Brazen Fraud – Fraudulent Deeds Creating Problems for Homeowners and Purchasers Alike

fraud.jpgA large number of claims in Florida are being filed as a result of forged deeds on foreclosed or bank owned properties. The deeds were almost always into trust and the transaction that was insured in the one from the trust to the new, the innocent purchaser.

How this scam works is as follows. First, the property is either currently being foreclosed on, or has been foreclosed on and the bank has acquired it. Often times the property at issue is “abandoned” by the homeowner leading to squatters coming to the property. Second, a special warranty deed is recorded that looks to be from an officer in the lender/bank’s office. Third, the grantee on the deed is a trust. Not a trustee of the trust, but the trust. Fourth, minimal doc stamps are then paid on the transfer.

The red flag or scam is that the grantee is a trust not the trustee of the trust. Moreover, another red flag has to do with the fact that only nominal stamps are paid for the transfer to the trust. Also, often times the notary who notarized the documents is not even a real notary.

For instance, our firm recently worked on a case where this fraud became painfully evident. Our client had fallen behind on his loan, and was in the process of being foreclosed. A short sale had been agreed upon and the parties were working towards completing that deal. However, a routine title search revealed the homeowners had deeded their property over to the “Claude Monet Trust.” The homeowners, of course, had nothing to do with that transaction, and denied ever selling it to the “Claude Monet Trust.” But that did not stop the brazen fraudsters from going so far as even filing a satisfaction of mortgage. As this was going on, squatters then appeared on the property, which further complicated matters. Fortunately, the notary who had notarized the deed was non-existent, and the doc stamps paid were improper, among other irregularities. We were able to work with the bank and get all the fraudulent papers stricken from the court file without having to file a quit title action, and we were able to complete the short sale.
But our story is not unique to the South Florida real estate landscape. Indeed, a partnership called Presscott Rosche or Prescott Rosche, is taking advantage of Florida’s foreclosure process in a fraudulent manner too. This company has claimed more than thirty (30) houses and condos throughout South Florida by fraudulent means. This is a very troubling development to many homeowners as the company has easily passed fraudulent deeds through the court system. These deeds often times do not contain the signatures of the proper homeowners; rather they contain forged signatures.

Most of the real homeowners, who have been a victim of this scam, are often times unaware that this is happening to them. They have submitted documents called “A Notice of Non-Abandonment” claiming the homes before “God Almighty under the Great Seal of Florida, and the laws of the united stated of America.”

On one occasion, Prescott Rosche filed a deed saying Frank Lopez and his wife transferred their Kendall to their partnership. Mr. Lopez first found out about this when he returned to his homes months after vacating it to find three people living in his home. He informed the police, who arrived along with four other men who brought a purported deed to his house. Lopez was later sent an apologetic letter by Prescott Rosche along with a deed that transferred the property back to Lopez. This was one of ten (10) deeds, which where transferred from Presscott Rosche back to its original owners.

Along with Prescott Rosche many fraudulent antics, they also have many employees under fake names and with criminal pasts. For instance, one of the partnership’s agents is listed as Daya Oluz, who in actuality is Claudia Zuloaga. Zuloaga is known to be an office manager for the company. She most recently worked as a tax preparer; who was banned from submitting tax documents after it was alleged that she was orchestrating a tax fraud scheme. Another example of this is Esteban Oviedo, who used the company’s fraudulent practices to take over a home which was owned by a German couple. Oviedo was suspected of breaking into the house and changing the locks. Oviedo claimed to have a proper lease to the home and was not convicted.

Fraud seems to be involved in every aspect of Prescott Rosche and it seems as though they have continued to proceed in fraud with relative ease. They often times are acquitted from claims against them, as the court claims there is not enough evidence to show they are not true owners.

Many of these fraudsters have mastered avoiding major legal issues as they rarely show up in court to defend claims against them. Contact our firm today if you believe that you have been the victim of a fraudulent transfer of your property.

Equity Increasing for Homeowners

home-equity.jpgWith the housing market slowly making a comeback homeowners are seeing their property begin to produce equity again. Real estate equity jumped more in 2012 than it has in the past 65 years, with equity nationwide rising $8.2 trillion last year. The Federal Reserve reports that as a 25% gain.

