As foreclosures continue to spike and the number of vacant homes for sale spirals higher, homeowners are increasingly vulnerable to companies that peddle questionable services or outright scams.
The problem is especially acute and more pronounced in the larger cities.
Experts say conditions are ripe in the foreclosure and high-end housing market for exploitation, where such a high percentage of vacant homes are lingering on the market for a year, two years or more. Consumers are encouraged to be on the alert.
Almost daily, we read in the newspaper about vandalism, theft, parties in vacant homes, expensive repairs and plummeting property values that come from leaving homes vacant and for sale.
In some cases in larger cities they're seeing fly-by-night companies moving home squatters into vacant properties in the hopes of wrestling possession of the home from the owner!
The prospect of selling a home for 20-30 percent below its real value, and in many cases waiting months or years for it to sell, is hard enough.
Now the public has to worry about sneaky scam artists trying to take advantage of distressed homeowners.
Thankfully, we in rural Iowa don't have to be as concerned as our big-city neighbors. But still, it pays in the end to keep our eyes wide open for the many pitfalls that exist regarding homes for sale in really tough economic times.