The 6 Most Common Rental Scams

Common-Rental-Scams-042516-Hero

Here’s what to do when finding an apartment goes from annoying to criminal.

There’s almost no way around it: Finding an apartment can be stressful. The search, the competition, the upfront money … they’re all reasons most of us try to move as infrequently as possible. (The additional expense and frustrations of moving all of your stuff probably also play a role.) But sometimes the rental process goes from merely aggravating to actually illegal. While the vast majority of rental listings are legitimate, rental scams are out there, and they’re not always easy to spot. “Recently, we’ve been encountering a lot of fraud that doesn’t fit the historical norm,” says David Peters, director of engineering at HotPads, a Zillow Group company that powers Trulia rental listings.

Here are six of the most common rental scams out there, along with suggestions for how to avoid them.

1. Fake credit requests

One common rental scam involves a request for a credit report. Here’s how it works: The scam artist posts a fake apartment listing online and asks to check the credit reports of potential renters using a link they provide. The link redirects to a credit report company that uses a referral program; the scammer can earn up to $18 per credit report request.

The credit report itself may be legit, but the need to obtain it in the first place isn’t, since the apartment listing is bogus. To avoid this scam, don’t release your credit report through a link from a potential landlord; instead, when you’re satisfied a landlord is legit, get your credit report through one of the three credit-reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and have a hard copy available for the landlord when you meet them.

2. Sketchy real estate agent services

Another common rental scam: fake real estate agent services. These services offer to generate a list of preforeclosure or rent-to-own rental properties for clients — appealing because of their lower price points — and then request either a sign-up fee or a monthly fee of up to $200. The list the client receives is usually full of sham real estate listings, either fake or expired, and it’s impossible to get a refund on the sign-up fee. Skip this one by searching rental listings for free on Trulia!

3. Asking for money before you see the apartment

“The most common type of scam we encounter involves convincing a renter to send a deposit, first month’s rent, or application fee before allowing them to see inside a unit or without meeting in person,” says Peters. Imagine: You find a terrific online listing that seems as if it’ll be snatched up immediately, so the request for money upfront may not seem entirely unreasonable. And unlike some scam listings of the past, which might include misspellings or photos stolen from another site, these write-ups seem completely aboveboard. “Fraudsters are constantly adapting to improve their odds of successfully stealing money from renters, so they’re making their fake listings look increasingly legit,” says Peters. Still, there shouldn’t be a cost for admission, so if you’re asked for cash upfront, walk away. “There is never a reason to send money without viewing an apartment or meeting in person,” Peters adds, especially if the request is for a money transfer. This is because it’s basically impossible to stop payment on a wire transfer, unlike a check or credit card payment.

4. A copy-and-pasted ad

Say a legitimate landlord writes up a compelling listing for their newly vacant apartment and posts it online. A scammer can very easily copy and paste the listing but significantly lower the price, which will generate furious interest. Otherwise known as the “clone scam,” this maneuver is especially aimed at someone who’s busy or renting from out of town and is willing to put down money sight unseen.

Another clue will be a request for an unusually high security deposit, since the scammer is seeking to take off with as much money as possible, as fast as possible. “We try hard to make sure you never come across fraudulent listings, but if you come across a scam listing on Trulia, report it to us so we can get better at preventing them,” Peters says. “Click ‘Report this Listing’ on the listing page, and we will review the listing, remove it, and block other related scams. If you’ve been scammed, also contact your local law enforcement and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).”

5. An MIA landlord

The setup: A scam artist finds a property that’s vacant because it’s bank-owned, it’s a vacant vacation home, or maybe it’s even being rented by the scammer, who plans to pull off this scheme several times over. They then insist they’re out of the country, sick, or otherwise detained, but still want first, last, and a security deposit sent over ASAP. “Scammers love to claim that they’re out of the country and will mail you keys once you wire them the first month’s rent,” says Peters. “Don’t do it! Regardless of where they live, a legitimate landlord or property manager will be willing to arrange for someone to meet you and show you inside the unit.”

6. Withholding your deposit

This happens all too often. A landlord behaves fine throughout the duration of your lease. But when the time comes for you to move out, they get cagey about the deposit, saying they’ll mail you a check that never arrives. Or they’ll claim excessive damages require them to keep the security deposit to make the necessary repairs, even though you left the place in great shape. To avoid the latter, be sure to take photos of the place right before you leave (and, ideally, when you’re moving in) to prove you didn’t trash the apartment. If the deposit still hasn’t materialized, send a certified-mail request for its return. If that doesn’t work, you might be looking at small claims court.

Posted by Meaghan Agnew on Trulia

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Missouri REALTORS® Latest Market Report

Missouri REALTORS® publishes a monthly market statistic report which includes:
  • Number of homes sold and purchase price
  • Days on market
  • Median purchase price
  • Average purchase price
  • Statewide sales volume

As you can see, sales are up since this time last year!

