Be Careful Not to Get Caught in The Rental Trap!

 

There are many benefits to homeownership. One of the top benefits is being able to protect yourself from rising rents by locking in your housing cost for the life of your mortgage.

Don’t Become Trapped 

A recent article by ConsumerAffairs addressed the continuous rise in rents, stating:

“The cost of putting a roof over your head continues to go up. Not only are home prices still rising, but the cost of rent rose 0.5% in June.”

Additionally, in the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University’s 2017 State of the Nation’s Housing Report, it was revealed that,

“Despite a slight improvement from 2014, fully one-third of US households paid more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing in 2015. Renters continue to be more likely to face cost burdens…the number of cost-burdened renters (21 million) considerably outstrips the number of cost-burdened owners (18 million) even though nearly two-thirds of US households own their homes.”

These households struggle to save for a rainy day and pay other bills, including groceries and healthcare.

It’s Cheaper to Buy Than Rent 

As we have previously mentioned, the results of the latest Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia shows that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage in the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.

The updated numbers show that the range is an average of 3.5% less expensive in San Jose (CA), all the way up to 50.1% less expensive in Baton Rouge (LA), and 33.1% nationwide!

Know Your Options

Perhaps you have already saved enough to buy your first home. A nationwide survey of about 24,000 renters found that 80% of millennial renters plan to eventually buy a house, but 72% cite affordability as their primary obstacle. Aside from affordability, one in three millennial renters have concerns about their credit scores, and another 53% said that a down payment is an obstacle.

Many first-time homebuyers who believe that they need a large down payment may be holding themselves back from their dream homes. As we have reported before, in many areas of the country, a first-time home buyer can save for a 3% down payment in less than two years. You may have already saved enough!

Bottom Line

Don’t get caught in the trap that so many renters are currently in. If you are ready and willing to buy a home, find out if you are able. Let’s get together to determine if you can qualify for a mortgage now!

 

Posted by the KCM Crew

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6 Ways To Achieve Apartment Parking Bliss

Here are the expert-approved strategies for getting the best spot in the lot.

Few victories are sweeter than finding the perfect parking spot. But such victories can be fleeting, which is something that car-owning renters know all too well. No matter if you rent a suburban apartment in Cary, NC, or a midtown apartment in New York, NY, space is at a premium — and not just living space either.

“If curb parking spaces are scarce and valuable but free, competition for the free parking leads to many disputes,” says Donald Shoup, a professor in UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning and author of the book The High Cost of Free Parking. Just think of the (many) Seinfeld episodes that revolved around the quest for a good parking spot, including George’s philosophy of why pay for something that you can get for free?

But whether you do pay for it (indirectly through rent, or through monthly fees) or have daily Hunger Games-esque battles to find parking, we’ve asked the experts how to handle the many ins and outs of apartment parking.

The challenge: A prime yet vulnerable spot

Even after you nab a great spot, it might leave you uncomfortable that your car is a little too open to damage (especially in a city). If so, your best bet is to beef up your insurance. “Most insurance plans do not include parking damage as part of their language,” says Matthew Kreitzer, a managing attorney for Booth & McCarthy in Winchester, VA. “If your car is damaged from a passing car, and you have proof of identity for the person who caused the damage, you may be able to submit a claim to their insurance company.” But as Kreitzer points out, state laws vary, and you should ask local attorneys for more information before assuming your case is airtight. You should also ask your insurance adjuster for more information on how best to add parking to your policy.

The challenge: Big car, tiny spot

You can fit anything in your big truck or SUV, but it’s no match for a teeny spot that you may or may not have been assigned. Whatever you do, don’t even think about squeezing in. “It may open you up to a lawsuit down the line if, because of your attempt to fit your car in there, some damage results or it prevents another tenant from accessing their spot,” Kreitzer says. Since it’s unlikely that your landlord will widen spots, your options are limited to finding an alternative lot in the area or finding a new apartment nearby.

