BBB Warns Investors, Home Buyers About New Solicitations From Smart Solutions
Two local men whose previous credit repair and loan modification businesses left frustrated customers across the St. Louis region have begun seeking investors to buy residential properties, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
In addition, the men have been advertising heavily for potential renters and homebuyers in Missouri and Illinois. A recent Craigslist ad from the business says: “EZ Finance & Rent-2-Own Makes Ownership EZ as 1-2-3!”
The BBB urges caution when dealing with Steve
Scharf and Michael Hathman or their businesses -- Smart Solutions Financial Services, Smart Solutions Real Estate Investments or We Finance Homes.
Smart Solutions Financial Services has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible.
In August 2011, the BBB reported that some customers of Smart Solutions said the company abandoned them after charging hundreds of dollars each to repair their
credit or help them buy homes. A second alert, two months later, warned that the company had created a new business – Eagle Audit Services – to audit homeowners’ mortgage documents for errors and qualify them for reduced mortgage payments. The BBB has received additional complaints about that program.
In a consumer alert, the Federal Trade Commission has characterized forensic loan audits as “the latest foreclosure rescue scam.”
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said: “For many of its customers, Smart Solutions has proven to be neither smart nor a solution to their credit or home loan problems. Our history suggests that consumers should be very careful about getting involved with these men, especially if it involves making any advance payments.”
“Run for your life and hang onto your money,” said a woman from St. Charles, Mo., who said Smart Solutions did not help her after she paid the firm $500 to improve her credit.
“I got the big time runaround,” said a man from Imperial, Mo. He said he paid the business $2,500 for a mortgage audit after company officials told him the audit would cut his monthly house payments by at least 40 percent. He said the company did nothing to help him. A friend of the man, from Arnold, Mo., said he lost $5,000 in a virtually
Smart Solutions Real Estate Investments, which operates the website www.SmartSolutionsREI.webs.com or www.SmartSolutionsfs.webs.com, recently emailed potential investors, saying, “We specialize in helping investors get started in investing in real estate. We
do all the work with regard to securing homes via creative financing, advertising for buyers and renters with proven ad systems, acquiring tax deeds, certificates, foreclosures, owner financing housing, distressed housing, etc.”
It asks interested persons to contact either Scharf or Hathman.
The Craigslist ads seek customers interested in purchasing a home or renting with an option to buy.
“Let us buy your home for you and you can make payments directly to us!” one of the ads says. The ads refer customers to the website www.wefinancehomes.webs.com. That website also offers financial/credit advising services for $500.
While most complainants have been from the St. Louis area, a man from Kent, Wash., said he paid Smart Solutions $1,900 for a loan audit, but the work was never completed.
A 68-year-old widow from Creve Coeur, Mo., said she paid Smart Solutions $1,000 in April 2011 after a representative told her he could get her monthly house payment cut by nearly $600. She said the firm did not live up to the agreement.
“That $1,000, I can’t even explain how important that was to me,” she said. “It took me a year to save that
and now it is just gone. And nobody cared.”
The company has blamed consumers for not understanding the terms of the agreements, not making full payments for services, or not following through with work they were supposed to do.
In an email response to questions from the BBB regarding their newest venture, Hathman said he and Scharf are now in the business of buying properties and placing buyers/borrowers into the homes.
“We are also helping consult with them (if needed) to better manage their finances. We do not do any credit repair. However, we are motivated to sell the property – which we take title to in our own names – and resell it to the buyer/borrower.”
Hathman described Smart Solutions Real Estate Investments and We Finance Homes as “investment clubs,” or loose groups of independent investors.
In another email, Scharf said Smart Solutions Financial Services and Eagle Audit Services are both out of business. He said he and Hathman are now involved full time in real estate and have many happy customers.
In addition to his involvement in Smart Solutions, Hathman also operates an online matchmaking service called Matches Now or Michael Hathman Matchmaking. On its website, www.matchesnow.webs.com, Hathman describes himself as “a student of psychology and human interaction” with 10 years research in the area of human interrelationships. Base membership of $1,200 per year includes unlimited dating, a one-hour date coaching session and a one hour relationship counseling session, the site says.
The BBB offers the following advice to potential renters, home buyers, or investors:
- Research all business opportunities thoroughly before committing any money.
- Ask for references and contact them to learn their experiences about the business selling or financing the property.
- Insist on a written contract and make sure you read and understand it thoroughly before signing it or paying any money. Do not rely on oral epresentations that are not in the contract.
- If you are uncomfortable with a proposal, contact an attorney to assist you.
- Research the person or company. Contact the BBB for a Business Review at 314-645-3300 or at www.bbb.org.
About the BBB
The BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more
Contact: Michelle L. Corey, President and CEO, (314) 584-6800, firstname.lastname@example.org, Chris Thetford, Vice
President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), email@example.com; or Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org