Real Estate Home Buying Risk Avoidable If Cautious
Monday, February 27 2006 @ 06:30 pm UTC
Contributed by: jron
Reports has it that there are hundreds of Iowans pursuing the American dream to own a home ended up living a nightmare when they became customers of the Wolford Group Inc.
Wolford sold homes on contract for more than homes were worth, charged high interest rates and failed to disclose fees. Over the past few years, the Register has exposed the tragic stories of low-income Iowans taken advantage of by the company.
Owner Rod Wolford Sr., accused of engineering a scam to swindle customers and investors, is now on trial in Polk County District Court. A jury will decide his fate. Then when Wolford went belly-up in 2003, many Iowans lost thousands of dollars, had their credit ruined and lost homes.
Here are several fronts to protect the vulnerable as reported:
It neglected to take another needed step, but after the Register’s revelations, legislators passed laws requiring increased disclosure and inspections for houses sold on contract.
Lawmakers refused to give the Attorney General’s office authority to file lawsuits against violators, if a lender doesn’t follow disclosure law, a customer can hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit.
Bill Brauch, head of the office’s consumer-protection division, said, “If we had the ability to enforce that law, it would be a lot cleaner case. We could use our consumer-fraud statute,” and added “It was unique for the Legislature to deny our request for this. We’ve never quite understood why.”
Anyone who thinks they’re short of cash should consider how short they’ll be when the loan payments come due. Avoid lenders who charge ultra-high interest rates. That includes pay-day and car-title lenders.
Students should be learning about the importance of saving as well as caveats about predatory-lending practices. High schools should offer financial-literacy classes. Consumers also can take steps to protect themselves, but consumer-protection laws in Iowa should be strengthened.