Seller financing fraud on the rise in Alberta

Vigilance urged by consumers considering financing options to buy or sell properties

Cases of fraud or misleading behaviour around seller financing are on the rise in Alberta, according to the Real Estate Council of Alberta.

And the organization is urging vigilance by consumers who are considering financing options to buy or sell properties.

RECA said seller financing, also sometimes known as a vendor take-back mortgage, is a type of mortgage in which the seller lends funds to the buyer to facilitate the purchase of a property. Rent-to-own agreements fall into this category, said the council.

“Seller financing is an acceptable alternative to securing financing through a traditional lender,” said Bob Myroniuk, the council’s executive director. “However, when entering a deal that involves seller financing, we’re urging consumers to be vigilant, and understand exactly what they’re getting into.”

RECA said consumers should:

  • Hire their own licensed real estate brokerage. A licensed real estate professional must act only in your best interests; above their own interests and those of other people. Your own representation can make sure your interests are looked after if you encounter a seller’s real estate agent offering seller financing. Consumers can find out whether an individual is licensed by using RECA’s Find a Professional tool on the RECA website.
  • Talk to a lawyer. Have your lawyer review the contract to ensure the agreement is legal. If the seller or the seller’s real estate professional insists on using a specific lawyer, this is a red flag.
  • Verify the property title. It’s always good to know exactly who owns the property and what’s registered on title, particularly a mortgage. If a substantial mortgage is registered on title, then the funds the seller claims they will lend you may be the bank’s funds, not their own. This is another red flag. You can search titles online through Service Alberta’s Spatial Information System.
  • Ensure the contract is complete. Read the contract to ensure it specifies who will make mortgage payments, to whom, and if applicable, that any lender on title is aware of and approves this seller financing arrangement. It’s a red flag if the contract does not specify who will be making payments, and to whom.

– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business


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