But the recovery is not only giving homeowners much needed equity the upturn is also encouraging more lenders to make home equity loans, giving homeowners access to cash for that equity.

In the five years leading up to the 2006 real estate peak, Americans went on a spending spree, taking out $800 billion in their rising equity and spending it on everything from cars and tvs to debt consolidation and college tuition. Since the housing collapse banks have written off or deemed “worthless” over $250 million in home equity loans. The rate of current outstanding loans more than 90 days delinquent has dropped 25% in the 4th quarter according to the FDIC. And banks are now seeing home equity loans as a source of income again rather than losses. If loan defaults continue to decline this may be the year that banks see the home-equity business in the black.

Now, there are two types of home equity mortgages. One is an equity line of credit (Heloc) which is an adjustable loan who’s rate is tied to the prime rate (nationally this has averaged around 3.25% since 2008), while the average rate for Helocs are hovering around 5.11%. The other type is a close-ended loan (He-loan), that is dispersed as a lump sum, it is essentially a fixed-rate junior mortgage. These rates nationally are averaging 6.13%. However, lenders usually cap He-loans at 80% of the property’s value, which leaves a mandatory 20% equity in the property.

More good news, for the first time since 2005, the real estate market has added to the U.S. gross national product (GDP). However, despite the upturn, some are still hesitant and have been saving instead of spending. Bank accounts, savings bonds, and municipal securities increased by $500 billion last year (the most since 2007), while net household debt is at its lowest rate since 2005 at $10 billion.

The market is slowly recovering, and we can expect to see more people spending the money their homes are making for them again in the near future.

Is Miami’s Real Estate Market Moving from a Buyer’s Market to a Seller’s Market?

Foreclosure-Sign1.jpgAccording to a recently released report from RealtyTrac, six Florida cities make the list for 20 best places to buy foreclosures in 2013. The real estate data focused on four elements to determine which cities present the best opportunities to purchase foreclosures. The four factors include the supply of foreclosures on the market, the percentage of all sales that foreclosures represented, the average percentage discount on the foreclosed property, and the change in percent of foreclosure activity from 2011 to 2012.

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville tops the list of 20 metro areas at number 1, with Lakeland at number 5, Tampa number 6, Jacksonville number 7, Orlando number 9, and Miami rounding out the Florida cities at number 12.

In Miami, the firm determined the city had a 29-month foreclosure supply and that foreclosures accounted for 28.7 percent of total sales in 2012. According to the firm buyers could expect an average discounted sale price of 31 percent on foreclosed property last year.

And with Miami topping the nation in foreclosure activity in 2012 the state is hoping the market will hasten its healing. But amid the flood of foreclosure properties saturating the market it might be difficult.

However, local real estate brokers know that the statistics don’t show the true nature of the market. The inventory for foreclosures is actually relatively low despite the staggering statistics reported. And the competition is intense for these properties. With most properties seeing multiple offers, bidding wars between real estate investors, hungry for more inventory, are becoming commonplace. The truths of the matter Being in a foreclosure is a stressful situation. But there are alternatives available to help address the foreclosure.

There are many alternatives to foreclosure, and often times it just takes proper planning to properly navigate against the potential pitfalls. Help is often available to those who seek it. Contact us today, if you’re interested in buying a foreclosed property, make sure you’ve got a game plan because the competition is rough out there.

Robo-Signing Fallout Gives Florida Highest Foreclosure Activity in the Nation for 2012

foreclosure-street.jpgWhile lenders are pleased to have guidelines with the robo-signing controversy resolved, the backlog has given Florida a tidal-wave of foreclosure activity. The number of foreclosure filings, in Florida, increased in 2012 by 53.5 percent over the number of filings made in 2011.

Since the dawn of the housing crisis these daunting figures gave Florida the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. California reported 14 percent of the nation’s total foreclosures last year second only to Florida at 20 percent with Ohio ranking third at 9 percent. In Florida, this meant one in every 32 homes had received some form of foreclosure filing in 2012, but most dealt with loans that have long been bad.

