One thing I was discussing with a colleague the other day is what seems to be a rise in real estate related scams that are happening both locally and nationally. This is not to say these scams are “new” or something that has never happened before, but something people should be aware of in their pursuit to buy, sell or rent. According to FBI statistics there were over 11,000 victims of real estate and rental fraud in 2021. Let’s look at a couple of the most common types of scams that are out there and what can be done to prevent them.
Wire fraud is a complex scam that involves phishing (the practice of tricking internet users to acquire sensitive data through a fraudulent email or website) and then the scammer often poses as a party to the transaction (escrow officer, closing attorney). They send out faulty wire instructions, and just like that have stolen thousands or perhaps millions of dollars. Wire fraud can be quite sophisticated, and hard to detect, especially when compared to some of the other scams that have red flags. This is due to the scammers using phony emails/websites that appear to be real and legitimate.
The best way to protect yourself from being a victim of wire fraud is to communicate with your escrow/closing groups about how the wiring process will work. Who will be sending the instructions, on what date/time, that way you know when to expect them and know who will be sending them. Next, once you have received the wire instructions, call and verify the instructions, but do not use any number from the instructions that were sent to you, call the officer/attorney you have been working with directly to verify/confirm the instructions. I work with the same escrow officer/team on all my deals, so I know their names, and when/why they will be contacting my clients. If you are ever unsure, call your real estate agent and have them help with any issues.
One of the most common scams in real estate is one that preys upon people desperately looking for a rental. The “phantom rental” trick has been around a while because it works, especially in places where it is so competitive to find rentals. The scam itself is simple; scammers create a fake “for Rent” advertisement and often use pictures and information from current listings to make it seem legitimate. The listing will often have a below market rent and be in a desirable area. Once someone inquires the scammer will require some sort of deposit to reserve the place or to hold it for you. Once the scammer has the money, the potential renters will show up to either a fake address or a real address with someone already living in the property.
The best way to prevent this type of scam is the same as preventing 90% of scams, and that is taking notice of red flags. Like the saying we have heard over and over, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” No reputable landlord or property manager requires any money up front for a “deposit” or to “hold” or to “view” a property, except for an application fee. If you are exclusively dealing with someone online, who is out of town/state/country you need to proceed with caution and be very skeptical. Use tools at your disposal like Deschutes County DIAL to search for property records, addresses and owner information. One final tip is to use and rely on professionals, like licensed real estate agents, licensed property managers, escrow/title officers and attorneys who are more than happy to assist you!
In the before times, prior to the establishment of Oregon’s Adult Use recreational cannabis program, the list of things to consider when purchasing weed was fairly short, including but not limited to: “Is it, like, chronic?” “How much?” and “How late from the time my dealer says they will arrive will they actually show up?”
“Been two hours. I’ll try his beeper again” sighed many a stood-up stoner. Simpler times…
When buying cannabis now, questions primarily concern potency, terpene content and if the product/strain will deliver on your intended outcomes. But for many, the same questions they ask when making other purchases are being asked about their cannabis, often involving how it was produced.
Cannabis is an agricultural crop, and like all cultivated crops, is generally produced in two forms: small scale sun-grown “Craft” and large-scale indoor “Commercial.” As cannabis continues its transition from “illegal evil drug comin’ for your children, booga booga” to “taxed and regulated commodity helping fund schools and police departments, ka-ching,” the sector of consumers who seek out craft cannabis is growing—not simply for the quality, but for the shared beliefs in ecological stewardship and supporting small businesses.
Trigger warning: Whenever one is discussing the merits of sun-grown cannabis it is often framed as a contest between that and indoor, instead of a comparison. I know indoor growers can produce remarkable, award-winning flowers, which I regularly enjoy very much. So, while “sun-grown versus indoor” is a false equivalence, “craft compared to commercial” is not.
A new public education and awareness campaign looks to help cannabis consumers identify sun-grown producers that adhere to certain organic cannabis farming practices and ideals.
“Weed Like Change,” a name which clearly someone signed off on while high AF, is a coalition including dispensaries, producers, nonprofits and “Sun+Earth” certified farms and brands.
