Property Grunt

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

This could have been me.

When I found this on the Inman blog I almost went into shock.

Full disclosure
Quick: name a Web-based tool that anyone with a browser and Internet access can use to research the background of a loan applicant. Oh, and it's free.

If you didn't say Google, go spend a few minutes on "," the blog written by a 24-year old Web site programmer who got in over his head investing in real estate. If you haven't heard Casey Serin's story, between October 2005 and May 2006, he bought eight homes in six states using 100 percent stated income loans, getting $15,000 to $50,000 cash back on every loan, he says.

Of course, "Everything went wrong," Serin writes in his first blog entry. "The rehabs were way behind schedule and grossly over budget. I was too busy flying around the country visiting each job. No time to manage details. I couldn’t sell the houses fast enough. I managed to sell only 2 out of 8, and got stuck with the rest."

As a last resort, Serin says, he went for one more cash-at-close loan. The Sacramento, Calif. resident found a builder willing to pay his closing costs and give him $50,000 cash back at close and lease the house for 12 months. With his credit maxed out, Serin had to call around to find a loan he qualified for. "Finally I found the right program. I was barely qualifying but everything was going smooth. But then... They Googled me!"

Serin was trying to claim the house as a second home. The would-be lender found another blog where Serin talked about investing in fixer-uppers around the country and backed out. "My mortgage broker was really amazed. He has never seen them get so picky and go to such length to investigate the borrower," Serin writes.

Since then, he's sold another home and is down to five. Some have questioned whether his blog is just a publicity stunt, but USA Today verified Serin's closing documents before running a story Sunday declaring he may be "a poster child for everything that went wrong in the real estate boom."

With entries like "Will I Go to Jail for Mortgage Fraud?" Serin's blog is a fascinating read. The details of how he got in too deep are a revelation, and so far he's resisted the advice of readers to keep a few things to himself in the interest of self-preservation.

"Yes you committed mortgage fraud," one reader says. "You not only provided false and intentionally misleading information in your loan application but you also blatantly lied about occupying your investment properties to get a better rate ... For your sake, STOP telling people about this and consult an attorney immediately. Good luck."
--Matt Carter, Inman News

This freaked me out because I could have been this guy. When I initially entered the real estate field it was to become an investor but it was only after my big sister smacked some sense into me and reminded me that I knew nothing about the industry except for some books and CDs I listened to. She suggested I become an agent in order to get a feel for the industry. Worst case scenario I could walk away without incurring an serious damage to myself.

I am a bit conflicted about this guy. I admire the fact he is being honest with himself but with entries like Am I going to jail for mortgage fraud, he is asking for more trouble along with his debt of $2.2 million. He should really learn to shut the f**k up and take the advice of one his readers and get a really good lawyer. Currently the government has a serious hard on for mortgage fraud and I would not be surprised if they decide to take Casey to the bat and beat him with it.

If he is lucky he could pull a savekaryn and land himself a book deal and speaking engagements. Considering there has been a tremendous amount of resentment towards rising property values due to real estate investors flooding the market, I sense there will be others who will not be so sympathetic to his plight.

I do recommend his blog because it will teach what not to do in real estate and I will be analyzing his entries in the near future.

Casey, if you are reading this, please get a lawyer. If not for yourself then for your wife. Even if you get rid of your properties, you are nowhere near from getting out of the water.