Of the 20 urban areas with high rates, Florida had eight within its borders including Miami at number 5, Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville tying at number 6, and Orlando at number 8. However, no one should be concerned by the rate as the state is jumping off the artificially low reported activity of 2011 caused by the robo-signing hiatus.

Meanwhile, throughout the country there’s been an even split on increased and decreased rates. But in most cases, states that saw an increase over last year’s numbers are “judicial” states. Judicial states being those that handle the foreclosure process through the court system proceedings just like Florida, instead of through other quicker processes. However, despite the increase in bank-owned properties, realtors don’t expect it to harm the recovering market.

In fact, the Miami Association of Realtors is expected to boast that home sales are beating the 2011 record. The report should show consistent gains for median home and condo prices.

The newest trend: buy at the courthouse. The bank-owned properties saturating the market are quickly being snapped up by professional investors. While potentially good for the market, this strategy may make it difficult for the average homebuyer to get in on the action.
Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

We have been successful in defending many foreclosure cases when given an opportunity to develop a plan to properly defend the foreclosure.

Our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers have assisted many homeowners in buying enough time to reach the solution that is right for them. There are many alternatives to foreclosure, and often times it just takes proper planning to properly navigate against the potential pitfalls. Help is often available to those who seek it.

If you are on the brink of foreclosure, need a real estate attorney, or just need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

Call us today toll free at 1-866-518-2913 or at 305-263-7700.

South Florida’s Real Estate Market Still Ranks High in Delinquencies and Foreclosures, But The Market is Showing Signs of Improvement

house_for_sale.jpgBanks had been holding off on increasing the number of foreclosure filings in light of all sorts of paper work issues, including robo-signing allegations.

Even with banks holding back on foreclosure filings South Florida still ranked 10th nationally in foreclosure filings for the third quarter. Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties had 24,767 homes in some stage of foreclosure from July through September, up 11% from a year earlier. Nonetheless, Florida had the nation’s highest foreclosure rate in the nation.

In Miami-Dade County, the 90-day mortgage delinquency rate decreased, with 22.89% of mortgage loans being 90 days or more delinquent compared to 25.45% for the same period last year, representing a decrease of 2.56%.

On the other hand, the real estate market continues to show signs of improvement. Contracts for future construction projects in South Florida increased by 66% through the first nine months of 2012 compared to the same period last year.

Non-residential contracts, including commercial and manufacturing, grew 43% to $1.99 billing through September. Contracts for future residential saw the most growth, recording a 90% leap to $2.4 billion.

As for the overall health of the nation’s current real estate market, a lot still depends on the economy of the whole. The economy is still not producing jobs fast enough to aid the nation’s housing market.

Additionally, continued improvement in home sales and home prices will depend heavily on the volume of foreclosed homes in the housing market. Recent housing data suggests that many lenders have barely made a dent in the overall inventory of foreclosed homes.

As such, there is no question that this is a buyer’s market. Indeed, South Florida’s real estate market has picked up some steam recently due in large to foreigners investing in South Florida.
Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

If you need a real estate attorney, or just need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

Call us today toll free at 1-866-518-2913 or at 305-263-7700.

Strong Sales and Higher Prices Point to a Revitalization of the Downtown Miami Real Estate Market

downtown miami.JPGThe economy in Miami might be down, but it is certainly not out. This holds especially true for condo sales in and around the Downtown Miami Area.

According to a recent study by Focus Real Estate Advisors and Goodkin Consulting, sales have increased by 24 percent in the first half of this year to 2,072 units from 1,671 during the first half of 2011.

Condo prices have risen a little over 9 percent in the second quarter compared to last year. Specifically, the average price of a condo in the Downtown Miami area has gone up from $371,205 to $404,927. The average price per square foot for new and resold units has also increased from last year. In 2011, the average price per square foot was approximately $315 dollars; today, that figure has shot up to $338, which adds up to a 7% increase.

The rises in condo prices and sales have much to do with the decline in available inventory for new units. As such, the market has revealed a “grab and go” mentality for individuals looking for an investment opportunity, vacation home, or the like.
Moreover, it should be to no one’s surprise that the rental market has also seen a boost as of late. The high demand for urban living and the fact that most of these condos are investment-owned properties has resulted in the average monthly rent in the downtown area going up 4.4 percent.