Sun+Earth is a two-years-young nonprofit that promotes and certifies growers producing sun-grown cannabis using regenerative organic soil practices, and who fairly compensate their workers. Their 50-plus small craft cannabis farms, primarily in southern California and southern Oregon, with a few in Washington, are spotlighted by “Weed Like Change” to amplify the value of environmental impacts of cannabis produced this way.
The farms, all sun grown, have a carbon footprint of 1/25th that of an indoor grow, and forgoe herbicides, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers for compost teas, soil inoculants and nitrogen- fixing cover crops.
Some of my favorite flowers lately have been from small craft sun-grown farms, providing outstanding taste, potency, bag appeal and high terpene contents. I’ve written of my love for Green Source Gardens, who arguably are Oregon’s foremost regenerative organic soil cannabis growers, as well as members of the Weed Like Change campaign. They offered up some strains that delivered soaring highs, subterranean chilled out lows, with mouth-watering terpene levels. Also great? Their lower production costs result in wallet-friendly prices.
Other Oregon members include Luminous Botanicals, East Fork Cultivars, Groundworks Industries—owners of Serra, Farma and Electric Lettuce, Somewhere Dispensary, Phoenix Rising, and several other farms. They are joined by Brother David’s, a nonprofit cannabis brand whose 100% of proceeds are dedicated to supporting small cannabis farms.
Technology has developed grow systems utilizing high intensity, low energy LEDS and more efficient HVAC systems for indoor growers, offering a smaller carbon footprint than traditional indoor grow systems using massively inefficient rows of 1000 watt lights and HVAC.
Reducing our carbon footprint involves numerous small changes and choices. The choice to support small sun-grown craft cannabis is one of the easiest.
Weed Like Change
Despite climbing interest rates, supply and demand in the housing market remains significantly unbalanced. There are still many more buyers looking for homes than units available. As a result, it remains a sellers’ market, with prices up more than 20% from just one year ago.
Some investors who own and rent out homes or other types of dwellings (duplexes, townhomes, condos, etc.) decide to cash in their equity by selling their tenant-occupied units. For buyers competing in the limited supply of housing for sale in Central Oregon, finding the perfect house to purchase may pose additional challenges if it is currently inhabited by a tenant. Owners, too, must be able to navigate and comply with tenant protection laws in Oregon when selling.
In order to help manage expectations for future use of a tenant-occupied property—whether for investment or personal use—buyers should consider retaining an attorney. Similarly, sellers should consult an attorney before listing currently leased property for sale. Real estate agents cannot review lease documents or advise on a specific landlord-tenant arrangements unless they are also licensed to practice law.
The following considerations apply: first, the type of tenancy (month-to-month, or fixed term); second, the length of occupancy time (especially if less than one year); third, the expiration date of the tenancy term; and fourth, the rights of the tenant under the specific lease contract. Oregon law is very tenant-protective with respect to termination. Among other things, if a tenant has lived in the dwelling for more than one year, the owner/landlord cannot terminate the tenancy for “no cause,” but must have a “qualifying landlord” reason.
If an owner/landlord desires to sell leased property to a buyer and terminate the existing tenancy, that owner can only do so if the buyer intends to reside in the home after closing. If a buyer purchasing a tenant-occupied home wants to re-rent the property to a different occupant, that would not be a “qualifying landlord reason” to terminate. In addition to a showing of a “qualifying landlord reason,” the owner must provide appropriate advance notice of termination to a tenant. This time period varies based on the type of tenancy.
A buyer could request that the seller work with a tenant to determine whether the tenant may consider voluntarily surrendering the property prior to the end of the term. This may be necessitated if the buyer is financing the purchase for residential purposes, because lenders require that the home be buyer-occupied within 60 days of closing.
Just as the housing market is still tight for buyers, rental units are also difficult to come by at reasonable rates. When considering a transaction involving a tenant-occupied home, communication and cooperation with all affected parties are key. Be sure to work with a knowledgeable real estate broker, as well as an attorney who can advise you on the intricacies of landlord-tenant law. With a reliable team helping you through the process, the additional challenges posed by these transactions can be addressed, whether you are looking to buy a home to live in, or one for investment purposes.