Officials to unveil program to combat flipping

January 16, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

In an effort to protect homebuyers from property-flipping schemes, city lawmakers, lenders and Realtors are launching a public awareness campaign today.

Billboards and bus signs are already up, and radio and television ads will start airing soon - all directing potential homebuyers to counseling and information so they don't end up with an excessively overpriced house.

A toll-free hot line - 888-949-6677 - connects consumers with a housing counselor from the Maryland Center for Community Development. Community groups can also call the number to set up home-buying seminars.

During the past five years, more than 3,500 Baltimore houses have been "flipped" - bought and quickly resold at vastly inflated prices. While flipping isn't in itself unlawful, it becomes illegal if falsified documents and inflated appraisals are used to sell the houses for more than they are worth, and to secure mortgages for more than the value of a house.

On Friday, a Baltimore County man pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in a fraudulent Baltimore flipping scheme.

Thomas "Tucker" Mayer, 53, was the eighth person in recent months convicted on federal charges related to property flipping.

The public awareness campaign was organized by the city's Department of Housing and Community Development and the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors Joint Task Force to Prevent Real Estate Fraud.

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