The challenge: You’re plowed in

When that pile of snow is actually serving as an igloo around your car, what happens next depends on who did it. If you witness a neighbor purposefully burying your car, you might be able to bring suit against the other person. “However, the vast majority of times, it is a city who is doing the plowing,” Kreitzer says. “Cities have immunity from these kinds of suits, generally speaking.” You can consult an attorney if you’re looking for common practices to change, but sadly, it might just be easier to get out the shovel and start digging.

The challenge: It’s a long walk

In the case of assigned parking, the luck of the draw might have landed you far from your front door. If this is your headache, it might be time to negotiate with your landlord. “Always ask for what you want in writing,” says April Masini, an expert in relationship advice and etiquette. While you’ll probably want to vent your frustrations, your odds of a favorable response will skyrocket if you stay calm and polite. “If you get a response you don’t like, ask if there’s a chance of a better spot in six months. There may be a tenant moving out by then, and his or her parking spot may become available for reassignment to you,” Masini says.

Option B is to find a neighbor who will agree to swap spaces. However, a verbal agreement won’t be enough, and you’ll need your landlord’s blessing on the agreed-upon written terms. “At the end of the day, your parking agreement is not with the other tenant — it’s with your landlord,” Masini says.

The challenge: Shared spaces

Limited space means you might have to share your spot with a neighbor. Usually, this won’t lead to drama. But if they’re a space hog, don’t escalate the issue with a confrontation. “Getting into a back and forth with a neighbor can easily be avoided by asking the landlord to clarify any necessary solutions,” Masini says.

The challenge: You’re blocked in

It’s happened to all of us: You’re ready to conquer a list of errands, only to find that another car is making it impossible to leave your spot. If you know the owner, a friendly (emphasis on “friendly”) knock on the door is usually enough to get things moving. No such luck? What happens next depends on whether you’re blocked in on public or private property, Masini says. The former means you’ll be calling the police for help, while the latter makes it a landlord matter. Can’t get your landlord? Snap a photo of your blocked-in car and call a cab. “Worst-case scenario, take a cab or Uber and get a receipt,” she says. “Ask for reimbursement, in writing, from your landlord if your blockage is on private property and from your neighbor if it’s on public property.”

When to move on

When parking has become the deal breaker — and you can’t get rid of your car — it might be time to start hunting for a better place. Car owners who move on to better-paved pastures could have a lasting positive effect on the entire neighborhood, Donald Shoup says. If certain apartment buildings offer only on-street parking, rent could decrease because the price of parking would be eliminated. “As a result, more apartments could become available at lower rents to people without cars,” he says.

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

How to Rent Out Your House and Make Bank

alexsl/iStock

There are many reasons you might be one of the many homeowners wondering how to rent out your house: Maybe you’ve tried to sell your home but the market’s too sluggish, or you’re moving to a new area but want to hold on to your old property and rake in some income on the side.

Whatever the reason, it’s a good time to be considering this, because the rental market is hot: A recent study from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found that the rental market has been growing for the past 10 years straight, and the share of Americans renting is at a 20-year high of 35%.

But renting out your digs for the long term is a very different animal than the occasional stint on Airbnb. Here are some basic steps to take to get you started down rental road.

Determine how much to charge in rent

At the least, most newbie landlords want their rental income to cover their monthly mortgage, as well as taxes and insurance. Times may have changed since you bought, so you want to be clear on what the market will bear. Check rental properties on realtor.com® for the going rate in your area.

“Look for comparable properties in similar areas, with corresponding bedroom and bathroom counts,” says Realtor® Ed Laine, partner/broker of Miller Laine Properties in the Seattle area. “That will give you a per-square-foot rental figure that you can then apply to your own property.”

Screen tenants carefully

“Picking the right tenant can make all the difference and is one of the top ways to make your experience as a landlord a good one,” Laine says. You’ll want to check their employment history, credit history, and income (via pay stubs or tax returns), as well as references from past landlords if possible.

