Back in the ’60s and ’70s, land sale scams proliferated, and a lot of people ended up buying useless parcels of swampland in Florida. You’ll still come across an occasional reference to someone buying swampland in sitcoms and movies, especially as a way to establish that an older character is gullible or tends to fall for get-rich-quick schemes. It has become such a part of the collective subconscious that it’s turned into a joke.
However, today these scams have seen a resurgence, with online marketplaces such as eBay being the new venue of choice for con artists. In the United States, Florida, Texas and Arizona are the most frequent sites chosen for such scams, but they can happen in other places.
The Attorney General of Florida has published some tips for avoiding this type of fraud, and these apply pretty much anywhere:
- View the property. Do not buy land over the phone or by way of the mail. Talk to residents who live in the area.
- Look into the amount of all fees, such as real estate taxes, or community assessment fees.
- Meet with real estate agents in the area to find out the market for this property. Ask the agent how long it would take to sell the property if need be.
- Check with the county planning office to learn of plans for the land or property near this area that may affect land value. It would be important to know if an airport or dump is scheduled to be built in the future.
- If the land is undeveloped, know who will be responsible for the costs of building roads, utilities or sewers.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Sing us off, George…