Over the weekend I received an email, not out of the ordinary, from a lady wanting to double check the status of a home. In the email, the prospective tenant asked if this home really for rent or is it for sale. Here is the actual email I received:
I saw this house for rent about maybe a month or so ago. and it said for rent not sale. and it was 700 a month with all utilities included and i emailed the guy who said he is renting it out and he says his name is Joshua J Maple. now he says he was the previous owner of the house. to avoid being scammed i am just wondering if this is true. thank you. and if it is true. i would love to see this house in person. because if this is all correct what this guy is saying then i am very interested in renting it. btw he says he is in west africa nigeria. would you know if this is true or not?
In this case, the home inquired on was a HUD home and HUD homes are not for rent. Period. End of story.
Unfortunately, scams are common place and I commend the emailer for doing her due diligence and inquiring further regarding a property’s status before handing over money. As Snohomish County continues to experiences tough times, since unemployment is still a bit high, these scams will continue to prey on vulnerable people whom need cheap housing.
5 Real Estate Scams to Avoid and Be Aware of
1. Ad Owner says the Property is for Rent
There is ad running online, or in print, for a property and the ads says 1234 Main Street is for rent. The information seems correct and even has a phone number or email for further contact. However, after cross referencing the property’s address with a real estate broker it shows the property is for sale with no rental option. False advertising to lure prospecting renters into giving money over.
2. Ad Requests Money for Credit/Background Check and Application Fee
The property’s ad directly requests money for a credit/background check and application fee and is somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 – $50. Again, the ad appears to be legit with contact info, where to mail or send money online, and the property’s information. However, when sending the money the ad disappears and the contact person is no where to be found.
3. The Home being Advertised isn’t even for Sale or Rent
The ad is completely false and the property advertised is neither for sale or for rent. The homeowners or tenants currently living in the home have no idea an ad is running advertising the property and are only notified when prospective tenants come to take a peek.
4. Misleading Links and Redirections Tactics
Ads have links in the body text, not that uncommon as I even use them, but upon clicking those links the page is redirected the user to a web address very different than the original. The prospective buyers/renters are then asked/prompted to fill out some contact form in which that info is then used to steal identity.
5. Get Rich by Flipping Houses with no Money Down
Similar to infomercials, the get rich by flipping houses promises to buy and flip houses with zero money down. Last time I checked, the only way to buy homes zero down is with owner occupant financing. The gimmick is to sell a tool kit that promise to teach the ins and outs of flipping houses.
These scams are unfortunate by product of our digital age and economic times so how can prospective buyers and tenants avoid being taken advantage of.
How to Avoid Real Estate Scams
1. Do your due diligence and research the property or properties. Call a real estate broker to cross reference property with the NWMLS’s database and/or to see if the ad is real or not. If you are in Washington State just ask me, Mickie or Teresa for more info.
2. Never give out or send money online. If you have to deliver money for a credit/background check or application fee, ask to meet in person, at the house (ask them to provide access), and/or at their office. This will easily determine if its a legitimate property management firm or real estate broker. If it is a homeowner renting the home you can always check county records to see if the provided name and the county’s records names match.
3. Be careful of every form you’re asked to fill out and ask yourself “is this a site I can trust?”, “does this site have an easy way to contact its owners other than this form?”, and/or “does the website look hokey and does the website’s address look odd?”. Take a moment and check the website and its owners out.
These 3 steps will take a bit more time than the instant gratification that we’re used too but they are steps that can save us a lot of money and heartache.