Craigslist, Rental Properties, and Listing Scams

Ah, Craigslist: Everyone’s go-to web resource for obscure knick-knacks, used furniture, job prospects and rental properties. In a post recently published on Unplgged, the tech-savvy branch of the DIY abode blog Apartment Therapy, tips and tricks are outlined for those looking to sell their stuff on the multi-city classifieds site. These pointers focus primarily on good, modest photography that showcase your hand-me-down wears at their best, and in their surroundings, in order to sway potential buyers. If detailed photos and descriptions are good for hawking your used furniture, why not apply the same logic to apartments and rental properties?

The Unplgged post led to us pondering Craigslist and its relationship with real estate in general. It’s easy to come up with a correlation between the user-generated postings and real estate listings on Craigslist, while making note of how the Unplugged tips can apply to real estate agents that need a little something extra for their listings. Listing properties on Craigslist can be a quick, cheap and easy way to syndicate a real estate listing and get it exposure not otherwise provided by a region’s Multiple Listing Service. A simple “FOR RENT” post for an apartment or home can provide just the boost a property needs to get it rented or sold.

But, with all good things free and easy comes temptation for abuse. In a post published last summer on Canonfire entitled Scammin’, it’s pointed out that finding real ads amidst the con artistry can prove to be a difficult task for consumers. In the post, three scams are exposed and it explains how these scams are designed to take advantage of would be renter’s who are just trying to find a place to live. Here’s a look at the top 3 Craigslist rental scams:

  1. Scam number 1 is a rental ad that contains no name, phone number or property location and the only means of contact is an email address. When a potential renter inquires about the property they are asked to fill-out a rental application, send it back, and then they will receive more property information …but they never do. This type ad is usually a “phishing” attempt to get personal information, including a social security number, on a rental application for a property that does not exist.
  2. Scam number 2 appears to be an ad to lease an actual home, but instead, is a ploy to get renters to move in a home that is pending foreclosure. In this case, the individual placing the ad pockets rental money without paying their mortgage company …all the while, the home is in foreclosure proceedings and the renter will be evicted once the foreclosure is final.
  3. Scam number 3 is an ad to rent a property for an unbelievably low price. When those seeking to rent call they are connected with a rental agency that induces them into paying $170+/- for a “list” that has addresses of several unbelievably priced properties. Needless to say, the addresses for the unbelievably low priced rental properties do not exist or the properties were conveniently rented as soon as the list was delivered.

In an age where people prefer to tweet their thoughts or click a “Like” button on Facebook in order to form an opinion, websites like Craigslist are fast becoming a go to source for listing agents and renters, as well as Internet predators looking to take advantage of the naive. Thus, when using such sites to find bargains or list properties, all users should probably use caution since this is a medium that has been associated with scam artists. The Latin Phrase “Caveat Emptor”, meaning Let the buyer beware, has never rang more true.

Weather's Impact on the Real Estate Market

A recent article posted on Realtor.org regarding the slowing rate of selling homes points to one unpredictable, uncontrollable and surprising resource for the dilemma: weather. The winter of 2010, though nearly over, wreaked havoc upon the northern regions of the United States, and dealt blows to states that aren’t used to dealing with snow flurries and school cancellations. States as far south as Texas experienced extreme chills, and nor’easters continue to barrel themselves against the shores of New England.

“January pending sales, though still higher than one year ago, remain much lower than expected given that a large number of potential buyers are eligible for the expanded home buyer tax credit,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. “Moreover, the abnormally severe and prolonged winter weather, which affected large regions of the U.S., hampered shopping activity in February.”

This quote provided by the article is probably no surprise to first time home buyers and renters. Who wants to enter into rental agreements or take the first steps to buying a house when merciless winter weather leaves homeowners with frozen pipes, staggering heating bills and leaks from an impending thaw?

This could be a positive piece of news for those who are buying a home for the first time, in that they can look forward to revived numbers in real estate market analysis for the spring, especially those who will be first time home buyers in the Northeast. Selling homes can be disparaging, but it’s nice to know that this winter was particularly terrible and that springtime will guarantee an increase in real estate riches for those who fell short over the past four months.

Regardless of how blustery it gets outside, how heavy the snow falls or how flooded your basement gets with incessant rain, keep in mind that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for sellers, real estate professionals and first time home buyers alike. The soul-crushing weather of winter will soon be behind us, and with spring we’ve all got plenty of open houses and closing deals to look forward to.