Ask Clark: Are those mailers advertising cheap lakefront & mountain property a scam?


You’ve probably seen them tucked among the clutter in your mailbox: Picturesque mailings on nice card stock touting beautiful lots of land at unbelievably low prices. The advertisements typically include a sale date so as to put haste into your decision-making.

The mass mailings, designed to play on our desires to own a second home, can be quite tempting. I mean, who doesn’t want multiple acres of undeveloped land in a picturesque setter? What’s not to like about having a second home on the lake? Who wouldn’t want a mountain stream running through their backyard?

Money expert Clark Howard says while such mass real estate advertisements aren’t necessarily a scam, extreme caution should be exercised when considering them.

Mass mailings about rural property for sale: Good deal or badlands?

“Every year from Memorial Day to Labor Day there are mass mailings around the country with people trying to sell second-home property, where developers during the real estate bust bought land in the mountains, at resorts, by lakes — you name it ,” Clark says.
The glut of mailings can be attributed to the real estate bust of the late 2000s, when speculation ran rampant, he says.
“Everybody thought they were going to get filthy rich building second-home communities.”
As we all know, things didn’t quite work out that way. Saddled with these vast tracts of land, many owners walked away from them, leaving these properties in the hands of the banks.
Clark says that the advertisements for resort properties, mountainside parcels and lakefront acreage isn’t necessarily bad, but they’re being “overhyped” — so consumers need to look at these situations with their eyes open.

Looking for a second home? Here’s what Clark says NEVER to do

Clark says if you are in the market for a second home, here’s something you should never do: Buy an empty lot.
“I have a real bias against raw land for a second home,” he says. “When you’re looking for a second home, buy one where the home is already there. Don’t buy a vacant lot with the hope that someday you’ll build on it. You’ll create an obligation, not a joy.”

Listen to Clark Howard talk about mass real estate mailings on his podcast

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