How To Avoid A Common Deed Scam After You Buy A Home

Dated: 09/15/2020

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How to Avoid A Common Deed Scam After You Purchase A Home    

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You’ve bought a home, moved in, forwarded your mail to your new address, unpacked, and are ready to enjoy your home! The next thing you know, your mailbox is filling up with advertisements, coupons, and magazines (Who doesn’t like getting a 20% off Bed, Bath and Beyond Coupon?).

However, you’ll also get your 1st utility bills, cable bills and many other important notices and documents in those first few weeks. Unfortunately, as soon as your new deed hits public records, other solicitations begin, some of which are considered scams…specifically targeting 1st time home buyers and the elderly, who may not be able to identify which notices are legit and which ones are phony at best.

One of the most common problems we hear about from new homeowners is the ‘deed scam.’ You might already know what we’re talking about. A few weeks after opening your mail, you find a letter that says to ‘protect yourself and your home’ you should always have an official copy of your recorded deed. These letters often encourage you to send them as much as $150 immediately a copy of your  recorded deed can be mailed out to you.

Here's an example of a recent mailing one of our own agents received after buying a home in St Petersburg, FL in 2020:

Fake Deed Bill/Request

If you make it to the end of the letter, there is often TINY print at the bottom that says "This is a solicitation. You are under no obligation to pay the amount stated, unless you accept this offer." It's tough to read and the letter is designed to look like an 'official notice.' 

Here's another example of a letter for property records our agent also received in the mail:

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The letter above is almost more confusing than the 1st one because the name of the company it's from is apparently called 'Local Records.' It would be very easy for someone to confuse this with a notice from the County Property Appraiser's Office or Recorder of Deeds. 

This is a scam. Do not pay any money for a copy of your deed or property records. I repeat, DO NOT pay money for this.

These letters are hoping unsuspecting, new, and often overwhelmed homeowners will quickly realize they don’t have a recorded copy of their deed and send payment along to get one. You do not need to pay money to get a copy of your deed.

These letters look exceptionally official and are full of misleading language that imply this is something you must do to protect your new home investment.

Here’s Why:

When you buy a home you typically close at a title company. The sellers of the home sign a deed at closing, transferring ownership to you, the new homeowner. They do this at the closing table (sellers and buyers don’t often sign at the same time anymore, so don’t be alarmed if the sellers are not at closing with you).

Once all parties have signed the closing documents, loans are funded, and the closing is officially completed. The title company will then send the original, signed deed to the county your home is located in to be recorded. Once the county recording office receives and records the deed, you’ll be listed in public records as the new homeowner (this can take several weeks, depending on the volume your local office receives).

 A copy of the recorded deed will usually be available on your county’s property appraiser or tax records website within a few weeks- for FREE. The original deed with the authentic recording stamp from the county will be mailed back to you once it’s been recorded and copied into public records.  You’ll also get a copy of the unrecorded deed at your closing so you have a temporary one in the meantime.

As a new homeowner with piles of new documents, bills and maybe even HOA rules and regs to review after closing, these scammers are hoping you’ll panic when you don’t have a recorded deed in your files. The truth of the matter is you WILL get a recorded deed in the mail within several weeks of your closing. 

You can also look it up in Pinellas County on the property appraiser’s website HERE once it’s recorded and print off a copy ANY time, FOR FREE.

If you’re ever not sure if a notice regarding the purchase of your home is legit, call your Title Company, your County Property Appraiser, or Realtor for a 2nd opinion. NEVER call the phone number on the notice. If the notice involves your mortgage and IS NOT your monthly mortgage statement, contact your lender directly with the number listed on your most recent mortgage statement or coupon book.

And remember, we are here to help you with all your real estate needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us after your closing with questions and enjoy being a homeowner in that new dream home!

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Andrea Hartmann

Andrea is the Managing Partner of The Sandy Hartmann Group. Andrea was born and raised in the Tampa Bay area and is a licensed Realtor with over 15 years of Marketing and Finance experience, holding ....

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