5 Tips on Avoiding Craigslist Real Estate Scams

5 Tips on Avoiding Craigslist Real Estate Scams

If you’re in the market to rent or buy a home, you need to be aware of some of the scams that are out there, especially on sites such as Craigslist. Craigslist is perhaps the most popular platform for by renters, buyers and sellers to connect to find housing.

Scammers have gotten in on the game as well, as they’ve become quite adept at posting “too good to be true” deals and even asking for money and social security numbers up front before even showing the property.

Landlords and sellers on the site can be particularly dangerous, so you need to know what to be on the lookout for as well as what to do if you do find yourself the victim of a fraudulent listing. Here are some things to keep in mind when searching for a home on Craigslist.

1. Always meet in person

It’s a red flag if the representative of the property is unwilling to meet you in person. You need to know that you’re meeting with the owner of the property or with a representative of the owner.

Impersonating landlords and sellers happens way too often, and even the most savvy of renters and buyers have fallen victim to con artists.  If your gut is telling you that something strange is going on, it’s probably right.

Call the real estate company that the individual claims to be representing.  And of course, you can Google the person you’ll be meeting.  A little background research can save you a lot trouble.

2. Are the posted pics the actual pics?

It’s a tried and true tactic in the Craigslist housing world: agents post fake pics to get the phone to ring, and when you show up, the place looks nothing like what was posted.

Craigslist can be real “bait and switch” territory.  If you arrange to meet with the landlord or seller and they tell you that the unit you inquired about isn’t available but another is, it’s a red flag.

3. Never pay anything in the initial stages

Unless you’ve verified that you’re dealing with the landlord or seller, or a bona fide representative, never hand over any cash.  You also want to be sure that you’ve seen the property, and if you’re buying a home, had a real estate attorney look things over.  If anybody asks for money up front, you should be very suspicious. Never hand over a cent until you’re absolutely sure that the property you’ve seen is the actual one you’ll be renting or buying.

4. Never wire money

This one’s pretty obvious.  There’s really never a reason to wire money in any real estate transaction whatsoever. In many of the Craigslist scams, fake landlords and sellers are asking to have money wired to them before they even show the property.  It’s safe to say that in these cases, you are always dealing with fraudulent landlords and sellers.

5. If it sounds too good to be true…

…Then it probably is. If you see an dirt-cheap ad on Craigslist for a 3-bedroom house with walk in closets and a pool in one of the nicest parts of town, well, that just sounds a bit too good to be true.

These “deals” will always be enticing, but they are almost always scams.  Again, the best thing you can do is to do as much research as you can.  Check out what other properties in the area are going for so you can make realistic comparisons.

Many of the Craigslist scammers are very good at what they do.  They can be very persuasive.  Don’t be a victim.  Lookout for these red flags and do your research.