Latinos are twice as likely as other groups to be targeted by a growing wave of predatory lending and other real estate con games and to help them avoid falling victim, CasaNuevaHouston.com has posted a “Home Buyers Bill of Rights” highlighting the most common abuses.

CasaNuevaHouston.com decided to create the bill of rights when its founders kept hearing stories of predatory lending and other real estate scams from consumers and real estate agents in Houston’s Latino community.

“Latinos are quick to embrace the American dream of home ownership, because in most Latin American countries, mortgage lending as we know it doesn’t exist,” said Anita Sparks-Bohn, a founder of CasaNuevaHouston.com. “This eagerness creates a wide opening for scam artists, especially when combined with a language barrier and a general lack of understanding about the home-buying process.”

Sparks-Bohn said creating a “Home Buyer’s Bill of Rights” was a logical step for CasaNuevaHouston.com, launched in 2005 to help educate Latinos about the home-buying process in Houston and other cities. A San Antonio version, CasaNuevaSanAntonio.com, was launched in 2006.

Some of the rights described take direct aim at preventing common abuses, while others are designed to improve understanding of opportunities available to Latino home buyers who may or may not be U.S. citizens. 

For example, many Latino buyers may have the right to purchase a new home in the United States even if they do not have a Social Security number, lack traditional credit, or receive part of their income in cash. Some buyers may also be eligible for programs that provide assistance with down payments and closing costs.

“When more Latino home buyers understand their rights, options and opportunities, they will hopefully be less likely to be taken advantage of,” said Sparks-Bohn.

Examples of predatory lending and other real estate scams described at the Web site include:

  • Fictitious fees, including unethical real estate agents charging hundreds or thousands of dollars just to look at homes. In the United States, agents are paid by the seller, not the buyer, and payment occurs only at closing.

  • Padding loans with inflated and unauthorized charges. There have been reports of predatory lenders charging up to 10 points to originate loans, while the standard origination fee is 1 point (or 1 percent of the loan amount.)

  • Channeling borrowers into loans with much higher interest rates, even when they would qualify for a lower rate. 

  • Selling properties for more than their market value and covering up major structural problems.

  • “Bait and switch” tactics that stick buyers with much higher interest rates, pre-payment penalties and other onerous terms. Predatory lenders often do everything they can to force buyers to default, so they can resell the property to more victims.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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