5 Tips to Avoid Rental Scams on Craigslist

Since Craigslist has been around for decades and since it is free to post on the site, rental scams are par for the course. It’s easier to fall for one of these scams if you are looking for housing in another location, especially if you are unable to visit that location ahead of time. However, there are safer routes to take than finding housing on Craigslist or similar sites.

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The first tip, research the area where you would like to relocate. Contact real estate or rental management agencies and ask for information on the current rental market or housing market if you plan on buying a home. Contacting the chamber of commerce and even the mayor’s office of that location will give you a ballpark of the current rent costs.

You can also go on forums or social media groups for the area where you plan on relocating and ask others in the group about the rental or housing markets. Keep in mind that people tend to give out more negative than positive information. Ask for the facts and avoid listening to people’s rants about the housing market. That’s just self-defeating. Remember that people are finding housing to rent and houses to buy. Focus on the success stories and not the doom.

The second tip, watch for posts with rental prices that are too good to be true. For instance, today, I saw Craigslist posts offering three-bedroom houses for $1,000 rent in Burlington, Vermont. Unless those houses are part of a subsidized rental program, you’re not going to find a three-bedroom house for that amount, not even in other parts of the state. The other giveaway, was a gmail address splattered across the ad for someone to contact. NOT!!!! AVOID. (This goes for vacation rentals too).

The third tip, is to make an appointment with the landlord or apartment manager to see the rental. If you aren’t available to meet in person, then do a Zoom call or find someone you trust in that location to go visit the rental and meet the landlord on your behalf.

The fourth tip, if you’re low-income than get on the subsidized housing lists. At least you know you’re dealing with a real organization who won’t scam you. If you don’t fall into that category then research the rental management companies in that city or town. Look for legitimate reviews such as Trust Pilot (I don’t trust Yelp or Google reviews). You can also ask the city mayor or the chamber of commerce which management companies they recommend.

Once you have a list together start contacting the companies or visit their websites to check availability. You won’t be able to get a hold of a rental agent directly, most likely. In that case, you’ll need to apply from a website.

The final tip is my favorite one. Trust your inner guidance or follow your intuition. Pay attention to the sensations in your body. Does something feel off or do you feel hopeful about the rental. Don’t fall for too-good-to-be-true posts. Most rental markets are starting at $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment now unless you’re looking in a place like Rochester, New York or Springfield, Mass. And in those cases, how willing are you to live in a dangerous city just to experience lower rents?

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Whether you’re looking to relocate to a new state or province or you are looking for a new abode across town, keep your wits about you. Refrain from responding to ads when you feel desperate or depressed. You must approach the housing search with confidence and expect to put energy into it. Some people get lucky (like I did in the past) and walk down a street, find a for rent sign, and by the week’s end have a new home. That happened to me decades ago. Times have changed but I guess anything is still possible.

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