HARARE:The property listing almost looks too good to be true – it is in the perfect location, has beautiful photos and is well below your budget. You send off an enquiry and receive a quick response: the landlord is currently overseas and cannot show you the home. But if you can wire through a deposit as soon as possible, the property is yours.
For many people who have tried to rent a property online, this scenario might sound all too familiar. While new technologies have made it easier than ever before for property seekers to get all the information they need to supercharge their house hunt, the Internet has also made it easier for online fraudsters to target both buyers and renters.
But by being aware of a few tell-tale signs, house-hunters can learn to quickly sort the scammers from the legitimate real estate agents. Global property network Lamudi Zimbabwe has compiled a guide to help online property seekers avoid falling victim to a scam.
Always insist on inspecting the property: Never agree to make any payments upfront or sign a contract without first inspecting the property. Viewing the property and meeting the agent in person are the best ways to guarantee that the listing is legitimate.
Verify the identity of the person you are dealing with: Take steps to check the agent you are dealing with is a licensed broker or agent. In the first instance, a simple online search can help you detect a scam. Try searching for the property’s address, the name of the agent and their email address.
Avoid listings that have been posted multiple times: One common scam is for fraudsters to copy an existing (and legitimate) listing of a property for sale and repost it as a rental, with their own contact details attached. Look out for duplicate listings which have different asking prices.
Never give away your personal information or documents: You should never be asked to provide your bank account details or personal identification documents to someone over the internet. Importantly, never provide your credit card verification code to anyone.
Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: One of the most important rules in real estate is that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Be sceptical about any online listings for attractive properties which are very well priced for the area. Scammers often use these very low prices to lure property seekers.
If you detect a scam, get in touch: Focus your search on properties listed by well-known real estate agencies and trusted classifieds websites. Once you have detected a possible scam on a real estate search website, notify the platform immediately.