To add an extra layer of security, you can do statewide and federal background checks at places like the National Tenant Network, which has been screening tenants since 1980, to make sure potential renters don’t have a checkered history elsewhere.

Decide whether to manage your property yourself or hire help

It may be tempting to manage your property yourself when you consider that property managers typically charge 4% to 12% of the monthly rental. But that might be a small price to pay for avoiding headaches with your rental. According to a survey from property management firm Buildium, 62% of respondents mentioned maintenance and 5% cited tenant management as the two main reasons that rental property owners choose to hire property managers.

“I often suggest that my clients manage the first one themselves, which gives them a great education on their property and on being a landlord,” Laine says. “It also proves to them that management fees are nothing compared to a 3 a.m. call about a tree limb coming through a window.”

Pick the right property manager

Picking a property manager isn’t just about finding one with the lowest fees. Fees are important, but don’t let that be the sole deciding factor. For instance, what are the property manager’s hours? If they’re available only during weekday business hours and a pipe bursts on the weekend, you may get stuck with coming to the aid of your tenant yourself. What happens if rent isn’t paid on time—will they pursue the matter? If not, you may get stuck chasing down your money, which rather defeats the purpose of having a property manager at all.

Also make sure that the property manager—and you yourself—are committed to keeping up on local laws. Laine cites a recent case when the local municipality enacted laws that hold landlords liable for bedbugs.

“We updated our leases immediately,” he says. “The liabilities are too great to take a risk just to save a few bucks.”

Because at the end of the day, hired help or no, the buck stops with the landlord, literally.

Posted by Cathie Ericson on realtor.com

Light It Up: 6 Ways To Boost Natural Light In Your Home

Call on these design tricks to create the illusion of a bright, spacious home, no matter its size.

Living the rental life has its benefits: the flexibility to move whenever your lease is up, access to neighborhoods you might not be able to afford to buy into (yet), and someone to fix anything that breaks. However, unless you’re living in a superluxury building, chances are good that at least one room in your place lacks that gorgeous natural sunlight that’s the difference between a “charmingly cozy apartment” and a cave.But whether you’re moving into a new apartment for rent in New York, NY, or a bungalow in Atlanta, GA, an odd layout, a less-than-ideal wall color, a brick wall view, or even a lack of windows can make your new home feel dark and dreary. If your abode suffers from lack of natural light, there are a few solutions that can make it feel bright and welcoming. Here are some tips to help you lighten up.

1. Hone in on lighter colors

Light colors are the hands-down favorite decor trick for creating an open and airy setting. White, of course, is the easiest choice. But some shades can look flat or dingy, depending on the undertones. “One of our favorite colors is Benjamin Moore’s Moonlight White. It has just enough depth to make an impact while still reading as very bright,” says Gale Sitomer of G Sitomer Designs.

We know what you’re thinking: Some landlords panic at the mere mention of paint. However, if you’re currently stuck with dark walls, Sitomer recommends opening up the conversation with your landlord — especially if you plan on staying awhile. Be sure to stress that you’ll be painting the apartment a neutral color. (Hint: Have samples of the new shade to share!) If they won’t budge, cover those dark indigo walls with temporary wallpaper in a light hue. And if that’s still a stretch, Sitomer suggests working in furniture or accessories in a light color.

2. Reflect a bigger space

Objects in a mirror can definitely look larger than they really are. This especially holds true in a room, according to Amy Fleischman of Drapes Decor. The key is mirror size and placement. “The bigger the better for mirrors to make a space look large — and they should also be simple, clean-cut, and placed in a space to reflect surrounding furniture,” she says. Best of all? Reflect a window. “We recently worked on an apartment on the water that made use of a large mirror on the wall to reflect the view and create the illusion that the water continued on,” adds Fleischman.

