Looking for a place to rent is a bit like trying to find a partner in a speed dating event. You have to know what you want, act quick, and learn to recognize time wasters before it’s too late. Luckily, in real estate, this won’t require you to ask awkward emotional questions about anyone’s exes.
What you should be doing, is keeping your eyes wide open for any red flags your potential landlord might try to hide. You should be putting as much work into researching your landlord, as they should be putting into researching you. Here’s what you can do to avoid most scammers:
Horrible, Terrible, No Good Pictures
Landlords, whether professional or not, know that a good picture is crucial to getting people to call. They’ll take good pictures showing the outsides of the property, all the rooms, and maybe some details. So those grainy, shaky pictures that look like they were taken with a pigeonhole camera? They are immediately suspect. There’s no way an experienced landlord would use those.
The same goes for pictures taken from a weird angle and that offer no real info on the property. Sure, they’ve taken pictures of every room, but they only show something like half a wall and the ceiling so you couldn’t possibly know the dimensions of anything.
If you want to be extra careful, make sure to reverse image search any pictures you see, and when in doubt always ask for more. A good landlord will have no problem sending you more pictures or clearing up any doubts you might have.
The Landlord Doesn’t Give You Enough Information
First of all, your landlord should be available at all times during this stage. They’re trying to make a sell so if they mysteriously disappear or take forever to reply at this moment, just think of how hard it will be to get their attention when the money’s already changed hands.
Second of all, they should be able to give you their name and explain why they’re managing the property (as in, are they the owner or middleman?), and you should be able to easily verify all that information. You don’t want to rent a property from someone who had no power to rent it out anyway.
A small typo shouldn’t raise major red flags, but constant spelling mistakes and weird syntax should. It’s common knowledge that internet scammers don’t generally run their emails through a spell check and usually display a poor command of the written language, so it’s pretty easy to spot them early on.
You Can See Serious Maintenance Issues
There are fixer-uppers and then there are absolute disasters that you should not be touching with a ten-foot pole. While some walls in need of a coat of paint, and a broken glass should not cause concern, signs of pest infestations or heavy filtration issues should send you running.
Good landlords should make sure their properties are visit-ready before showings, you’re seeing the best version of the house you want to rent, so if that best version still has some serious maintenance issues, it’s time to bail. Even if previous tenants damaged the property, the landlord should have fixed the most serious issues before showing it.
Beware that the landlord will be the person you contact whenever an issue occurs or you need to report something, you don’t want to be dealing with a shady person who will disappear the minute they cash your cheque. Always beware of any red flags and think of your own safety first.