February 25, 2011
Craigslist: Real Estate Friend or Foe?
I recently had dinner to catch up with some friends and part of the conversation turned to how more than one mutual acquaintance had recently found and bought their homes off of Craigslist.com. Of course I know many people who swear by getting their furniture or finding apartment rentals via the site but was surprised you could find homes for sale too. What I was even more surprised to discover was the rampant gall of homes for sale schemers!
I’m sure you have seen that perfect rental ad for a listing that sounds almost too good to be true. Some missionary needs to leave right away and is looking for you to take over his four bedroom house lease for $1000 a month. All he asks is that you wire him the deposit and you’ll get the key in the mail. Yeah right.
Well, guess what? Agents are getting similar replies to their listings in which supposed high rollers who are ready to buy without question (or a showing) but they happen to be abroad so could you please give them your bank account # so they wire you the money? Yeah right!
It’s not just Craigslist however. Many phishing scam artists try similar cons on many real estate sites which offer online listings (hey, maybe it’s a measure of the site’s success/high traffic). On popular US site Trulia.com, many agents have posted in forums the names and “contact” info of suspicious buyers who have approached them. Scams can also target renters and buyers by getting personal information through falsified ads using details of other listings that are legit. There are also some instances of listings that claim to be “for sale by owner” that are actually posted by agents. Basically when you have a venue that allows anonymity, it can be ripe for rampant dishonesty.
So what’s the verdict? Should agents and buyers avoid sites like Craigslist altogether? Probably not. As the online marketplace is only expanding and will probably be the preferred mode of transaction for the next generation and cutting off an avenue of free marketing / majorly discounted goods is probably not the best option. So, what are some of the ways you protect your business and your hard-earned money?
Here are some of my own common sense tips to safeguard from scammers:
- 1. Never blindly give our your personal information, even if you think giving our your email or phone number is harmless.
- 2. Listen to your gut. If you’re not sure, why not take a step back and get someone else’s opinion that you trust to help you made that decision?
- 3. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
If you have any stories to share from the agent side of the buyer side, we’d love to hear about them! Please comment below.