Finding a new place to live can be stressful. This experience can spell a disaster if you don’t know exactly what to look for and which pit falls to avoid.
In today’s technological world, when everything is done online, scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated. They find creative ways to scam people out of their hard earned money. Use logic and follow these guidelines to make sure your house hunting process is pleasant and stress free.
1. If it’s too good to be true, it is!
Use common sense. If the property you’re looking at rents for much less than what it should, that should raise a red flag. Most landlords and Atlanta property management companies are looking to get top dollar for their properties. There’s no reason for them to price it so low. If the price looks too good, walk away.
2. Cash (and other payment apps) are a bad idea.
Most reputable property management companies and/or landlords do not accept cash, simply because cash is hard to track and easy to steal. If someone asks you to pay them with cash (or with CashApp/Venmo/Zelle) you should be careful. Those payments cannot be cancelled or tracked, so paying a scammer this way guarantees you will never see your money back.
3. Research the company you’re dealing with, and call their advertised phone.
One of the best ways to confirm you are working with a real property management company or landlord is to research them. In today’s world, you can find all the information you need on your phone in 2 minutes. Google the name of the company, find their website and phone number and contact them directly. You can then talk to a leasing agent/broker, ask for their license number and make sure the listing is legit. If you’re dealing with an owner, you can ask for their FaceBook page and ask to meet with them in person.
4. Look at the email address & phone number.
This goes back to the research part. Is the landlord’s email obscure (i.e. email@example.com)? Does the email address even contain the owner’s real name? Or is the company’s name in the email address (mike@PropertyManagementCompany.com)?
More importantly, is the phone number of the owner local? Or is the area code from another state? If it’s not local, you should pay close attention. Most scammers use the same number to scam people in many states.
5. An “out of town” owner? I don’t think so.
A real landlord would have no problem meeting you face to face. As a matter of fact, they will most likely insist on meeting you. Contrary to that, most scammers will give you an excuse as to why they cannot meet with you. The most common excuse is that they are out of town (gone for business, family vacation, etc.). If a landlord or a local property management company cannot meet you, either at the property, their offices or elsewhere, it’s an alarming sign.
6. Thorough application process.
Most landlords want to know exactly who they are moving into their property. They are just as worried as you are. After all, they are looking for a tenant that will pay their rent on time and keep their house in good shape. That is why almost all applications take several days to process. It simply takes time to do background/credit checks, call employers, get rental history and collect documents and information from you. If you apply for a property and get approved within hours (or minutes), this is most likely a scam. Be careful and research the company/landlord.
7. Where did you find the listing?
There are dozens and dozens of websites where landlords and property management companies advertise their listings. The one with the absolute most scams is Craigslist. It’s not to say that every listing on Craigslist is a scam. Far from it. However, scammers do love Craigslist and that platform is easier to manipulate. Do your research and look for that listing in other websites as well. Landlords will always list their listing on several different websites. Plug the address into Google and look for additional results.
8. Landlord pressuring you to “move fast, or else…”
While all landlords want their properties leased quickly, they normally do not pressure applicants. If you’ve applied to a property and the landlord keeps telling you that they have other applicants ready to move fwd, and that if you don’t move fast you will lose the house, be cautious. It’s a known scammers’ tactic. They tempt you with a great deal and a short window of opportunity to close that deal. Don’t be tempted. There are many good places out there. Do your research and use common sense.
Finally, if you found a place you love, but are still unsure of the landlord or process, the best thing to do is to walk away. True, you might be missing on a great opportunity, but in most cases, your gut feeling is right. Being scammed feels awful. You don’t want to be there and should do everything in your power to avoid it.
Follow this guideline, use common sense and stay alert. Taking these simple steps would almost guarantee you would know how to recognize and avoid scams. for more tips, check out this article.