Flipping can sometimes also be a criminal scheme. Illegal property flipping is a fraud-for-profit scheme whereby recently acquired real property is resold for a considerable profit with an artificially inflated value. The real property is resold within a short time frame, often after making only cosmetic improvements to the real property. Illegal property flipping often involves collusion between a real estate appraiser, a mortgage originator and a closing agent. The cooperation of a real estate appraiser is necessary since a false and artificially inflated appraisal report is required. The buyer (ultimate borrower) may or may not be aware of the situation. This type of fraud is one of the most costly for lenders because the loss is always large.

The following is an example of an illegal property flip: A buyer contracts to purchase a property in his name for $30,000. Before closing the deal, he draws up a second contract to sell the property to a co-conspirator at $70,000 — a price substantially higher than market value. He seeks a loan for a second contract through a mortgage lender or a mortgage broker and submits an application. A real estate appraiser inflates the value of the property, enough to justify the loan, and is paid triple the usual fee (although many times inexperienced or incompetent appraisers are unwittingly caught in the scheme through pressure and intimidation from the scammers). A mortgage lender approves the application and releases the $70,000. Next, the contracts for the property are closed either simultaneously or within a short time from each other. The originator of the scheme takes the $70,000, pays off the $30,000 and divides the remaining $40,000 between himself and any other plotters — usually the mortgage broker or loan officer and sometimes the second buyer. The lender ends up with a 100% or greater loan to value mortgage. That buyer makes a few payments on the property, then defaults and allows it to go into foreclosure. Finally, the lender learns that the property doesn’t even cover the loan value.

In the United States, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), which governs real estate appraisal, and Fannie Mae, which oversees the secondary residential mortgagemarket, have enacted practices to detect illegal flipping schemes.

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