Home Buying in Seattle>Question Details

Peter Weber, Renter in Seattle, WA

When working on the internet with one of your listings, how do I know I am dealing with the property owner and that I am not getting into a scam?

Asked by Peter Weber, Seattle, WA Tue Aug 21, 2012

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There is so 100% certain way, so always be careful. Unless you meet them in person at the house, check their ID and verify the public records for the property ownership, be careful. If the deal seems too good to be true, be suspicious. If they want you to send them money for keys, be suspicious.
Probably the safest way to find a legitimate rental is to use an agent. While even we can be fooled, we have more tools at our disposal to protect your interests.
I hope this helped.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 21, 2012
This is how it can work:
The scammer finds an ad for a house for sale in Craigs list or the multiple listings. Goes to the house to check if it is vacant. If it is, he/she puts in an ad in Craigslist for a rental at a low price and easy terms.
Then quickly break the brokers keybox to smithereens or bust the lock up and installs a new lock from the hardware store. The tenant comes by to look (the real estate sign has been tossed in the bushes) likes the place and the rental is agreed. The tenant pays rent and deposit and gets the key. The rental agreement is signed and the scammer says she will have to go make copies and will come back later. Funny, he/she never comes back.

So after paying rent and signing a contract the tenant will still be told by the sheriff to be out in an hour. How long it takes before that happens only depends on when the rightful owner, or their agent, finds out about this. Having no contract in your hand, possibly only a handwritten receipt for your money, will make you a squatter with no rights.

It happened to my house.
Getting in to see the inside gives you no indication of who is the rightful owner!!
If a deal seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Use a rental agency or a real estate broker so you have assurances that you are giving your money to someone with the right to rent out the house or condo.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 22, 2012
My advice is that you never hand over money, unless you've been inside the property. It's not a 100% guarantee, but it does eliminate 75% of the scams, at least in the Miami area.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 21, 2012
The first rule is; never wire money out of state. One method to verify the legitimacy of the property & owner is to Google the address of the property. The search results, in most cases, will be the legitimate listing which has been uploaded to various real estate websites. (Always be careful with CraigsList) Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 21, 2012
Hi Peter, If you e-mail me the address I should be able to tell you who is listed as the legal owner of the property. I do this for free to help prevent scams.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 21, 2012
If you are talking about a rental, a common scam is for the "owner" to say that he lives out of town and ask you to go see the property from the outside and look through the windows, etc. If you like it, they will ask for a deposit and/or first and last month's rent to be sent by mail and they will send you the keys. You may be waiting on the sidewalk with a moving truck before you realize the keys will not be coming. There are variations on this scam, and I am sure there are others as well.

The best thing to do is to have an agent who works with a property management firm or real estate company to show you homes -- inside and out -- who will help you avoid the pitfalls.

I do not work in rentals, but our company does have a property management division and can help you out of our Everett office.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 21, 2012
You are probably talking about a rental house which seems to be the new scam out there. Out of town owners, owners that want you to send money, owners that name is not of the public records of the house are just some of the scams out there. Contact a Realtor in the town you are interested in, someone you can speak to or go see. Let them find out more for you rather than you dealing with the owners or landlord or their "friend". Never ever send money!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 21, 2012
That is a very good question! I know that each of my listings tends to get spammed/scammed at least once.

The biggest red flag is if they tell you, they are out of town already, someplace else...don't trust it..

Ask to meet them at the house and have a tour...if they cannot do that, then I would report the listing and move on...If in doubt, I ask you to flag listings....

Also drive by and see if there is a sign out front ... if so, call that number, not trust what is online.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 21, 2012
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