Rental/Renters Warning - Sellers Take Note As Well


Medford Square, Medford Massachusetts, April 2010Image via Wikipedia

(Medford, MA) Real estate scams have been around as long as people have wanted to possess or use properties. It's been recently in the news that a new scam is for what I'll call "The Bad Guy" to troll 3rd party real estate sites (i.e Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com etc.) for new listings or even recently under agreement (UAG) or even sold properties in desirable areas and offering them for rent often at below market prices. Sounds too good to be true doesn't it? Well unfortunatly quite a few prospective tennants are falling victim to this scam.

The ads will be very enticing, often stating renter terms that are VERY attractive. They even use terms like "deleaded", "Section 8 approved/welcome" , "Pets Welcome"- 3 of the more challenging renters needs. In their desperation to find a nice/desirable home situation many prospective tennants are only too glad to accept some of the odd conditions that evolve from these "deals".

Often times these "Bad Guys" will say things like, "Well there are tennants currently in the property so we can only go around the outside, I'll email you interior pictures, and all it'll take is (insert very low deposit usually $200-$500) and that's "All" they actually need to hold the rental". They use reasons like, the owner is just looking to rent it to a good tennant and doesn't need much in deposit or something to the effect like the owner realizes that alot of people have very bad credit but they want to be helpful.

By now you're asking yourself, "How can I avoid these type situations?" Well there are a few ways:

1. Search the internet to see if the property is for sale, rent/lease currently - is the person you are dealing with associated with the current company. Even a simple Google search of the address should turn up some info on the property. Contact the office to verify the property.

2. Go on sites like Trulia, Zillow or Realtor.com to see the status of the property and if the pics are being recycled from those sites. Most will also link to past sales etc.

3. Go to the local Massachusetts Registry of Deeds site http://masslandrecords.com/malr/index.htm to verify the owner of the property to check to see if they JUST purchased it or even just lost it to foreclosure. The person you're dealing with should either be the name owner or their legal representative.

4. If there is a "For Sale" sign on the property find out more immediately, this is also for scam reasons as well as good pratice because prospective tenants would want to know what happens if the sale goes through.

Now what can real estate professionals & sellers do to avoid this type of scenario? Well as previously mentioned setting up Google searches for the property by address and description/features in a given city/town goes a long way to see if the property is put up for a scam, even variables of the address, neighborhood etc. Listing agents and even other agents need to be aware of potential "customers" requesting to recieve their direct MLS (multiple listing service) feeds as these can be also used for scamming. Just a simple right click and save can gather dozens of properties for these "Bad Guys".

At the end of the day I always remember my mothers advice, "if it seems too good to be true, it usually is". Hopefully as everyone becomes more aware of these things, more people won't be taken advantage of.

Happy Home Searching & Selling
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