3. Clear the room

No, clear furniture doesn’t have to look like the ’80s. Glass, Lucite, and acrylic designs have made a huge comeback — and they can do wonders to maximize a feeling of spaciousness in a room. “The ability to see through the furniture allows one to see the rest of the space, which makes everything look less cluttered,” Fleischman says. Clear coffee tables, side tables, and even lamp bases can make a huge impact. Pro buying tip: If you can’t choose between glass, Lucite, and acrylic, she recommends going with acrylic: It’s thicker and stronger than glass yet (generally) more affordable than Lucite.

4. Dress windows wisely

Light-blocking curtains can help you get a good night’s sleep, but if they’re your only window dressing, you’ll be left in the dark during the day. For this reason, Fleischman recommends a layered, two-treatment approach that gives you options depending on your needs. “Closest to the window, you can use a blackout roller shade or blackout-lined drape to block out the light at night. In front, the use of a solar shade that is minimum 10% — preferably 14% — opaque will allow light in while keeping UV rays out,” she says, adding that the layered approach isn’t the only solution; she opted for light-filtering sheer shades in the dining area pictured above. “You can also do this using a fabric that has an open weave, therefore letting light in.”

If you’d prefer a single-product solution, designer Julia Robberts has a simple recommendation. “Blinds can also be a good option — even when they are blackout-lined — if they’re hung above the windows, so when they’re in the raised position they sit above the glazed area.” This way, you can use the full window during the day, maximizing light.

5. Don’t forget to dust

While it might not be as glamorous as a chic acrylic table, keeping all surfaces clear of dirt and grime is a cheap shortcut on how to brighten a dark room. Both Fleischman and Robberts agree that giving your windows a thorough cleaning will instantly brighten a room. But there’s a commonly overlooked item that affords an even bigger benefit when cleaned: light bulbs. That’s because accumulated dust and dirt can dramatically reduce illumination of a bulb (by up to 50% when factoring in the age of a bulb, according to Consumer Reports). While you’re at it, give those walls a good cleaning — dirt and dust also reduce the amount of light they’ll reflect, making a space feel dark and (rightfully) dingy.

6. Stow your stuff

“Having good storage that keeps clutter at bay can help a space feel bigger — less is more!” says Robberts. Sure, you can’t turn a studio into a penthouse, but limiting clutter reduces visual chaos. Just think twice about investing in clunky storage furniture, like big armoires and shelving units, and choose scale-appropriate furnishings. Ottomans and benches with hidden compartments, along with under-the-bed and under-sofa bins, keep everything out of sight without wasting a square inch.

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

 

City or Suburb? 10 Rentals Offering the Best of Each Locale

Whether you want to live in the bustling heart of the city or the laidback ‘burbs, these rentals offer something for everyone (and at less than $2,000 a month).

If you’re looking for a rental in a major metropolitan area, you’ve got plenty of options. One big decision you’ll need to make is whether to live in the city proper or one of its suburbs. The city offers the allure of adventure, the opportunity to live without the extra cost of car, and often a shorter commute to work. Meanwhile, the suburbs may provide lower rents, larger spaces, and easier access to nature.

These rentals compare what you can get for $2,000 in five major cities and one of their more suburban areas.

Los Angeles, CA

1304 W 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA
For rent: $1,883/mo

City1

This apartment community is a yoga lover’s dream, offering free classes along with a pool and fitness center. Its Westlake location a short distance from Echo Park and downtown means you have plenty of chances to walk to your nearest adventure. This one-bedroom features a balcony and a large living space within a historic building.

Find more Los Angeles rentals.

Burbank, CA

401 N Pass Ave, Burbank, CA
For rent: $1,960/mo

City2

This community offers plenty of ways to enjoy staying close to home, with ample space for hosting outdoor gatherings, plus a barbecue pit, outdoor lounge and pool. The stylish one-bedroom includes laminate flooring throughout and ample kitchen space, as well as a stackable washer and dryer.

See additional Burbank rentals.

