Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Houston-Based Real Estate Operator Notorious For Allegedly Burying Onerous Terms Into His "Contract For Deed" Financing When Peddling Homes To Unsophisticated, Credit-Lacking Homebuyers Enters San Antonio Market

In San Antonio, Texas, the San Antonio Express-News reports:
  • Jack Markman, a Houston-based real estate investor accused in lawsuits of pressuring low-income customers into signing property contracts that are designed to fail, has entered the San Antonio market with plans to buy more than a hundred homes in the area.

    He bought three single-family homes on the West Side and one on the East Side last month in a partnership with local mortgage broker Fred Hobbs, county property records show. Markman said he wants to buy between 100 and 200 homes over several years, repair them and sell them “to people who probably wouldn’t qualify for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac,” the quasi-governmental mortgage companies that own or guarantee $4.8 trillion of the $11.1 trillion U.S. home loan market.

    Markman has been sued at least a half-dozen times in the last 15 years by Houston-area residents who say he deceived them into signing a “contract for deed,” an installment loan that allowed Markman to retain the title to the property until it was paid in full. After signing the contracts, the buyers were hit with unexpected fees that kept them from paying off the principal of their loans, according to the lawsuits.

    The lawsuits allege that Markman’s companies target Spanish-speaking immigrants, negotiating the contracts in Spanish but presenting them in English with terms different from what was discussed.

    The cases were all settled, Markman said, declining to provide further details because the terms were confidential.

    “We settled them because they were a lawsuit, and that’s about it. To litigate something costs a small fortune today,” Markman said in a phone interview. “We’re trying to provide housing for low-income people who can’t get housing otherwise … Real estate is a good investment for these people. We are providers of wealth.”

    Markman said the plaintiffs in the lawsuits represent a small portion of the people who have done business with him and mostly ended up satisfied. Houston-area residents who have signed contracts with him have protested his business practices by showing up at his office with a giant inflatable shark and making payments in pennies, according to the Houston Chronicle.

    Complaints about Markman and other landlords offering contracts for deed spurred the Texas Legislature to pass strict regulations for the practice in 2001 and 2005. Markman said he has stopped offering contracts for deed and won’t offer any in San Antonio.

    “He was just doing what people do who handle those types of loans. They try to get as much as they can, find the violation, flip it and sell it to someone else and do it over and over again,” said Robert Sohns, a retired lawyer for Lone Star Legal Aid who won a case against Markman and said he resolved many other complaints against him outside the courtroom. “People think they’re buying; they are, but the odds of finally getting those deeds are slim.”

    Sohns added that “it’s not that unusual to happen in this state... He was not the worst offender.”

    Markman, who says he has been operating in the Houston real estate market for 48 years, said he plans to sell houses in San Antonio with what he described as his typical financing arrangement: a 30-year mortgage with 9.99 percent interest and 3 percent down.

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