Real Estate Scams Target Elderly

December 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

With the real estate market continuing to decline, homeowners are faced with the discouraging reality that their home has significantly lost value and many struggle with the fact that they now owe more than their home is worth.  To make a bad situation worse, there are some con artists that are using the opportunity to take advantage of elderly homeowners.

“Current real estate market conditions have opened the doors for financial elder abuse by obtaining property through undue influence or fraud,” says Elizabeth Ernster, an attorney with Ernster Law Offices, P.C., in Pasadena, California (  “The unfortunate reality is that many seniors are being swindled by real estate agents who have convinced them into selling their home for less than its market value, and then making a large profit off the sale.” listed advice and some of the red flags to watch for if your loved one is working with someone to sell their home.

An “agent” who doesn’t answer questions directly may be a scammer.  Being vague about the buyer, what real estate company they represent, or why the buyer doesn’t want to look at the inside of home are all red flags and means the deal is very likely a scam.

Pressured Decision Making
The “agent” has a valid-looking contract in hand – all it requires is the elder’s signature, right away.  The reason for an immediate decision is typically tied to the other red flag – the out-of-town buyer is ready to leave.

To protect the elderly from real estate fraud, Ernster recommends two strategies:

Put Assets In A Trust
The best way to prevent elders from any type of scam is to ask them to put their assets in a trust, Ernster says.  That way, the elders are no longer personal owners of that asset.  As an example, an 85-year-old might sign a contract as an individual to sell his home under duress.  However, if the property is in trust, the trustee must be the party to sign the contract for sale in order for it to be valid and binding.

Keep Open Dialogue
If a caregiver or family member has regular, open communication with the elder, frauds can be prevented.  Ask your elder to never sign anything or give any personal information, such as a social security number or credit card numbers, without calling a family member first.

“I see cases where the elder did not tell kids because they were embarrassed,” Ernster says. “This could have been prevented if the elder knew to call a trusted advisor first.”

If you have any concerns about your loved one selling their property please contact tLegacy Law Firm, LLC.  The firm is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients.  The office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334 or email at

Helping your family build a lasting legacy from one generation to the next.


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§ 3 Responses to Real Estate Scams Target Elderly

  • Good Morning,

    I appreciate reading your blog on legal issues facing elders. I am CEO of a non-medical home health care organization. We put out a periodic newsletter to our caregivers, and I would like permission to quote from your blogs from time to time if the topic is of particular relevance to our company’s employees and clients. We would of course, give attribution to your firm for the information.

    This blog post is of particular relevance at this point in time, it would seem.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    David R. Updegraff, MSW, Ph.D.
    PCOA for All
    Tucson, AZ
    (dba: BestCare@Home)

    • David,

      First off, sorry it took us a few days to respond. You have our permission to quote from our blog. Thanks so much for reading. We appreciate your interest.

      Dawn Weekly
      Legacy Law Office

      • David Updegraff says:

        Thank you, Dawn, and have a Happy New Year!

        [DRU 350 X 350]
        David R. Updegraff, M.S.W., Ph.D.
        PCOA for ALL, Inc.
        3950 S. Country Club Rd, Suite 4102
        Tucson, AZ, 85714
        52—243-8071 (Main Number)
        520-243-8082 (Direct Line)
        520-780-4273 (Mobile)

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