Click here to download the full report.

You can find previous market reports at missourirealtor.org.

Homes Continue to Sell Quickly Nationwide

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The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released their latest Existing Home Sales Report, which revealed that homes were on the market for an average of 47 days in March. This is a decrease from the 59 days reported in February, as well as the 52 days reported back in March 2015.

42% of homes across the country were on the market for less than a month, which is the highest it’s been since July 2015 (43%)!

Among the states with homes selling in 30 days or less are Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota. The map below was created using results from NAR’s Monthly Realtor Confidence Survey.

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Bottom Line

Buyer demand is increasing as the inventory of homes available for sale remains low. If you are thinking about listing your home for sale this year, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you take advantage of current market conditions!

Posted by The KCM Crew

Is Your Home the One Buyers Want?

Boost your home’s sales appeal by adding key amenities and playing up hot features.

 Shutterstock ID 38093410; PO: Cat Overman;

Shutterstock ID 38093410; PO: Cat Overman;

When it comes time to sell your home, whether you’ve lived there for three years or 30, you need to see it as a product for sale. And just like an item on a store shelf, you want your home to stand out from the competition.

Of course, your feelings and emotions about your home — and all of the memories you made there — may make it difficult to detach and view your home as a product. But sellers who quickly transition away from the emotional connection and into investment mode will reap the financial benefits many times over. Homes that go into contract quicker and with few (if any) price reductions ultimately sell for more money. And isn’t that every seller’s goal?

What’s on buyers’ wish lists

Homes that sell quickly probably have many of the features today’s buyers find desirable. Smart retailers try to understand better what consumers want, and then deliver to them. Home sellers should do the same.

When you’re preparing to sell your home, consider small renovations, updates, cleaning and even some light staging. I’ve seen sellers make significant upgrades to their home before listing, leaving them to question if they actually want to move.

Today’s buyers look for move-in ready and turn-key homes. The more bells and whistles, the better.

Focus on kitchens and baths

It’s a pretty well-established fact that kitchens and baths sell a home. If your kitchen or bathroom is tired or outdated, consider modest upgrades that pack a punch.

Painting cabinets white gives the kitchen a clean and fresh look. Consider new stone countertops like quartz or granite. And replace old faucets with shiny new ones.

Spending a modest sum can reap incredible benefits — tenfold.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

Research shows that certain features help sell a home faster. Even if you don’t have time for renovations, you might luck out and already have some of the items on buyers’ wish lists.

For example, subway tiles in the kitchen or bathroom, barn doors, and craftsman features are proven to help homes sell faster. If your home has these, play them up, because today’s buyers want them.

Just like companies figure out the next hot car, handbag or shoe for their respective industries, smart home sellers must know their audience and market their product to meet customer demand.

When it comes time to sell, consider your buyer, and try hard to make your home into a top-notch product.

Posted by Brendon Desimone on Zillow

7 Common Home Repairs You Can Do By Yourself

This is a fantastic infographic that showcases 7 common home repairs that you too can do yourself. Because all home need care and attention. If you think you have the skills to perform some of these projects yourself, here are some tips on how to get these projects completed. The organization that created this infographic, Heiton Buckley, also has andinteractive guide that walks you visually through the steps of these home repairs.

Posted on HomeZada

3 Common Moving Nightmares (and How to Prevent Them)

There’s no other way to put it: Moving is stressful. But it doesn’t have to be a waking nightmare. Here’s how to avoid a move from … you know where.

Shutterstock ID 225491440; PO: Cat Overman

Shutterstock ID 225491440; PO: Cat Overman

Nightmares aren’t supposed to take place in broad daylight, but some common life events bring so much tension, uncertainty and anxiety that they can easily rank as “quality nightmares.” Moving house tops the list of stressful experiences that can feel like a bad dream — and it can easily come true unless you take precautionary measures.

Problems can occur at every stage of the relocation process: A violent storm hits just when the moving truck is parking in front of your door. The elevator is out of order when you arrive at your new high-rise building. You lose the keys to your car on the morning of moving day. The list goes on.

However, the most common moving nightmares fall into three main categories. Here’s how they typically play out — and how to avoid them.

Bad movers

Many moving horror stories involve rogue or incompetent movers.

  • The movers are late or don’t show up at all. The agreed-upon time comes and goes, but you see no sign of an approaching moving truck. When you call the moving company to demand an explanation, your relocation nightmare begins. Regardless of the excuses you receive (a traffic jam, a breakdown, a delay on a previous job, a mistaken date, etc.), the inevitable result will be lots of stress and wasted time. Worst of all, you may not be able to reach the moving company at all: fraudulent movers may have taken your deposit money and disappeared with it.
  • The movers are careless or inexperienced. If your movers arrive late, in a smaller moving truck than needed, or lack the required know-how and the proper equipment to handle your items safely and efficiently, your relocation can quickly turn into a nightmarish experience. The amateur movers may drop your plasma TV, break your heirloom china, scratch your antique dresser, dent the floors, or cause other overwhelming emotional and financial damage.
  • The movers are scam artists. In the worst case scenario, you may fall victim to unscrupulous moving scams. Rogue movers will often request much more money than previously negotiated based on some alleged extra services. They may hold your belongings hostage until you pay a considerable extra “fee” as ransom, or steal your more expensive belongings and just discard the rest.