Put simply, the revitalization of the downtown area coupled with rich foreign investors assures that this increased rental/sales trend will not slow down for the foreseeable future.

Whether you are looking to buy, sell, or rent, often times it takes an informed real estate attorney to help guide you through the process. Consider your different options and do not hesitate to contact us today toll free at 1-866-518-2913 or at 305-263-7700.

Historically Low Interest Rates are Pushing Many Struggling Homeowners to Re-Finance While Banks Still Remain Reluctant to Lend

Loan-growth.jpgExisting homeowners are taking advantage of the refinancing opportunities nationwide.

Looking at statistical data from the past week, close to 77% of mortgage applications consisted of refinancing. As reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association, this is the highest total since March 2nd.

Indeed, HARP 2.0 is intended to help many struggling homeowners take advantage of today’s historically low interest rates. To become eligible for the new HARP, a homeowner must have a mortgage sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009. The homeowner must also be current in their payments and without any late payments in the past six months.

Additionally, some fees were also eliminated on loans that run 20 years or less and lowered on longer term mortgages. In some cases, the homeowner will also no longer need a new appraisal on the home, which should reduce the refinance costs.

Also note worthy is the fact that there is no limit on how deeply underwater someone can be as long as they re-finance into a 30 year fixed mortgage.

The new changes should not only benefit many homeowners, but should also help financial institutions become fewer homeowners will eventually default.

But one of the biggest factors that will drive the success of this new program will be interest rates. Today interest rates are hovering at historically low levels. For instance, the average rate for a 30 year mortgage today is 4.2%. If interest rates rise, however, this program may not be as attractive to many.

Unfortunately, however, the imbalance between refinancing and home buying will continue into the near future. Historically low rates have given people real options that they haven’t had in a quite some time. So whether your looking to refinance, enter into a short sale, or buy a new home, the experienced Real Estate Attorneys at Alvarez & Barbara, LLP can assist you today. Pick up the phone and call us today.
But with the good also comes the bad. It turns out that banks are actually tightening their lending standards because they are reluctant to expose themselves to potential defaults for minor profits. Furthermore, the issue of low profits affects the banks ability to unload the mortgage interest to potential investors.

Banks seem to have learned their lesson from the subprime loan debacle. By becoming cautious lenders, they avoid the potential risks inherent with foreclosure litigation, specifically time and money.

Breaking it down even further, the low rates coupled with new lender standards have the potential of hurting the economy even further. Why? Well put simply, those who can help turn around our economy are the ones being turned away by lenders. The average American buyer is the segment of America that might actually heal the industry.

On the flip side, but also adding to the market woes, the relatively high affordability of housing has prevented individuals from placing their homes on the market. This has a direct impact on inventory, which makes it less likely for a buyer to find his or her new home.

Foreclosure Filings Are Decreasing

real-estate-statistics.jpgIn what surely is a sign of change in South Florida, foreclosure filings decreased by more than half at the end of 2011 compared to 2010. However, the decrease is somewhat deceptive because the results are in part due to the average length of time it takes to process a foreclosure in Florida. Specifically, Florida’s foreclosure process is third in the nation, behind only New York and New Jersey.

For the last ten years, Miami-Dade has found itself in the midst of one the largest residential development booms in all of Florida. As such, it should come to no one’s surprise that 1 in every 85 homes file for foreclosure. Rounding out South Florida is Broward and Palm Beach County, which see approximately 1 in every 98 and 105 homes file for foreclosure, respectively.

Palm Beach County saw the largest change out of the big three in South Florida, with its filings falling off by more than half. Miami saw the smallest decrease at 8.24 percent compare to last year, followed by Broward at 33.94.

Again, these numbers are deceptive. We must still take into account the overall volume of foreclosure filings. And the numbers are staggering. It is true that related foreclosure filings dropped 57 percent in 2011 compared to 2010; however, if we compare the 2011 numbers in Miami-Dade to those in 2006, foreclosure filings are still astronomically higher – 133 percent higher to be exact.

The same holds true for both Broward and Palm Beach. Compared to 2006, Broward foreclosure filings are up 108 percent, with Palm Beach surprisingly up 190 percent since 2006. Just another prime example of how deceiving the numbers are considering Palm Beach was looking like the real winner of the three.

