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How to spot a spoof buyer

What is a spoof buyer?

The spoof buyer is a fantasist who puts in an offer on a property then disappears. Their motives are far from clear and it’s certainly not done with any pecuniary gain in mind. Probably all they desire is attention and to be treated like a high roller.

But while the charade might seem harmless to the spoof buyer, the consequences of their often Oscar-worthy performance can, at best, be mildly irritating and, at worst, devastating.

The spoof buyer can set off a chain of events and, indeed, a property chain of transactions which can cause huge abortive legal and survey fees and, in some cases, lost jobs and even broken marriages.

How to protect yourself against spoof buyers

First of all, don’t be frightened to ask for a financial reference. Those who claim to “never have been more insulted in my life” are, almost without exception, low on funds.

Use the power of the internet. Doing a search on a buyer’s name and address can soon throw light on a shady past. Simpler still is to type the address into Google Earth. There could be a good reason why someone buying a £4 million house lives in a £250,000 property. But if so, it will become evident very quickly. If not, alarm bells should be ringing.

Never judge a book by its cover. You certainly cannot tell a genuine buyer from a fake one by their appearance.

Make a note of everything you are told. Good liars are few and far between and bad ones will contradict themselves within moments.

Above all, remember that if buyers seem too good to be true, they probably are.

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