Looking to Rent a Home in Issaquah? Beware of Scam Rental Listings!
We have been contacted 3 times in the last 3 days by people searching RealFX.com for rental homes in Issaquah - but not for the reasons you may think. These inquiries weren't necessarily to ask about any particular listing, but rather to inform us that they found several Issaquah home listings for rent on third party websites, which are actually listed for sale on our website (which carries a data feed from the Northwest MLS).
While scam rental listings aren't anything new (they've been going on for years) they are in fact a relatively new phenomenon in the Issaquah market - and the problem is much worse in really "hot" markets like Bellevue. Those looking for rental properties in our area need to be extremely cautious about who they are supposedly renting from.
Regardless of scams, prospective tenants need to be careful when renting a home at all times - one must know their rights, and be vigilant when it comes to leasing terms. Moreover, renters would be very smart to make sure the homeowner and/or landlord are current on the mortgage, and are otherwise not in financial trouble - at least as far as the home is concerned.
What Does a Rental Scam Look Like?
Most people when "thinking clearly" would be able to identify a rental listing scam. However, don't underestimate the power a tight rental market can have over common sense. It's surprising how many people fall victim to these scams when there's limited rental homes available, when under normal circumstances, their "fraud" radar would otherwise be alerted to a possible problem.
So... here's how the typical rental scam goes...
- The scammer creates dozens or hundreds of rental listings on a site like Postlets.com.
- The listing photos and description are usually identical to an actual "for sale" Issaquah listing in the MLS, or one that has recently been sold, which is almost always vacant.
- The advertised monthly rent is always cheap compared to rental rates for similar Issaquah rental homes.
- Once the listing is published, it is then "syndicated" across a network of popular 3rd party websites (not brokerage websites).
- Prospective tenants then inquire about the listing, but the supposed homeowner isn't available to show the home. The excuse is that they've just moved out of town, a family member has died, they're doing missionary work in a 3rd world country, etc.
- At this point, the hopeful tenant has a choice - they either see the red flags and move on, or if the temptation is just too great, they quickly gather up the necessary deposits, fill out the "rental application" and wire the money - typically by Western Union or something similar.
Of course... if they send the money, they'll never hear from the "landlord" scam artists again. Additionally, by filling out the "application," they've just provided all sorts of personal information - possibly including social security numbers, tax returns, and signatures as well. So, not only is the prospective tenant out the first month's rent and security deposit, but they're at a much greater risk of identify theft.
Protecting Yourself from Fraudulent Rental Listings
So what can a prospective renter to do to protect themselves from rental fraud? Well, in Issaquah, and most of the Seattle metro area, an exceptionally large percentage of rental homes are managed by professional property management firms - real estate brokerages which are members of the MLS. In these cases, most of the listings for rental properties are in the MLS - which means most brokerage & agent websites will show them, including RealFX.com (if you search for rentals).
We strongly suggest all people interested in renting a home in Issaquah work directly with a property management company. Most will also be able to show other homes which are not in their own office - though they may charge a reasonable fee to do so.
If however, you come across a home for rent on Craigslist, Postlets, Zillow, Trulia, etc., and it's just too good to pass up, be sure to first make certain it's not actually for sale in the MLS. If the listing is real, then you'll probably still need to act quickly - but "common sense" should prevail.
Never agree to something which seems too good to be true. Don't provide a deposit until you agree on terms (application fees are normal). Always review the lease terms thoroughly, and ask the homeowner to provide evidence they are current on the mortgage.