Real estate fraud is when one person or party makes misrepresentation or uses false information to take advantage of the other party during a real estate sale/purchase. Most of the real estate fraud cases involve some form of mortgage loan fraud. However, real estate fraud is a broad term that can involve many phases of the real estate transaction, including appraisal, contract drafting, closing, and other stages.

What Are Some Examples of Real Estate Fraud?

Real estate fraud can be broadly categorized into two main categories: borrower fraud and lender/professional fraud. Borrower fraud may include:

  • Falsifying loan applications
  • Making misrepresentations regarding the person’s credit
  • Omitting important information during the transaction

Borrower fraud involves the person trying to obtain title to the property. In comparison, lender or professional fraud involves the person attempting to gain profit from the transaction. Some common types of professional fraud include:

  • Property flipping and other questionable real estate practices
  • False advertising and misrepresentation of property information
  • Misrepresentations regarding professional licensing and credentials
  • Identity theft (i.e., using borrower’s information for personal gain)

Regardless of the type of fraud involved, there must be a certain level of intent in order to hold the person or party liable for fraud. That is, mere unintentional mistakes might not be enough to be considered fraud. Some types of real estate fraud may involve a mutual collaboration between borrower and lender to knowingly accomplish the fraud.

Are There Any Criminal Penalties for Real Estate Fraud?

Real estate fraud can lead to serious criminal penalties. These can vary according to state laws, but they may generally include:

  • Criminal fines
  • Jail or prison time (some serious cases can involve federal prison sentences of up to 30 years
  • Criminal restitution for losses caused to the victim party

Depending on the facts, real estate fraud may either be a misdemeanor or a felony charge. Felony charges are punished more seriously than misdemeanors. Repeat offenses can also lead to increased criminal consequences.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Real Estate Fraud Consequences?

Real estate fraud can lead to serious criminal charges. It may be in your best interests to hire a criminal lawyer if you need assistance with any real estate fraud charges. An attorney can provide you with legal advice and guidance during a real estate fraud case. Your lawyer can advise you on your legal rights and can represent you during the court proceedings.