How to spot a property scam

We’ve all heard horror stories about intelligent, every day Australians who have somehow been sucked into a real estate scam that stripped them of their hard earned money.

Who among us is not tempted by the thought of making a quick buck?

Despite working hard for their money, many Australians feel stuck on the treadmill of money coming in and money going straight out again.27958551_l

They just can’t seem to get ahead.

Sure, we’re told that the best things in life are free and while I don’t disagree with this, in order to be fully free to enjoy our lives we need enough financial freedom to focus on what matters to us.

Residential property is a great way to make money but the gains are built over the long term.

You are likely to see healthy returns if you hold property for 10 years and buy in the right area, then.

But most of us are in too much of a hurry to wait years and that’s why many investors are susceptible to the get-rick-quick schemes that proliferate not just in residential property but all parts of the investment pond.

If you are an impatient investor you could end up in hot water so it is important to tread very carefully when assessing the merits of a new venture.

Here are a few things to look out for:

I’ll take care of everything Discussion with a real estate agent

Often novice investors are keen to get into property because they believe that property is a good investment – but they’re daunted by the whole process. It all seems too complicated.

And them someone comes along and offers to “take care of everything” giving our beginning investor a feeling of relief.

A one-stop shop sounds convenient, but be wary.

Protect yourself by getting advice from an independent lawyer who has no connection to the company selling the property, a finance broker who represents you and either a valuer or independent confirmation of the property’s value.

Marketing materials

Watch out for those pamphlets in your mailbox that promises the world.

“Guaranteed income,” it assures you. “Risk-free investment.”

Or even, “Become a millionaire in 3 years.”

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Beware the seminar

Firstly, a quick disclaimer – I speak at seminars and my company Metropole Property Strategists conducts seminars to educate clients – we don’t sell properties at the back of the room – in fact we don’t sell properties at all. 

Having said that…I am sure you have received an invitation like in the past:

Come to our ‘free’ seminar (why would I pay anyway?) and hear about how they can deliver you to financial freedom in six easy steps.

There is usually engaging, upbeat music and charming presenters who will tell you that they hold the key to unlocking the secrets of successful property investment.

They’re often highly sophisticated sales operations with everything conveniently available to tempt inexperienced investors to buy on-the-spot.

Mortgage brokers are ready and waiting in-house to assess your financial situation and approve your loan.

Contracts are already drawn-up.

They convince you they are selling the deal of a lifetime.

You’re pressured to make decisions instantly, or risk losing out.

My advice would be to give these schemes a wide berth.

Often these seminars in residential property are fronts for developers wishing to offload stock to investors.

Sure they may promise huge rental returns and great properties, but you have to ask yourself the question: if the properties are so great why are they not brought to market where more people can fight over them and potentially up the sale price?

The truth is, properties sold this way are often priced well above their worth.

Of course, not all investment seminars are run by shonky salesmen, but many are so keep a close eye out for people trying to flash their wealth in front of you and give you the hard sell.

Off the plan

Buying a property off-the-plan means signing a contract to purchase before the property has been built.

You’ll usually be offered incentives such as reduced stamp duty, tax and depreciation benefits, rental guarantees and below market prices.26175532_l

The problem with a lot of off the plan stock is that you are investing in an unknown and all of the risk is yours. 

You put a deposit down on a property at a value that has been determined by the developers, even though that property may not be ready for a few years.

As we all know, a lot can happen in the residential property market in that time.

The contracts lock you in, you have very little room to get out of the contract, and yet often the developer can back out at any time.

There are many unknown – will the market be like when the development is completed, what will the standard of finish be will there be other competing developments?

With all these uncertainties you should be paying discount for “off the plan” properties however you usually pay a hefty premium which includes the developer’s margin and marketing costs

A word of warning, too, about rental guarantees.

If a developer has to offer this kind of inducement to sell their new development, then ask why?

House and land package

Entire new suburbs area mushrooming all around Australia with house and land packages being offered to first home buyers.

But there is also a whole industry of property marketers built around selling these properties to unsuspecting investors.

The lack of scarcity in these estates, the demographics of young families who are very interest-rate and jobs sensitive and the lack of tenants for these locations often means that you’ve been sold a dud.

Unfortunately, you may not realise you’ve been scammed until years later when the value of your property is still below your original purchase price,

Overseas markets47358036 - globe with dollar coins and piggy global money saving

Australia is one of the more expensive residential property markets and as people are priced out of capital cities, some are beginning to look overseas.

The Internet landscape is littered with stories of people who have lost a fortune investing overseas following various properties spruikers.

It is hard enough to get your due diligence right in a familiar culture, let alone in a foreign country with a foreign residential property market.

You may be tempted to buy that run-down home in Sicily, which is worth a car space in Sydney, but if something seems too good to be true, it generally is.

There is no path to financial freedom other than hard work, patience, due diligence, a good team and a bit of smarts.

And it certainly isn’t going to come from someone in an expensive suit offering you false hope.

Want more of this type of information?

Shannon Davis


Shannon is director of Metropole Properties Brisbane and as a successful property investor and licensed estate agent, his years of industry experience helps his clients maximize the performance of their investment properties. Visit

'How to spot a property scam' have 1 comment

  1. July 18, 2016 @ 11:33 am Brendan

    I couldn’t agree more. I when to one of theses seminars where every thing was ready at the back of the room and people were being told to buy property in baldivise because they were selling the house and land packages at whole sale prices as they where the developer and and builder so could offer a $63,000 discount on the purchase. They where selling them for $589,000 a quick chek found the medium price there was $505,000 with another 1000 plus blocks to be sold. I told a couple of people that this was a crazy figure and the rent garentee was being paid for by them they still went ahead. There is now 6% of the homes in there on the market with an medium price of $440,000.


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