The good news is that there is an easy way to avoid such nightmares. All you need to do is carefully research your movers before hiring them to make sure you are dealing with licensed and experienced professionals you can trust. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

Traffic problems

Heavy traffic or road accidents can also turn your move into a real nightmare.

  • Traffic jams. The moving truck is delayed and there may not be enough time to proceed with your move as planned. You may have to postpone the relocation to another day, or you may miss your flight.
  • Traffic accidents. if there has been an accident on the road, the moving truck will have to wait until the damaged vehicles are removed and normal traffic is restored. However, the scenario could get much worse: You may lose all your possessions or receive them badly damaged if the moving truck crashes, catches fire, or gets trapped somewhere because of adverse weather conditions like heavy snowfall or torrential rains. It’s even possible that thieves could break into the vehicle and steal your goods.
  • Breakdown. If the moving truck breaks down on the road, you’ll have to wait for the moving company to send another vehicle. What’s more, your items can easily get damaged while being transferred.
  • Parking issues. The moving truck has to circle the neighborhood for hours until an appropriate parking space is vacated, or the movers have to park far away from the entrance to your home. In such cases, you’ll not only lose valuable time, but will also have to pay an extra fee for the delay or an additional long-carry fee.

Of course, there’s nothing you can do to prevent traffic accidents or breakdowns. But you can at least reserve a parking place directly in front of your old and new homes, and choose a moving company that has experienced drivers and several moving vehicles in good condition.

Poor organization

The only way to avoid problems when moving house is to plan each phase of your relocation adventure in meticulous detail and stay one step ahead all the time. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing any of the following all-too-common moving ordeals.

  • Packing chaos. It may turn out that you’ve packed more items than previously discussed with the movers; packed items that can’t be loaded onto the moving truck; haven’t labeled the boxes properly; or forgotten to prepare an “essentials box.” Worst of all, you may not be ready when the movers arrive. All these packing mistakes will result in lost time and money.
  • Furniture troubles. If your large furniture doesn’t fit through the doors, you may be forced to leave some treasured pieces behind, or request hoisting services that will cost you dearly and will delay your move considerably.
  • Paperwork problems. If you forget to transfer the utilities, you won’t have electricity, gas, and water on move-in day. If you forget to change your address, you won’t have your mail delivered to your new home. If you forget to update your driver’s license and car registration in time, you’ll be fined. Not taking proper care of your documents will most certainly get you in trouble.
  • Overspending. If you book your movers at the last moment, require too many extra services, fail to create a realistic moving budget, pack all your items without sorting them out first, or allow any other financial imprudence, you’ll end up paying much more than you expected.
  • Safety issues. Make every effort to prevent injuries and accidents on moving day, as getting hurt is one of the worst things that can happen during your relocation endeavor.

Posted by Moving.Tips on Zillow

15 Ways to Upgrade Your Outdoor Decor for $30 or Less

Outdoor decorating season is finally upon us! To celebrate, we’re sharing our favorite finds that won’t break the bank.

Now that winter is finally behind us — well, hopefully — and the sun is starting to shine again, I’m beyond ready to start spending some quality time outside. Summer is coming, after all. But instead of just plopping a towel down on the grass, I’ve decided to take my outdoor decor up a notch.

A few eye-catching accessories can instantly take your backyard, patio or balcony from drab to fab. And the best part? You don’t have to spend a ton of money to upgrade your space. Check out the affordable outdoor decor below, and get ready for the most stylish spring and summer of your life.

1: Geometric Rug

$24; kohls.com

2: Batik Pillow

$19.99; target.com

3: Colorful Lanterns

$19.95-$29.95; cb2.com

4: Patterned Seat Cushion

$12.99; hm.com

5: Pineapple Garden Flag

$12.95; jossandmain.com

6: Terra Cotta Bird Feeder

7: Hanging Pot Holder

8: Mason Jar String Lights

$24.99; worldmarket.com

9: White Drink Pitcher

$29.99; TJ Maxx Stores

10: Floral Outdoor Pillow

11: Triangle Vases

$20-$26; jaysonhome.com

12: Lace-Inspired Lantern

$15.96; pier1.com

13: Cursive Welcome Mat

$28.99; allmodern.com

14: Moon Garden Stake

15: Mini Blue Grill

$19.99; Marshalls Stores
Posted by Bridget Mallon on hgtv.com