Washington, DC

3460 14th St NW, Washington, DC
For rent: $1,937/mo

City3

This Columbia Heights apartment community is a pedestrian’s paradise, with easy access to the Metro station and some of the most interesting neighborhoods in the area. An urban oasis, this one-bedroom provides a sleek interior with accent walls and a balcony.

See more Washington, D.C. rental listings.

Alexandria, VA

3001 Park Center Dr, Alexandria, VA
For rent: $1,979/mo

City4

This spacious two-bedroom home offers an elegant take on apartment living, with views of Washington D.C. and plenty of outdoor space for your favorite furry friend. The community features a full tennis court, access to conference rooms, shared grounds equipped with water features, a courtyard and a game room.

See more rentals in Alexandria.

Denver, CO

1451 24th St, Denver, CO
For rent: $1,975/mo

City5

If you love America’s favorite past time, you’ll be thrilled to live in this community of modern lofts. Located in the Five Points neighborhood, this rental is within walking distance of a Coors Field. The two-bedroom home features granite countertops, high ceilings and exposed ducts. A central sundeck features the largest community pool in the city, and you can burn off those beer calories in the expansive fitness center.

Explore more Denver rentals.

Aurora, CO

23680 E Easter Dr, Aurora, CO
For rent: $1,770/mo

City6

Sweeping mountain views await at this ranch-style community complete with a playground, movie theater and large party room. The two-bedroom home offers a fireplace, balcony, and built-in bookshelves.

Discover more Aurora rentals.

Dallas, TX

2828 Lemmon Ave, Dallas, TX
For rent: $1,733/mo

City7

Take in the city skyline from this spacious one-bedroom apartment, featuring a kitchen island, laminate flooring and built-in work space. Living in the center of the exciting Uptown neighborhood means you’ll be steps away from many chic hangouts. When you want to stay close to home, you can lounge by the large pool or soak in the spa.

See more Dallas rentals.

Euless, TX

900 Grange Hall Dr, Euless, TX
For rent: $1,515/mo

City8

Along with spacious interiors, sleek finishes and modern architecture, you’ll have plenty of storage within this two-bedroom unit, which includes a walk-in closet well suited for the most enthusiastic fashionista. The expansive grounds boast a large pool along with a dog park.

View more rental listings in Euless.

Salt Lake City, UT

338 E South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT
For rent: $1,799/mo

City9

Social butterflies will enjoy floating above the city while taking in mountain views from the rooftop lounge. This two-bedroom in the Lotus neighborhood offers granite countertops, sleek black appliances, and an in-unit washer and dryer. After a long day, you can get to know you neighbors in the community’s 18-person hot tub.

See more Salt Lake City rentals.

West Valley City, UT

3810 S Redwood Rd, West Valley City, UT
For rent: $905/mo

City10

For those who seek peace and quite without having to sacrifice modern amenities, this two-bedroom boasts 1,000 square feet and commuter convenience. A business center allows you to finish up last-minute projects, and you can enjoy a game of basketball on the community court. You”ll look forward to coming home to your furry friend before heading to the extended dog park.

Discover your next West Valley City rental.

Looking for more information about renting? Check out our Renters Guide

Posted by Emery Desper on Zillow

8 Rental Kitchen Makeovers Under $100

Spice up bland decor with budget-friendly kitchen makeover ideas that solve common rental eyesores.

A bland or outdated kitchen can present a steep challenge to any renter who craves a little more style in the heart of their home. That’s because the things that make the most impact in a kitchen — namely, appliances, cabinets, and countertops — tend to be pricey. (And replacing or updating them is completely inadvisable if you want to get your security deposit back.) But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things you can do to spice up your decor. Read on for budget-friendly solutions to the eight most common problems renters encounter in their kitchens.

