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Nowadays, a new trend of “Online Apartment Locator” Companies has started. Many companies are providing their services online, but it is hard to know whether it’s a scam or not. Although many have started the business of scamming people. In this article, we will cover all aspects that tell whether the apartment locator is a scam or not.
What are apartment locators or online real estate platforms?
Apartment Locators are online platforms provided by real estate companies. They scout the apartment available in your area and provide you a list of available apartments that meet your specifications and demands.
Such online platforms often provide just the listings of available apartments. But some of them also provide tour managing services and meeting with the landlord. They also provide agents who provide you updated listings and help you decide where to lease. Some online realtors charge high fees to provide the” best deal” available for nearby apartments. But sometimes this fee is not worth it.
Remember that apartment finder is not like leasing or real estate agents. The task of leasing agent is to provide a list of rental properties and show it to related renters. They also help you in meeting with the actual landlord of the property. They also collect rental applications and security deposits from the interested tenant. Apartment Finder does not do many tasks.
Are they legal?
The first thing to check about apartment locators is to see if they are licensed or not. They need to be legal to provide any kind of listings for rental apartments. But rules and regulations for apartment locators are not so strict in many states. Although real estate have strict rules. Therefore, check if they are legal and licensed. The chances of getting scammed by licensed apartment locators are very low.
Common Rental Scams:
Rental scams are not a new thing. It’s possible to get scammed by real estate agent and even by the landlord. You have often heard the proverb “Too good to be true”. A similar situation occurs in rental scams. Fake Apartment locators advertise beautiful apartments with low rentals. But reality happens to be the opposite of advertisement. Therefore, common scams that apartment locators do is to appear “too good to be true”.
Sometimes, the scam doesn’t happen due to apartment locators. Although, sometimes Con Artists hack apartment locators or real estate websites. They change the email address or phone number provided and get money by scamming people. In this way, rental scams occur, when people contact them on their provided fake email address. And their business of scams accelerates.
There is another example of rental scams. Some real estate’s provide a money-back guarantee, in case they can’t help you in locating best apartment. But the scammer ones does not provide the money back. Consumer report websites are full of customer complaints saying that they do not provide the promised services. Still, no action is taken against them.
Are Apartment Locators worth it?
Here the question arises are the apartment locators fruitful? Are they helpful in apartment hunting? Although there are many scammers in Apartment Locators nest, still some of them accomplish their services honestly.
You can figure out that the apartment locator or landlord is worth it or not by using some easy tips. Look for the following standards on real estate websites to make sure that they are experienced and legitimate enough to help you in the apartment hunt:
- Is the Real Estate License displayed on their website? As it proves that they are legitimate to provide the apartment locating services.
- Are they a part of the National Assembly for an apartment locating? Do they act upon their code of ethics? You can have a demo talk with them to examine their ethics and behavior with clients.
- Are they part of the National Assembly of realtors and real estate? It proves the legitimation of the company and its approach towards the whole area.
- How much experience they have in this field? The experienced ones are more likely to provide you the best listings available for rental properties in the area.
- Do they have good ratings or comments on their website? Clients usually leave comments about their experience with real estate on websites. You can take an idea about their services from those comments.
If they have all these standards then they can surely help in finding the best apartment at any specific location. A professional apartment locator can help you save time, money and all the disturbance caused in your life while viewing the new apartment. Especially when you have a time limit, then the apartment locators can be helpful.
Do you pay Apartment Locators Service?
Usually, apartment locators provide their services free of cost. They get a deposit from landlords of the properties for bringing renters for them. Therefore, agents will probably take to only those areas of the city from where they get move-in payments or commissions from the landlord. Most often, they take their clients to places that provide the highest commission in case any lease agreement occurs.
About all apartment location websites are commission-based. So, mostly the renters don’t need to pay any deposit to their agent. In case, you want to use their premium or best deals then you may need to pay some charges.
Scam or no scam?
As told before that all apartment finders are not scammers or fraud. Some of them are really worth it. They could be very helpful for out-of-town customers who immigrate from another city. They will fully assist you from finding a new apartment to signing the lease and moving into the new apartment.
Here are few tips to examine whether they are scammers or not:
- They are unclear about the rental fees, security deposit, and terms of service.
- They guarantee that they will provide the best apartment according to your specifications, regardless of rental income, payment, etc.
- They claim low rental as compared to the average rent rate in the city.
- They flood all the social media platforms and craigslist or anywhere else where they can get free advertising.
- The same phone number appears when you click on the” reply to” links.
These are all signs of scam or fraud apartment finders or real estate. Make sure to remember these while using or hiring an apartment locator.
Some red flags about scammers are explained below:
1.Asking for Fee:
Most apartment locators provide free services, as according to the process they get compensation from owners in return for bringing high standard tenants for their property. So, they usually don’t need to charge for the services they provide to the renters. But if some locators ask for money, they may want to get profit from both sites. It is not a scam but still, it feels unfair to the renters.
2.Claiming very low rent rates:
Some websites offer a very beautiful and modern home at very low rent as compared to the average rent rates; this could be a sign of a scam. As too good in appearance is often not true. So, look out for such scammers. But don’t get them all wrong, as the possibility is that they are providing their services honestly. Although, the trick of claiming very low rent is often used by scammers to do rental scams.
3.Request to wire money:
Wire money means that the apartment hunter asks you to wire money or transfer money or security deposit using electronic money transferring methods. A licensed apartment hunter would never ask you for such a thing, so if any realtor asks you to do this. Then, don’t just walk away from him, but RUN!!! (because he probably wants to run after taking rental money from you).
How tenants can protect themselves?
If you are not prepared while entering the rental market, then your rental experience may become a whole disaster. If you want to get a rental apartment without being scammed, then you must know the rental market.
You must know their tricks and techniques of scammers so that you can protect yourself from their traps. Here is a list of tips which can help you in protecting yourself from scammer agent:
1.Dealing in cash:
Dealing in cash only is the most popular way for the scammer to do rental scams. As electronically transferred money can be traced but cash can never be traced. Therefore, scammer agent prefers cash while dealing with renting apartments.
A scammer will always insist you on paying cash and if you refuse agent will probably move to the next perspective. So, keep in mind that security deposit and upfront rentals should never be paid through cash. Use online transfer.
2.Never rent without actually viewing the place:
Viewing the property before renting should be your number one priority. If the landlord doesn’t fulfill this demand, then you can just skip him. The landlord would always be willing to show his place to renters to assure them that the place looks exactly like the pictures he provided. If a person refuses to fulfill this requirement then he may be a scammer.
3.Always sign a written lease:
Although some states allow oral agreement, you should always go for a written lease agreement. The contract must be signed by both parties: owner and renter. If one party refuses to sign then the contract shouldn’t exist. Make sure to have a written agreement. As you can’t take the oral agreement as prove to the court in case of any mishap. And you can’t report them using oral agreement.
These are just a few tips to identify scammer. You may experience more in the rental market. If you have already been scammed, then you should report them to higher authorities.