Even though the market seems to be shifting in a positive direction, properties on the brink of foreclosure still make up more than 50% of available properties across South Florida. This makes it the perfect time to determine whether you need a real estate attorney, or just need to talk to some one to assess your legal rights.
Today’s current real estate market, and ongoing foreclosure crises, presents all sorts of issues that must be properly navigated. There are many factors contributing to Florida’s nation leading delinquency rates. They include a weak job market, weak economic recovery, and a major drop in home prices. Consequently, Florida’s housing market remains unsettled in large part due to the continued foreclosure crises.

Our Miami foreclosure defense lawyers have assisted many homeowners in buying enough time to reach the solution that is right for them. There are many alternatives to foreclosure, and often times it just takes proper planning to properly navigate against the potential pitfalls. Help is often available to those who seek it.

Home Prices Could Rise by as Much as 4%

new price.jpgMany new homeowners across America have benefitted exponentially from low sale prices and mortgage rates. However, that all may change soon if you’re a potential buyer.

The USA Today is reporting that average home prices in the U.S. will rise almost 4% a year for the next five years. Markets, such as Miami, FL, may see an increase in sale prices at the end of the summer before finally leveling off.

In predicting this rise, many of the leading home price indexes, which measure the U.S. residential market and track changes in the value of residential real estate, point to several different factors. Among them are investors, good affordability, low inventories, and the fact that conventional mortgage payments now account for just 12% of median family incomes versus a historic norm of 20%.

Florida, having more cities than any other state, has show the strongest signs of recovery. This is especially true for cities such as Orlando and to absolutely nobody’s surprise, Miami . According to, prices of homes in Miami are up 20%, in some areas, and inventories down in excess of 40%.

Indeed, home values in South Florida rose 1.1 percent year-over-year in March, to $141,300, after reaching bottom in late 2011. Only Phoenix had a higher year-over-year increase at 2.8%. Moreover, Miami ranked among just five cities in the nation to show an increase in annualized housing prices in February, up 0.6?percent from January, and up 0.8 percent year-over-year.

However, and while we are seeing a slow recovery take hold, the real estate market is still far from a full recovery. Prices continue to remain low. And many banks have not yet started to push their shadow inventory into the market. So a full recovery can still be years away.
Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

If you need a real estate attorney, or just need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

Call us today toll free at 1-866-518-2913 or at 305-263-7700.

Deficiency Judgments in Foreclosures

deficiency-judgment.jpgIn a time where people are losing their homes to foreclosure daily, what can possibly add more insult to injury? The answer – deficiency judgments.

A deficiency judgment is a money judgment entered against former homeowners who lost their property to foreclosure. The amount of the judgment is the difference between what was owed on the loan and the price the home sold for on the sale date.

In the majority of these scenarios, homeowners are left paying thousands of dollars due to the nature of the current-underwater market. This judgment follows the homeowner for up to twenty years, if not longer. Florida, a state that allows deficiency judgments, has had the most foreclosures since 2007. Making deficiency judgments an issue that hits really close to home.

In other words, if pushing you to attain an unaffordable mortgage during the go-go heyday of the real estate housing market was not enough many banks today are pushing for deficiency judgment. Many banks are today chasing depleted borrowers to pay for the deficiency to improve the bank’s bottom line, while further pushing the borrower to the brink of economic collapse.

What about unpaid homeowner’s association dues? Unfortunately, they are also subject to deficiency judgments, which allows condo associations to go after former owners for unpaid fees.

Another potential problem is that many of the banks are selling these deficiency judgments to investors who are in turn pouring the judgments into hedge funds and selling them off as securities, or selling them to collection firms who ramp up their collection efforts. And the collection agency may have this judgment for at least 20 years. Which means that the collection agency would be within their right to use all legal tactics necessary to collect.

Until the economy rebounds, we will continue to see courts around the country enter deficiency judgments against homeowners. And even if these same homeowners are fortunate enough to find themselves in new homes, some might not be able to pay off the judgment.
Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

If you need a real estate attorney, or just need to assess your legal rights, please contact our office today.

Call us today toll free at 1-866-518-2913 or at 305-263-7700.