, established homes in that area are worth, you could be in trouble.

You'll be told that you can save on stamp duty, which is true. You'll also be told that building a new home gets you some better tax advantages, which is also true. But a new property has a number of massive costs built into it, including stamp duty, marketing costs, and again, their big commission.

🚩Red flag: If the only property they want to sell you is a specific, new property in one particular development, you can guarantee they're being paid a big fat commission, which is factored into the purchase price. This can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Ask how much commission they're being paid and whether they own any properties in the project themselves to see if they have genuine intentions.

4. They share 'exclusive' up-and-coming investment suburbs

Quality research is good. "Exclusive" research that only they have? This is a red flag, because if a particular area has good fundamentals for growth, other people are going to know about it.

You may be offered investment opportunities in different states to the one in which you live – this is because you're less likely to know much about the area, so they can mislead you into believing it's a growth suburb. In reality? The majority of these types of "deals" encourage you to construct new homes in outlying suburbs or low socio-economic areas, where demand is low and supply is high.

🚩Red flag: You can nix this red flag pretty fast with your own research. See if what they're telling stacks up when you look for other sources to back up their claims.

5. They discourage you from doing your own research

Experienced investors understand that it's very possible to build wealth by seeking good quality properties that are priced well and that represent good value for their own investment strategies. However, these property spruikers will make it very clear that they have already done all your homework for you.

They will tell you they've struck a deal with a developer so they can get better prices through bulk buying (the opposite may be true, and the price is actually higher due to their big commission). They'll even tell you that there's no way you could possibly go out and get it right if you do it all on your own. You need them, or you'll fail!

🚩Red flag: You can nix this red flag pretty fast with your own research. As well as looking up reputable sources like the ABS and CoreLogic, check with your own sources (like local property managers who have nothing to do with the property project or sale) to make sure the area is genuinely in demand with local tenants.

6. They offer a one-stop-shop where it's all managed for you

The sales sharks pushing these deals will be keen to take control of the entire transaction.

They'll control the conveyancer working on your transfer documents, the mortgage broker arranging your finance, the builder you have to build the property through, and the rental agent handling your tenants.

While this might sound like an easy solution for many newer investors, it's simply a way for the sales person to keep control of the transaction so you don't get to see that you're buying an overpriced dud. They also may be getting referrals fees from each and every 'expert' they introduce you to.

🚩Red flag: Ask them if you can use your own experts, like your own independent mortgage broker, solicitor, accountant and quantity surveyor. If they're open to this, then they're more likely to be reputable. If they want to keep it all in house, beware.

Avoiding the property investing scams

Perhaps the best possible way to avoid being caught by these types of property investing scams is to sit down and do your homework yourself.

Take the time to research any suburb in which you want to buy. Understand the median prices for homes in that area and compare the options of buying an established home versus building a new home in the same area.

Talk to a good accountant about how to structure your investment loans and about your taxation options before you buy.

Then spend some time talking to your bank or a good mortgage broker about setting up your investment loans in the way your accountant suggested.

If you can do all these things on your own, you should find that you end up with some great real estate bargains that can become excellent investments over time.

Organisations or associations you can contact for advice

  • Archicentre - This is the home advisory division of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.
  • Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry - This is the peak council of Australian businesses and works with multiple organisation to help develop housing market policies.
  • Australian Property Institute - They represent members involved in valuation, administration and use of land, property and machinery.
  • Housing Industry Association - They work on behalf of builders members who a small or medium sized companies.
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia - This is the governing body of Chartered Accountants who can assist with any taxation or accounting advice.
  • The Institute of Public Accountants - This is for accountants that are more practical and hands-on and have been recognised for this as well as a broader understanding of the total business environment.
  • Insurance Council of Australia - This is the council who look after and represent the interests of the Australian general insurance industry.
  • Master Builders Australia - Represent multiple Master Builders Associations in each state and territory that represent businesses within their state or territory within the building and construction industry.
  • Property Council of Australia - Represent the interests of those who use land or invest in the built environment to generate economic returns within the property community.
  • Urban Development Institute of Australia - Represent the urban development industry in Australia.
  • Australian Securities and Investments Commission - They offer information and advice to help inform, educate and protect the rights of the Australian consumer when it comes to any financial transaction.

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8 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    sueSeptember 11, 2023

    Why is it a scam just because they make a commission though? what if it is still a good house in a good area?

      AvatarFinder
      SarahOctober 13, 2023Finder

      Hi Sue, It’s not a scam simply because they make a commission. It might be an indication of a scam if they receive a commission and don’t disclose this to you, in addition to the context mentioned in the article.

    Default Gravatar
    HimadriMay 4, 2022

    How much is usually quarterly owners corporation fees ? How do they work it out for new unit blocks ? Is there land tax or council rates for units/apartments ?

      AvatarFinder
      RichardMay 5, 2022Finder

      Hello,

      Owner’s corporation fees really vary between complexes, depending on the features and services that the complex has and the maintenance costs. It will probably cost at least $2,000 a year (so $500 a quarter) but this is a very rough estimate.

      Owners also pay council rates. This varies by the council, and unit owners may pay less than homeowners.

      Kind regards,
      Richard

    Default Gravatar
    StephenNovember 26, 2017

    Is there any thing you can do if you think you have been scammed?

      Default Gravatar
      ArnoldNovember 26, 2017

      Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for your inquiry

      Yes, absolutely. It is crucial that you report the incident to the proper government agency. This will help you find out about your rights and the chances of getting your money back. This will also help the government inform the public about the scam which in turn helps it stop from spreading.

      Hope this information helps

      Cheers,
      Arnold

    Default Gravatar
    PaulFebruary 10, 2015

    There is a company which source then sell off the plan properties in upcoming booming areas. Have you heard of them and are they fair dinkum?

      AvatarFinder
      ShirleyFebruary 11, 2015Finder

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your question.

      According to moneysmart.gov.au, you may refer to the list of unlicensed companies to know which companies you should not deal with.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

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