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How to avoid online property scams

2 May 2017 Uncategorized


Many things are going online these days. The Internet has become a medium for communication, business facilitation and several other things. It has become a channel for the good and the bad. The rapid adoption of various online platforms and applications in Nigeria means that the risks associated with these things are worth understanding. Due to the several advantages of online platforms in advertising properties, their use has become increasingly popular with potential property buyers and renters. It is now easy to sit in the comfort of your home or office and search for properties.

The convenience of online property search is particularly attractive to Nigerians in the Diaspora who compare this with what they are already used to in their various countries of sojourn. Using these online media, you can easily compare prices and view properties online. You can narrow down your search to specific areas. You can set a price limit for what you will be shown and you can call the advertisers. These are activities that previously took months or week’s .You can now do these things within hours. However, there are several challenges that are already showing up based on the peculiarity of our operating environment.

One of the principal challenges is that anything can be put online. Properties that do not exist in particular locations can be advertised for those locations. Real estate projects that are yet to be commissioned can be repackaged with videos as if they have been completed. The fact is that there could be a serious disconnect between what you see and what is actually on the ground. The information that is also associated with some of these properties could be true or false. You cannot be fully sure of the accuracy of the information that you have been given. The risk is real.

The risks associated with using and relying on online media are real and global. The key difference in the level of risk is the availability of other factors that mitigate, eliminate or increase the risk. In places where there are several infrastructural support structures such as good data integration and effective police and cyber security departments, the risk is minimal. In countries where such are lacking, the level of risk increases. An awareness of the reality of these risks is basic to avoiding them. You should endeavour to protect yourself as much as possible when you go property-hunting online.

If you think that the availability of these platforms have dispensed with the need for professionals, think again. It is necessary to carry out due diligence on any property or online property advertiser before you deal with them. You should engage a legal practitioner or estate surveyor and valuer to help you view the property and be sure that it is exactly what you have seen online. This is very necessary especially if you are based abroad. Let a third party that you trust and who understands such transactions help to visit the property and give you a report before negotiating the purchase.

It is important to check the authenticity of the title or the right to sell or lease the property that you are interested in. It is wise not to part with any money until your lawyer gives you a written search report that gives you the go ahead. Your lawyer will also prepare the necessary agreement and other paper works that are needed to secure your interest. These processes take a bit of time and cannot be done online. If you are buying into one of the numerous estate projects online you may need to involve a Land Surveyor to confirm whether or not the parcel of land is free from all forms of government acquisition. Engaging the appropriate professionals is your best way of avoiding a scam.

Most real estate scams have a common pattern that should act as a red flag to you. If during your due diligence you are told that the owner lives abroad or that the property title is missing, you should exercise extra care. If an online property website is known for displaying properties with wrong information about location and existing facilities, you should be wary about dealing with them.

If the properties listed on a website contain upload dates that show that it is several months old, you need to be extra sure that it is still in the market before you go further. If the real estate company that is advertising the property has no physical office address, then you should be wary about dealing with them. And if they begin to exert pressure on you to make a deposit before your lawyer carries out a due diligence, you should exercise caution.

Source: Punch


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