Besides going to the DMV, doing taxes is the part of being a grownup that Riptide hates most. So we usually wouldn't be thinking about it this early, but it seems some good folks in Coconut Grove have an extra-special reason to hate April 15 this year. They're paying more taxes on their homes than ever, thanks to too-high housing assessments -- a result of mortgage fraud in past years.
Yesterday, Tom Dixon -- who served on the Miami-Dade Mortgage Fraud Task Force -- told us one more way old financial schemes are affecting average joe homeowners. Without getting too bank-termy, the sham went like this: Jerk #1 had a house worth $200,000 but agreed to sell it to Jerk #2 for double that much. So Jerk #2 took out a $400,000 mortgage to buy it and let the house go into foreclosure. He then took off with the cash and cut Jerk #1 a percentage of what he swindled.
By now, the trick is passé on the white-collar crime circuit. Problem is, it totally present-day screws people such as teacher/writer Glenn Terry, whose home is sized-up by what houses around it go for. "It's a little wooden house in a bad part of the Grove," he says. "It's not worth a quarter of a million." Terry had to fight the city this past week to prove it was actually worth about $140,000.
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While homeowners are affected by high assessments all over Miami-Dade, Dixon made note of the phenomenon in condos on Brickell and homes in parts of Coconut Grove. He adds, "It explains why we're in such a mess."