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Real Estate Investment Schemes

The popularity of investments involving distressed real estate continues throughout the boom and bust cycle in the U.S. housing market.  Even as housing prices continue to recover in many U.S. markets, investors should be aware that schemes related to new real estate development projects or buying, renovating, flipping or pooling distressed properties are popular with con artists.  In the latest NASAA enforcement survey, real estate investments were the second-most common product leading to securities fraud investigations by state securities regulators.  While legitimate real estate investments can be an important part of a diversified investment portfolio, there are substantial risks with many types of real estate investments.  In particular, state regulators have seen problems with non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITS), properties that are bank-owned, pending short-sale, or in foreclosure, and flimsy promises of investment funds being secured by an interest in real property when the property in question is already highly leveraged and has no remaining equity.  As with all investments, careful vetting and due diligence is a must with real estate investments.