There's no doubt that rental scams can occur anywhere, but obviously the greater New York area — one of the largest rental markets in the world — is ripe for rip-offs. Luckily, scams are easy to avoid if you adhere to a few simple rules and recommendations.
Imagine that after a long and arduous rental search, filled with stress and frustration, you finally find your dream home. It's ticked every box on your mental wish list, and you can't help but boast to friends about the great deal you found. But as you prepare to move into your dream home, you discover you've been duped. Not only are you likely out a wad of cash, but you've also lost valuable time and piled on emotional distress and embarrassment.
Hardly anywhere is this adage more accurate than in the New York City-area rental market. Competition for top rentals can be fierce, so if you think you're getting an otherworldly deal from a stranger — be wary. There are a number of online tools available to research market-rate rents in your desired neighborhoods, such as Rentometer and Zillow. If it turns out that you are getting the deal of the century, be diligent through the rest of the leasing process, and go ahead and buy a lottery ticket while you're at it, because this is truly your lucky day!
It's no secret that real estate listings should be taken with a grain of salt, but there's a big difference between playing up a home's assets and a scam listing for an apartment that doesn't even exist. As you move through the rental transaction, contacts and properties should be available to see in-person — no exceptions. Be especially cautious if your contact claims to be overseas or otherwise unable to meet you face-to-face. Also, remember that even a scammer can easily show you the exterior of a property that isn't theirs to lease. At Dixon, our dedicated team serves our tenants and applicants locally from offices in New Jersey and New York. Our listings are always accurate representations available homes that can be seen, inside and out, in person.
As in all online dealings, you should never give out personal information like banking details, credit card information or Social Security Numbers to strangers. Real estate scammers target both your money and identity, so it's wise to be vigilant against phishing scams or being redirected to spurious application forms or unsecured payment processing sites. At Dixon, our website and online application process is 100 percent secure, and if you're ever concerned about providing information online, we're happy to meet with you in person.
While we at Dixon may be guilty of slipping into "the Queen's English" occasionally — our parent company is based in Australia, after all — poor spelling, bad grammar and awkward or overly polite language can be a real tip-off that something is amiss. Your contact's website, listings and emails should be, professional, well-written and error-free. Another clue can be "sob stories" asking you for favors in the leasing process. Dixon will never give you a sob story, ask for any information or money beyond what is standard and clearly stated in your lease. We work hard to ensure great tenant relationships and service that extends well beyond the lease signing.
Your No. 1 priority is to keep your money safe. A major tip-off for rental scams is a request for money via wire transfer. A wire transfer is like putting cash into an envelope and dropping it in the mail; once it's left your hands, it's gone. Without exception, you should never wire money to anyone during the leasing process, and no reputable leasing agent would ask you to do so. At Dixon, all move-in costs are clearly outlined ahead of time and money changes hands at lease signing.
While scams can be serious, by following some simple advice and trusting your instincts, they're easily avoided. Be patient, be diligent and your dream home will become a reality.