The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) has noted an increase in individuals purporting to be real estate agents who are scamming individuals of tens of thousands of dollars at a time, and is warning those in the market to be mindful of who they conduct their real estate business with.
BREA President Christine Wallace-Whitfield said individuals have gotten crafty using social media and creating websites, placing real estate in their name, and taking individuals' money without the proper license.
'With these phones, computers and social media, we've noticed that people are trying their hardest to make fast money," Wallace-Whitfield said.
“But the licensed BREA agents, we put our time and effort into studying, adhering to the rules and regulations, the laws, our ethics, and we do it properly. They're out there and I see they're promoting on Facebook and that's something that probably needs to be reported to Facebook as well. These guys are acting illegally"
Despite there being over 700 licensed real estate agents throughout the country, Wallace-Whitfield said “fraudsters" and "“rogue agents" are picking up more and more clients and seeking to sell property without the proper documentation to do so.
“We've written to the Royal Bahamas Police Force many times to say that this person is not licensed with BREA and that he or she is going around selling property," she said.
Former BREA President Carla Sweeting said these individuals have found a way around the system offering competitive rates that seem unbeatable. “A lot of these rogue realtors, they will give you a better commission," Sweeting said. “But there's a good ole saying, you pay for what you get. So, if you go into the Dollar Store and you buy something at the Dollar Store, you can't expect that to be the same quality as if you go to a quality store. Unfortunately, innocent people get hurt because they lose money and there's a long court battle to get it back"
Sweeting said the current real estate laws do not bare enough teeth to deal with this sort of behavior. In addition, she said there are more people defrauding their way into the industry without having a business license.
“The law says right now that we are allowed to issue three licenses: a developer's license, a salesman's license and a broker's license," she said.
“A broker is the only one who can open an office to operate and have salesmen under him. If a salesman wants to open up an office, there may not be anything in the law that says he can't do that, but he has to have a licensed broker who is the operating broker and will be responsible for all staff, including himself, under him. There is no other way that you can operate real estate without having that license."
She added, “The police, in my experience, wanted to see some kind of agreement or listing and usually they [fraud agents] don't provide those things."
Wallace-Whitfield said when looking to purchase or rent through a real estate agent, one should seek the assistance of BREA first. “It is so important that when you're looking to invest or list your home, that you consult a BREA licensed agent because we also represent appraisers," she said.
“One of the things that they need to do is get a licensed appraiser that is approved by the lending institution and that's something that can help because our agents or our appraisers are on their list."
To find out if someone is a licensed real estate agent, a check can be done on BREA's website Bahamasrealestateassociation.com by typing in the individual's name.