Lease and home purchase scams are a fact in DFW and have been for several years. These are sometimes called "Phantom rentals" or "Hijacked rentals." I’ve personally stopped customers from throwing away thousands of dollars on a scam. As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Please read the story and watch this series of videos by NBC DFW. Then, read the information below.
This post was originally about lease scams. Lease scams have mutated into home purchase scams. The set up is the same, the difference is the scammers want earnest money checks rather than deposit checks. Both payments can be thousands of dollars. They collect these cashiers checks from multiple victims (tenants and buyers) and disappear. This is why it's vital to double-check and verify any home listing on my website at DFWmark.com.
• The price is too good to be true.
• Property is advertised online through a 3rd party such as Craigslist rather than the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
• The "landlord" or "property manager" (contact) says he or she is "out of town/state."
• The contact ignores calls, texts or email inquiries on an active property.
• The contact gives a lockbox code directly to a potential tenant.
• The potential tenant is allowed to tour the home unaccompanied.
• The sign at the house is different than the online "agent."
• The sign at the house offers a home for sale rather than for lease.
• Search engine check (Google) for the property finds more than one owner or property manager.
• County Appraisal District (CAD) search finds different owner.
• Payment is requested via electronic transfer (wire), Bitcoin or gift cards rather than certified check delivered in person to a specific address.
What to do:
• Meet with a licensed real estate agent or property owner in person.
• Check the County Appraisal District (CAD) to learn who owns the property. This information is public and easily available online by address in most counties.
• Ask for identification and license numbers. You can check the license number at TREC.
• Never send any money for a property that you or your agent have never seen in person.
• Read the contract carefully. Where will the payments be sent? To whom? Contact info for repairs?
• Ensure the lease is in your name and the property address matches the property you viewed.
• Never pay cash.
• Never wire large sums of money to anyone you've never met in person.
• Gift cards and Bitcoins are never a legitimate form of payment for an initial property lease and security deposit.
If someone claims to be a property manager, ask for their license number. If it's a house rather than an apartment complex, and they say they aren't licensed. Run!
Does a property manager have to be licensed? | TREC
Based on this information, I strongly suggest getting a comparative market analysis (CMA) by a licensed Texas REALTOR. The price and location of a lease property should be reasonable. If not, it's a problem. Scammers are getting closer to the market price, but they still show their hand (and snare the unsuspecting) by offering prices under market value.
Since you are a tenant or buyer, a CMA is almost always available at no cost to you if you have an agent. The listing agent or landlord pays your Realtor fees - trust and use your agent's expertise. Don't try to "go it alone" when you have an advocate.
Please see my posts about What to expect when leasing a house and What Buyers Should Expect in Texas.
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