Problem: Inefficient lighting

Solution: Under-cabinet adhesive lights

We know what you’re thinking: “Those touch-light things? Like the ones in infomercials?!” And the answer is: Yes. These stick-on battery-operated lights can be hidden underneath cabinets to cast a lovelier glow than your standard overhead fluorescent. Plus, they cost only about $5 each. If you want something slightly higher-end, you can also hang a tiny plug-in pendant light or mini-chandelier over the sink from a hook. Just be sure to secure the power cord far away from the sink.

Or add a dose of high style and opt for a faux fixture, no electrical skills required! (Who says an unlit chandelier can’t just be a cool ceiling accessory?) Purchase and hang a nonfunctional light fixture to get the look, like the apartment kitchen at Prism at Park Avenue South in New York, NY.

Problem: Outdated appliances

Solution: Peel-and-stick wallpaper and attention-grabbing accessories

Surprise: Wallpaper isn’t just for walls. Temporary wallpaper has lots of uses, including adding personality to outdated refrigerators and other appliances. If wallpaper patterns are too busy, you can opt for stainless steel film, which will make even the most yellowed plastic panel on a dishwasher look modern. The key phrase is “temporary” — make sure you’re using a peel-and-stick product that can be removed without leaving a sticky residue behind. As for stoves, you’ll definitely want to avoid using paper here. Instead, drape a cute tea towel over the door handle for a colorful pop of “art.”

Problem: Unfortunate cabinetry

Solution: Stylish pulls and handles

For a few dollars, you can completely change the look of cabinets (or even drawers) by swapping out the handles in favor of something a little more stylish. Of course, you’ll want to keep the originals handy so you can swap them back in before you move out. If you really can’t take another day staring at faux pine, you can cover the doors with temporary wallpaper (again, make sure it won’t leave a residue behind before you tackle them all). If you’re a really, really good negotiator, your landlord might allow you to paint them. Don’t get your hopes up, though, because you might not get approval, but if you offer to paint them a neutral color (white, black, gray) or if the landlord was going to replace the cabinets soon, there is an ever-so-slight chance of a “yes.”

Problem: No storage

Solution: Baskets, carts, and hooks

The tops of your cabinets are likely doing nothing but collecting dust. Make the most of this often overlooked space by adding stylish baskets and bins for storing rarely used things (holiday decor, anyone?). You can also squeeze in storage with a rolling cart (a bar cart can work brilliantly). And never underestimate the power of hooks like those under-cabinet cup hooks, which turn your collection of cute mugs into decor.

Problem: Boring floors

Solution: A kitchen mat

The kitchen isn’t the best place for an area rug for obvious reasons (hello, tripping hazard and stain magnet). But a chef’s kitchen mat, which is made from durable material with a no-slip backing, adds a touch of personality and feels good underfoot when you’re standing at the counter, endlessly chopping salad ingredients. Rugs in the kitchen (or any space, really) can also help define an area, which is helpful if you have an odd layout. Case in point: the rug in this apartment at New Manchester Flats in Richmond, VA, shows how to anchor a dining area in an open-concept apartment.

Problem: Basic backsplash

Solution: Tile decals and stick-on panels

Like faux wood cabinets, builder-grade tiles can look cheap. Enter tile decals. These are removable designs that add pattern and color. They can be a little pricey, but you need only a few to brighten up a backsplash. Or you can completely cover up the offending tiles with peel-and-stick panels that mimic the look of embossed metal.

Problem: No privacy, no view

Solution: Window film

If you have a teeny-tiny kitchen window that happens to look upon a gritty back alley (or you just don’t want prying eyes looking in at you when you’re making coffee in your jammies), this product is basically heaven-sent. Window films are translucent, decal-like sheets that add a privacy-boosting pattern without completely blocking out light.

Problem: Ultraneutral palette

Solution: Bring on the colorful accessories!

You’d be surprised at the impact that a boldly patterned trash can, colorful new countertop canisters, and even a vibrant fruit bowl can make. The bright patterns on these chairs at ArtHouse in Seattle, WA, immediately attract attention. By shifting the focus to these stylish extras, you’re less likely to notice the kitchen’s lesser charms.

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

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