Whether you’re house hunting right now, or just thinking about buying or renting in the future, start now with these steps to protect yourself against real estate fraud. Take a look below to find out how.
Take your time. House hunting offers an exciting experience, especially if it’s your first time. But even if you stumble on a good deal and want to act quickly before someone else swoops in and takes it from you, it’s important to take your time. Rushing means you’ll have less time to ask questions to the sellers, real estate agents, and even yourself, you also put yourself at risk of being taken advantage of by less honest souls
One common scam occurring, particularly among those looking to rent, they stumble on the “perfect property” and without checking further, they submit an inquiry or offer. Unfortunately, con artists sometimes prey on people in situations like this. They’ll spin a story claiming they need to rent the property for money quickly, asking for a deposit. The excited renter submits the deposit then goes to the office to pick up the keys. Too often they find they handed their money to a con artist, and they’re out potentially thousands of dollars.
To avoid traps like this one, take your time. Do your research and always take the tour inside and outside of a property.
Make sure the people you’re working with are legit. Building off the last step, ensure you’re working with legitimate and trustworthy people. Seek a reputable, licensed real estate agent. Don’t get stuck with a shady agent who might pocket your down payment instead of putting the funds in escrow. Do your homework on the agent, make sure they’re licensed and from a reputable, trusted agency. Read reviews from former homebuyers. Reviews say a lot about a person or a business. If you’re still in doubt, ask family and friends for recommendations.
Ask questions. Finding a home to buy or rent potentially impacts years of your life. Ask every question you think of, and then a few more. Unfortunately, plenty of sellers lie on property disclosure forms. They hide defects in the properties they offer for rent or sale. That’s why asking questions such as, “why are you selling your home?” or “have there been any insurance claims made on the property?” If you’re working with a reputable real estate agent, they can help you out here as well.
Trust your instinct. Don’t let your love of a property overcome your instinct. If your gut tells you to walk away, then ignore that spa tub in the master suite and walk away. Most victims of real estate fraud share one thing in common — they report having a bad feeling about things, but chose to ignore it. Just remember this rule of thumb, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
So there you have it. Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, there are plenty of steps you can take to protect yourself from real estate fraud. Happy hunting!
Roman Temkin is a real estate developer from New York City.