The Sacramento Bee reports that as the number of short sales in the area rise, so do the imaginative ways some people can come up with to exploit them.

The SacBee article warns of these schemes:

• Unlicensed short sale “negotiators” are approaching homeowners, asking for thousands of dollars up front to negotiate with lenders, said Tom Pool, spokesman for the California Department of Real Estate. Only attorneys and licensed brokers can ask for money up front – and only after the DRE approves the agreement with an individual seller. The DRE recently published a consumer alert about this and other scams.

• Real estate agents or these negotiators are lowballing offers to overwhelmed banks, a practice called “flopping.” After the bank approves a short sale at a low price, the agent or negotiator quickly flips the house to a new buyer for much more. Elizabeth Weintraub, a Sacramento short sale agent with Lyon Real Estate, said would-be floppers often want to use their own title companies. That’s a red flag.

• Real estate agents say banks are illegally seeking extra money in hidden side deals before approving short sales.

• Some homeowners, especially savvy, well-off owners who owe far more than their houses are worth, are hiding savings and income to persuade lenders to agree to short sales. Many can afford their mortgages, said Coldwell Banker short-sale specialist Mike Toste of Roseville. But they also know it will take years to recoup their 2006 values.

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