We are looking at real estate scams and how to avoid them. Although such scams are rare in Macau, they do happen and the money involved can be significant.
Scam: Fake listings
Fake listings exist for a number of reasons, and you’ll find them all over the place.
One type is the “bait and switch”: An agency will list a seemingly great apartment at a great price, but won’t have it available when you call.
Now property in Macau moves very quickly, so it’s difficult to determine whether an apartment has really just been rented or sold.
Some agents will hold open houses, collect non-refundable application fees, and vanish.
How To Avoid The “Fake Listing” scam
So how to tell if a listing is fake?
Research is the first line of defense. Look at the property listing’s time on market. If the listing looks like it’s a good find, but has been sitting on the market for more than a month, something is not quite right.
It’s also possible there could be some issues with the property, and a simple internet search will help to shed some light on that.
If you stumble upon an amazing deal for a property, it’s a sign to proceed with caution. Of course, some good deals are just that…good deals.
However, beware the once in a lifetime deals, it’s likely that it is either listed incorrectly or may be illegal in some way. The property may be used as a dwelling but is actually designated as an industrial space, or it may have been a two bedroom apartment that has been turned into a three or four bedroom.
You can ‘cross-examine’ the agent if you are suspicious with some straight forward questions, for example;
“How many others have you shown the property to?”
“Can I see the original floor plan?”
“Why is this property still on the market?”
Agents may also try to misrepresent their involvement with a property and an owner by listing properties that they do not have permission to list.
As Macau is so small, there is a lot of cooperation between agents, some of whom are representing an owner, and others who represent a buyer or a tenant. There’s nothing wrong with this provided the agent is up-front about the relationship. You can always ask;
“Is this property listed with your company?” and
“Can I see a copy of the listing agreement?”
Once you are satisfied that the property is legitimate and you want to proceed with a deal, don’t forget to ask the real estate agent for their Real Estate License and ID copy. All agents should carry their license with them, and it should not be an issue to be able to supply this quickly and easily.
Lastly you will want to see the Busca or official property document (this can be obtained from any Public Notary Office, all you need is the property address) with all details including the registered owner. The name on any contract should match that on the official document.
Juliet Risdon is a Director of JML Property and a property investor.
Having been established in 1994, JML Property offers investment property & homes. It specializes in managing properties for owners and investors, and providing attractive and comfortable homes for tenants.